LA Daily News
: Every NBA team has played in the Southern California Summer Pro League at one time during the past 37 years.
But with three other summer league options available, many teams have shied away from Long Beach, opting instead for the lure of Las Vegas, where 16 teams participated this summer.
This season, Long Beach drew a record-low four teams, down from five last season and nine in 2004. The Lakers, however, still are the toast of the summer league and SPL owner John Younesi is optimistic other teams will return to Southern California.
"It's really with confidence that I say we think we're going to have a number of teams back next year," said Younesi, who has owned the league for 13 years. "But what's most important to us is that we remain part of the Lakers' program so that Mitch (Kupchak) and the ownership can come out here in a very comfortable and professional setting and watch their future play."
Kupchak doesn't see the Lakers spending future summers anywhere else.
"This has been an institution for 37 years," Kupchak said. "And as long as the Lakers are here and the Summer Pro League is here, we intend to be a part of it."
The downside to having so few teams is the lack of variety in opponents. The Lakers have played the Memphis Grizzlies four times and played the Washington Wizards and the Dallas Mavericks twice each.
"It would be nice to have a variety every game that we play, but it's still games and we appreciate the fact that Memphis does a good job of getting up and pressuring us," . "So they're actually a pretty good team for our guys to play."
Lakers rookie Jordan Farmar used to attend many SPL games as a youngster and has noticed changes.
"I saw a lot more guys playing when I was younger, that's what I think has really changed," Farmar said. "They have a lot more summer leagues now."
Younesi has several theories as to why NBA teams have opted to go elsewhere.
"Some teams decide that they need a break from the Los Angeles landscape," he said. "They think that by taking their player out of their familiar locale that somehow they can instill a renewed sense of vigor or ability in their players, and we think that they went to Las Vegas to feel what it's like to be out of the Southern California area."
For the Lakers, Kupchak sees no reason for a change of scenery.
"I can't imagine why we'd ever leave," he said. "Our guys get to practice (at the HealthSouth facility in El Segundo) within walking distance of the hotel, they can use our locker room, lift in our weight room. We can schedule practices any time.
"The support that we get here is off the charts. If we went to Orlando or Las Vegas, there's about 100 people in the stands. Why would we do that? ... Our fan base is incredibly spirited and maybe we'll get some new fans, because we're the only team here."
said Lakers summer league head coach Kurt Rambis.