Izzo: Spartans having 'best summer' ever

Tom Izzo has long since established his reputation for honesty. It's part of why he's so widely respected: With minimal diplomatic exception, he'll tell reporters, fans, staff members and players pretty much what he thinks, whether positive or negative. If a player had a bad game, he'll say so. If he whiffed during a late timeout, he's just as quick to point the thumb.

When Izzo thinks his team is bad, he'll say so. When he thinks his team is great, it's worth making a mental note, because he's almost certainly right.

Consider this post your mental note: According to our old friend Diamond Leung of MLive.com, Izzo is completely enamored with his 2013-14 Spartans. He isn't around the team every day -- Diamond caught up with Izzo at a West Bloomfield, Mich., charity golf outing -- but his assistants are, and the reports Izzo has been getting have made him unafraid of superlatives:

"Right now, we're having the best summer we've ever had," Izzo said. "There have been more guys in the gym. (Adreian) Payne has been good, and (Gary) Harris is really getting a lot better. (Branden) Dawson I think has made big strides from what I hear."

Those are not small developments. Harris entered the offseason with a nagging shoulder injury. Dawson missed much of last summer while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. That the Spartans are healthy as a baseline is in and of itself good news. When you consider the possible trajectories of the players mentioned, it's more exciting. Payne unveiled a perimeter game last season that makes his senior campaign as fascinating as most sophomores'; Harris was the Big Ten freshman of the year; and the already-athletic Dawson still has huge skills-based potential left to tap.

It's a long way to go yet, but Michigan State shouldn't be the forgotten third wheel in Kentucky and Louisville's early preseason national-title-contention consensus. The Spartans are going to be good. If this summer of workouts keeps up, they could be much more than that.