The MGM Resorts NBA Summer League returned to Las Vegas, Nev., this week for the first time since 2019, after being canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
ESPN made its return to the Cox Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV, in style with a significant on-site presence. It includes dozens of reporters and commentators on the ground and all 75 NBA Summer League games available on ESPN platforms.
But didn’t the NBA season just end?
For accomplished NBA host and reporter Cassidy Hubbarth, the journey, like the league, never stops.
After the NBA Finals ended in late July, and the 2021 NBA Draft aired for the first time on ABC (as well as ESPN) on July 29, ESPN immediately turned its attention to its large-scale operation in Las Vegas.
Hubbarth, leading ESPN’s sideline reporting on-site, has regularly been paired with commentator Mark Jones and 2018 Curt Gowdy Media Award-winner analyst Doris Burke. The trio called Tuesday night’s highly-anticipated matchup between the 2021 NBA Draft no. 1 and No. 2 picks – the Detroit Pistons’ Cade Cunningham and the Houston Rockets’ Jalen Green – on ESPN. The Hoop Streams host spent a few minutes with Front Row to discuss her approach to documenting the event for fans and what’s different given the Covid-19 mandates in place.
As Summer League returns on the heels of the NBA Finals, Draft, and Olympics, how are you approaching your coverage this year given the busy stretch?
It’s been a busy summer, but more and more, we’ve gotten used to the NBA being a year-round league. NBA Summer League is always such a fun environment where there is this excitement around the new class. It’s the unofficial start to the season but a time where veterans and coaches who attend are more relaxed and optimistic about the next season. This allows for more opportunity to build relationships. After a season where access was limited in that regard, my approach has been to take advantage of the only time when so many NBA people are in the same place to help prepare for the next season, which is right around the corner.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) August 9, 2021
What are some of the stories that are most interesting to you this week in Vegas?
This was such a deep NBA Draft class, so getting to know the players and the talent is what’s most interesting. It’s also the first NBA Summer League for the second-year players since last year the event was canceled due to the pandemic. Seeing how some of the second-year guys are taking their pro experience and applying it to their first-time NBA Summer League is a fun dynamic to cover.
What are the Covid-19 protocols on site that you are following in order to cover Summer League? How does it impact your job?
After being able to go without a mask in socially distanced interviews, we have to wear masks again throughout the telecast due to the indoor mask mandate in Las Vegas. It’s still hard to get used to proper breathing in my mask, but I had a season of practice. However, we can do the interviews side by side, so that is a change in the direction of normalcy from last season. I also tested upon arrival and had to verify with the league that I was vaccinated.