: The Summer Pro League in Long Beach appears to be teetering; standing, it seems, only because of the Lakers' loyalty.
For 37 years, the Lakers have been entrenched in the SPL in Southern California. And they don't plan to go anywhere, which just might be enough to keep the league alive, despite the mass exodus of NBA teams.
The new trend for NBA teams has been to trek off to the Las Vegas Summer Basketball League. Sixteen NBA teams, including the Clippers, are in Las Vegas for the third-year league.
The SPL has just four NBA teams -- the Lakers, Memphis, Washington and Dallas -- which is why many wonder how much longer it can survive.
But if it's up to the Lakers, who open summer-league play at 3 p.m. today against Memphis at the Pyramid on the Long Beach State campus, the SPL will stand.
"I can't imagine why we would leave Southern California," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "It's a chance for our fans to come watch the team play during the summer. And there's a void that we've recognized where we have rabid fans that want to see us play. And if we go someplace else, they don't get that."
Lakers fans have seen Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Cooper and Andrew Bynum get their first taste of professional basketball action at the SPL.
This year, Lakers fans will get to see the teams' first-round draft pick, point guard Jordan Farmar from UCLA, last year's first-round draft pick, Bynum, and first-year Lakers Von Wafer and Devin Green.
John Younesi, the chief executive officer of the SPL, says the Lakers are the reason the league will continue no matter how much competition Las Vegas gives him.
"The fact that the Lakers are here," Younesi said, "they are the team that draws our crowds out, they're the team that everybody comes to see, it makes us a successful operation year in and year out."
The Clippers bolted to Las Vegas last summer. They were attracted to the number of NBA teams playing there.
There are no free-agent teams in Las Vegas, as there are in Long Beach, and that, Clippers general manger Elgin Baylor said, means the competition is better in Las Vegas.
"There was nothing wrong with the summer league in Long Beach," Baylor said. "We enjoyed it. But the talent level is better in Las Vegas. They have more NBA teams. A lot of the NBA players and the quality of the players, I think, are better."
The Las Vegas Summer Basketball League is the brainchild of Warren LeGarie.
The NBA was forced to sanction a 16-team in Las Vegas because so many teams were clamoring to go there.
There also is a summer league in Orlando and the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City (both leagues have six teams).
Younesi maintains that the SPL will have four more NBA teams next summer, his reason being that the NBA will push for it, that other teams will dislike the heat in Las Vegas and the nightlife that can become a distraction.
The teams in Las Vegas play five games; the Lakers will play eight.
That could be another draw for Long Beach.
"Where would you rather be? Southern California or Las Vegas?" Kupchak asked. "Every team is different. I guess if you don't live in Los Angeles, Las Vegas is an attractive place to go for a week. We think we're in an ideal situation."