Drew League wins rematch
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Sunday's Drew League vs. Goodman League rematch was a game played under unusual circumstances.
While they waited to hear back from their representatives in New York on an 11th-hour meeting meant to resolve final issues with the league's long-standing lockout, 16 NBA players took part in a quickly-planned game at the Pyramid at Long Beach State to re-visit an August battle between two of the nation's most storied summer league teams.
Washington Wizards guard John Wall, playing for the Washington D.C.-based Goodman League, had two electrifying plays and a game-high 55 points and Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden went head-to-head throughout, but the Los Angeles-based Drew League got key contributions from some unexpected sources to pull out a 151-144 win.
Durant had 50 points for Goodman and Harden had 48 to lead the Drew League. But Wall had the play of the night with a 360-degree spin layup in the third quarter. Then, in the fourth quarter, he took a pass from Gary Forbes and converted an alley-oop dunk to tie the score at 125.
On his way down the floor, he stopped and did a quick rendition of the "Teach Me How to Dougie" dance he made famous at a pregame introduction with the Wizards last season.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes, playing in his first competitive basketball game in more than three months, was a welcome presence for the Drew League. After getting a last-minute call Saturday to play in the game, he jumped in as a substitute and limited Durant to only 17 points in the second half.
He also had 20 points of his own and was responsible for a crucial six-point run late in the fourth quarter. When Durant hit a three to bring the margin to two at 138-136 with just over four minutes to go, Barnes scored in the lane on the next possession, then stole the ball and delivered an assist to Marcus Banks for another basket and added another jumper to make it 144-136.
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"I just told the coach, 'Let me guard him and see what I can do,'" Barnes said afterward. "And I slowed him down a little bit, made him take some tough shots.
"We know Kevin Durant's been on a world tour averaging 50. And he got 50 again, but (33) of those came in the first half."
Barnes had right knee issues last season that limited him during the Lakers' playoff run. He said Sunday that there was "more to the story" about his injury than what was reported at the time but added that he was "90 percent" recovered.
He was key to the Drew League victory.
"On both sides -- defensively and offensively," DeRozan said. "He definitely helped us out there."
Termed 'The Big Payback,' Sunday's game was a rematch of the original Drew-Goodman contest in Washington D.C., held on Aug. 20.
That game, which was billed as 'Capital Punishment,' was won by team Goodman 135-134 after a disputed foul call put Durant at the foul line with 20 seconds to go. Durant had 44 points in all.
But whereas that game had a tougher, more NBA-like feel, Sunday's contest resembled an All-Star Game more than anything else. From early on it was apparent that few players would try to play defense as the teams combined to score 71 points in the first quarter, and that didn't change until late.
The Drew League led for most of the game after taking an 11-10 lead on a pretty play from Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings early in the first. The Goodman got back on top when Wall and Durant put together an eight-point flurry midway through the second to take a 55-52 lead, but that didn't last long. Harden put the Drew back on top shortly afterward, and the locals took a 79-71 lead into halftime.
Coached by Drew League summer season coach of the year Tiny Flournoy, team Drew kept up that lead during the third quarter. But the fourth was fight to the finish until Barnes bought Drew some breathing room and the victory, prompting the capacity crowd of 5,600 to rush the court at the Pyramid.
"We feel like this is the big payback," Wizards guard Nick Young said before the game. "We want to get right back at these guys in our backyard. "
Young didn't play in the first Drew-Goodman game. But he watched it on the computer and was disappointed by what he saw.
"I saw some things I shouldn't have seen," Young said. "I think we got robbed."
Many players voiced complaints that the referees had made a number of mistakes in that game, and Goodman commissioner Miles Rawls even referenced those concerns after that game.
There were no glaring officiating errors in Sunday's game. Before tip-off, Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley told the crowd that he hoped this was the last time he saw these players for a while. He was happy to see them there, he said -- but he'd rather them be playing for their normal NBA teams.
And the players shared that same frame of mind.
"I want to be in New Orleans. I want to play. But we're not gonna do anything until we got a deal."
Ariza was another unexpected contributor for the Drew League. He didn't play in any games this summer and didn't play in the first game between the two teams.
Smiley introduced the players prior to the game and was especially pleased to welcome Ariza. He also reminded the crowd to appreciate what they were getting in Sunday's contest -- 16 of the league's players coming together for a game for the fans, not for the paychecks.
"This is inner-city basketball on steroids," Smiley said. "This is what it is all about. These players deserve contracts and they deserve everything."
As for Sunday's meetings, negotiators for the sides met for more than five hours before breaking for the night. They are scheduled to return Monday afternoon.
Pedro Moura is co-author of the USC blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.