Friday, August 19, 2011
Exhibition becomes an NBA showcase
By Kyle Weidie
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
The hype surrounding Saturday's exhibition game between the West Coast's Los Angeles Drew League and the East Coast's Washington, D.C., Team Goodman can only be justified by a perfect storm.
Ballers from the two distant cities will get together after much trash talking, venue changes and roster adjustments. The excitement builds in an otherwise dead period for American professional basketball because of the current NBA lockout.
No one -- not even organizers of the event -- is quite sure what to expect, but you need not look past anxious eyes and mentions of "Capital Punishment" to know the heightened levels of excitement.
The Drew recently completed their summer league slate, topped by an added exhibition game to cater to Kobe Bryant's desire to participate, which has only sparked giddiness that the star will somehow make his way to the District for the big show. Meanwhile, the Goodman continue with their postseason, a highly anticipated faceoff between John Wall and Ty Lawson, who will be teammates at Capital Punishment, was postponed for two straight nights because of weather.
Those with interest in the game, especially those not in the District, could pay the $9.99 (via thebasketballchannel.net) to watch online, need not worry about weather; Saturday's contest, set to broadcast live at 3 p.m. PT, will take place indoors at Trinity University.
There have been big names mentioned and whispers of even bigger names, let's go through some of the scheduled participants:
• Kevin Durant- - Born in D.C., raised in Maryland's Prince George's County, not much can be said about the scoring star that you don't already know. One of only 11 players to score at least 8,000 points in his first four NBA seasons, the Goodman will undoubtedly be relying on their league star to manufacture points.
• John Wall -- Raleigh, N.C., will always be Wall's home, and it seems the University of Kentucky is his sweetheart, but D.C. will gladly adopt the future of their pro team. This summer Wall has appeared in countless
camps, Pro-Ams and exhibition games across the nation -- Seattle, Las Vegas, Durham, Baltimore, Lexington, Louisville, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, to name a few cities. Why? It probably boils down to
something he wrote on Twitter the day after the NBA lockout began: "Gotta play in some summer leagues...Just wanna hoop!!"
• Ty Lawson -- Another Goodman vet who also grew up in PG County, the speedy point guard for the Denver Nuggets is probably, in combination with the jets of Wall, what makes the Goodman team so threatening. If long jumpers start missing and bigs make the right outlet passes, the game could be one euphoric blur.
• DeMarcus Cousins -- He's from Mobile, Ala., but it seems that his association with Wall via Kentucky is good enough. Or perhaps Cousins was a sympathetic addition to the Goodman roster. He's their one true big man, but also could be the player most likely to lose the game for his team with various antics.
• Gary Neal -- The Baltimore native recently completed his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs, after cutting his basketball teeth abroad for several seasons. The 6-foot-4 Neal looks to add outside touch to the game, as no other rookie last season made more 3-pointers (129) than the NBA All-Rookie first-teamer.
• Josh Selby -- Another Baltimore native who attended several area high schools, including the famed DeMatha. The highly touted prep player who was one-and-done at Kansas and who slipped to the Memphis Grizzlies with the 49th pick in 2011, the 6-foot-2 Selby could be poised for a couple show-stealing dunks.
• Sam Young -- The Memphis Grizzlies' player, who has the distinction of looking like a 35-year-old as a 26-year-old, is another born in D.C., raised his basketball game in PG County participant. Young could get lost in the mix of glory, but his defense and rebounding will be keys for Goodman.
• Donte Green -- The lanky wing was actually born in Germany but grew up in Baltimore, playing in the city's Catholic League. The Sacramento Kings player attended the same high school, Towson Catholic, Carmelo Anthony played with for three years.
• Hugh "Baby Shaq" Jones -- The husky Jones is a street ball stalwart in D.C. -- he can rebound with hunger, he can handle the rock, he can dunk on fools. Problem is, Jones is only 6-foot-3 -- bad for NBA potential, great for the dazzling highlights in an exhibition game.
