Photos courtesy of Ramon De Los Santos
Saturday night, while many of us were going about our regular summer lives in cities and suburbs across the country, a solid group of NBAers—including Kevin Durant, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Jennings, James Harden and others—gathered for a streetball game in front of a packed gym at Trinity University in Washington, DC. The squad representing the Goodman League (featuring KD, JWall and Cousins) defeated that of the Drew League (repped by Jennings, Harden, DeMar DeRozan, JaVale McGee) by a score of 135-134. Durant was given the MVP award after leading the way with 44 points. We’ve already brought you a video recap and the top 10 plays, but check out the exclusive photo gallery above for a bunch of great shots of the action.
UPDATE: Full recap added below.
by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
Stop for a second. Breathe in, breathe out.
Imagine yourself inside Trinity University, a small women’s Division III gym that is tucked away in the center of campus in Washington, DC.
Alas, the ease of the moment when on-court basketball is the only concept that people are obligated to worry about—for the moment.
In between labor talks (or lack thereof), during this excruciatingly painful NBA lockout, Saturday’s exhibition game between the Drew League and the Goodman League, two of the most heralded Pro-Am League’s in the country, provided many with a chance to reconnect with the sport and some of the players that they loved, if only for a few hours.
“It’s huge,” stated Dino Smiley, the Drew League’s commissioner. “People are thirsty for basketball right now. It’s unfortunate that the NBA is going through this, but as we said before: This is the purest, purest form of basketball that we have. These guys are playing, they flew out on their own, got rooms on their own, and it shows that they’ll play hard and that they’re playing for something.”
Indeed, the NBA superstars who flocked to DC’s Trinity University, put on a show that will probably become something of an urban legend for years to come. Perceived as somewhat of a too-good-to-be-true fantasy that had been talked about on every basketball website in the universe for the past few months, it’s possible that, from the basketball fanatic’s vantage point, this game went as well as it possibly could have.
In the early going, it became clear that this wasn’t just another streetball game with an entertain-the-crowd objective. James Harden (29 points) and Brandon Jennings (34 points) came out aggressively for Drew, setting the tone for the West Coast early in the affair. Meanwhile, the NBA’s leading scorer, Kevin Durant (game-high 44 points), and Wizards point guard John Wall (34 points) displayed their chemistry on multiple occasions in the first quarter with alley-oop feeds on the break.
At the end of the first period, the score was 40-34, and it already seemed as though each team would push 125+ points as the match-up went on.
Durant kept the fire hot in the second, as his previously errant three-ball found bottoms twice in a row and pushed the hometown squad’s lead up to 52-43. Especially entertaining were consecutive post possession spin-move slams from Goodman’s DeMarcus Cousins (18 points), who isolated and operated against JaVale McGee (24 points) on the left side.
The 4:17 mark in the second is where the keen observer could see that there was a significant amount of interest put into this game by the players. After Cousins was fouled on a put-back attempt near the rim, the whole Drew bench erupted and James Harden nearly tossed the ball up in the air while protesting the referees decision.
Later with 1:30 left in the first half, Durant blew by his man, finished with ease at the rim, landed, and immediately started clapping in the face of Brandon Jennings, who instantaneously called for the ball to clap back at his DC counterparts.
Still, Drew went into the half down 76-65 and would have to make up serious ground on the road against Goodman.
According to Smiley, halftime is where things turned around for the Drew League. Whereas Goodman stayed on the court and hung out at their bench nonchalantly, the Drew went into the locker room and was ripped into with passion by one of their bench players. “Marcus Banks, you gotta take your hat off to him—he lit into everybody,” he explained. “Inside that locker room we decided to put the ball in Brandon’s hands and let him go to work.”
Work Jennings did, appearing as a man on a mission to go home with a W. In the third quarter, he flat out took over of the game both as a scorer and a play-maker, all the while setting a nice tempo and rhythm for his team. The southpaw dominated, dropping 18 points in the period, mostly via forays to the rim and free throws. It was as if Jennings’ aggressiveness shouted to the whole gym, ‘Just because we’re in DC and you have the favored team, don’t expect us to back away.’
“Our team was down and they was talkin crap and the crowd was out there screaming and yelling,” Jennings explained on the way out of the gym. “So I think it was just important for us to come out there and show that we can hang.”
In the process of Jennings going to work, the 11-point deficit the Drew faced at halftime had slowly evaporated. Clearly better on the run as opposed to the half-court in this game, Goodman’s struggles were omnipresent in the third—even KD clanked a wide open dunk with 1:35 left in the quarter.
Drew appeared to be in control, taking a 110-103 lead with them into the fourth quarter.
An early 8-0 run sparked by Durant and Cousins swung the lead back in favor of Goodman, and the game was hanging in the balance with the home stretch in sight.
Utilizing his speed, body control, and finishing ability, John Wall’s play electrified the Goodman team in the middle of the fourth. Wall scored 12/16 of his teams final points from the 6:00 minute mark until the end of the game, but true to form, Drew wouldn’t go down without swinging.
A clutch James Harden trey-bomb with 60 seconds left tied the score at 133 up and a free throw on the next possession gave them a 1-point advantage with less than 30 seconds to play.
Goodman went to mega-star Durant on the other end, and came away with a whistle and two made free throws, making the score 135-134 with under 10 seconds left.
With one final opportunity the Drew League was right where they wanted to be, but came up just short of an upset that certainly would have caused a stir in the gym.
“We were right where we wanted to be,” Smiley explained. “We figured we’d get the ball in our best player’s hands. Most of the time you shoot the ball with some time on the clock so that you can get a rebound, but we just felt coming out of that timeout that we would take that shot at the buzzer and we’d get out of here with that shot. Win or lose, we were gonna have it in our hands.”
If the game was played in LA, Brandon Jennings feels the outcome might have been significantly different.
“If it’s in LA we win by 20, for sure,” said a calm and cool Jennings. “We came back and we did a great job. At the end of the day, it came down to a last second shot.”
For now, there has been a tentative date set up for a rematch in LA, but nothing is confirmed yet. “It’s supposed to be September 10th,” stated Smiley. I think with this kind of showing, we could find some sponsors—because we struggled to get out here.”
But with that final clank from the front rim on Jennings’ attempted game-winner, basketball fans, media, and players headed back to their every day lives; the daily uncertainties of the coming NBA season multiplying by the day.
Washington Wizards MC Big Tigger might have said it best: “This was basketball when there is no basketball.”