In a sure sign that the lockout continues to drag on, the charity game/pro-am circuit is going strong this weekend on both coasts.
Saturday night in Miami pretty much all of the NBA stars in the Nike galaxy will play in a LeBron vs. Wade charity game at Florida International University.
But the game that will have more passion and pride behind it is Sunday night on the other coast.
In Long Beach — the funky city pinned between Los Angeles and Orange County, where the NBA Summer League was hosted for years (and where your humber author lives) — the L.A. based Drew League will get its rematch against the Washington D.C. based Goodman League.
These two played earlier this summer in a one-point win in D.C. for Goodman, one where Drew League players didn’t know you couldn’t foul out and felt they got some bad calls at the end. They wanted a rematch right away.
Now they have it.
Scheduled to suit up for Goodman are Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, John Wall, Michael Beasley and DeMarcus Cousins. For Drew it’s James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Nick young, and Brandon Jennings. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This has been the summer of the pro-am games — NBA players have always stepped in for a few games here and there in these leagues. But this summer, locked out of their team facilities, NBA guys have showed up in larger numbers. It’s created a real grass-roots buzz. It’s been fun to watch, in part because offense dominates defense in these games that are more pickup than structure.
Both games this weekend should be entertaining. Of course, what should be happening Sunday is the first of the NBA’s official preseason games (that’s when they were scheduled). All the guys in this game should be in training camps instead. We should be gearing up for real NBA basketball.
We’re not. So we have Drew vs. Goodman rematch. Which promises to be a little ray of warm sunshine through the clouds of the lockout.
Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.
While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.
While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.
Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).
I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.
Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”
It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:
It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.
This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.
The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.