• Emanuel "Duce" Jones/Warren "D-Nice" Jefferson -- These well-known Goodman ballers can do a little bit of everything. Jones, who played at Texas-Pan Am and has also seen time in the D-League, is a rangy 6-foot-7 wing who'll look to slash and fill the gaps. Jefferson is a skinny guard, but his long-armed handles can confuse the best of defenders. Better yet, he could be one of the rare willing passers taking part in the action.
• Michael Beasley -- The PG County product evidently cannot participate due to a "scheduling conflict" -- the eye-rolls induced at Barry Farm by simply name-dropping him leads one to believe that the locals are just fine without Super Cool Beas.
• Dante Cunningham -- Said to be Beasley's replacement, the Clinton, Md., native and member of the Charlotte Bobcats could provide a much needed boost to Team Goodman. He'll need to put his 6-foot-8 frame to use in aggressive work on the glass.
Team Drew League
• Brandon Jennings -- The Compton, Calif., native and Under Armour spokesman who recently called-out potential teammate Kobe Bryant, has more than enough quicks to keep up with Wall and Lawson, but does he have the physicality? Better yet, do Jennings' opponents have a chance to keep him from taking over the game?
• James Harden -- Plenty of reasons to fear the bearded-old-man craftiness of Harden's game. Harden can drive to the rack or shoot from long distance ... but an ability to create for others, perhaps not so much. If the teams start dueling for points, look for Harden to battle with his OKC Thunder teammate Durant.
• Nick Young -- The Washington Wizards guard has some familiarity with Goodman. Evidently he couldn't take the heat of the outside court, along with the perceived lack of calls, and hasn't been back since. Young, rumored to be not participating due to saltiness over not being named MVP of the Drew League, looks to have made amends and was expected to be on the roster. However, the Washington Post reported via Twitter on Friday that Nick Young would not be appearing due to having to tend to "family stuff." We'll see if he shows.
• JaVale McGee -- Another Washington Wizards player, McGee will have the most dunking prowess of anyone on the court. A supremely talented 7-1 athlete who is capable of dribbling the full length of the floor. Look for McGee to get blocks, goaltends, dunks, stares and, most of all, laughs from what he might try to do.
• DeMar DeRozan -- While Young likes to fancy himself a nice dunker, and he is, DeRozan from Compton might provide the next best potential to McGee to conduct a game-stopping jam that's actually on someone ... just hope that DeRozan doesn't try to shoot from deep.
• Derrick Williams -- The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2011, said at one point to be Young's replacement, could be the game's X factor. D.C. fans likely won't hate on Williams too much, however. His NCAA tournament dunking exploits against Duke probably won him some local fans for life.
• Dorell Wright -- Likely Drew's answer to Gary Neal, the Golden State Warriors' player might feel like he's playing an official game in Oakland at the exhibition game. The anticipated rip-and-run style, along with the 194 3s Wright sank last season, likely mean long-range bombs whenever he touches the rock.
• Craig Smith -- The son of Inglewood is the muscle of this whole affair, Smith could own the paint and the body count in this game, unless Cousins has anything to say about it. Usually big men get lost in games like this, but with bragging rights on the line, the one they call "Rhino" could be key to a Drew victory.
• Pooh Jeter/Bobby Brown/Marcus Williams -- 5-11, 6-2, 6-3, respectively. Along with Jennings, there won't be room for all these L.A. point guards to get significant run. Look for Jeter, who won hearts at last year's NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, to get run as a disruptive pest against Goodman guards.
• Doug Thomas -- From Pasadena, the former Iowa Hawkeyes player has flirted with the NBA and spent plenty of time in the D-League, most recently with the Reno Bighorns. The 6-foot-8 flier could be the dunking ringer for the Drew League.
• Kobe Bryant -- No one truly knows if Kobe will make an appearance or not; he'll only coyly answer the question with a wink and a smile. But if Mamba wants the continued relevant attention that he craves, look for him to bring down the house with a sighting in the nation's capital.