National Basketball Association (NBA) owners and player representatives failed to reach an agreement on a new labor/revenue-sharing deal after meeting for the first time in months last week. But even with the lockout threatening to cut into 2011-12 season, fans around the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region are getting plenty of NBA-style action.
D.C. area native and Oklahoma Thunder star forward Kevin Durant, Washington Wizards standout guard John Wall and several other high-profile NBA players hooked up at Coolidge High School in Northwest Washington on Sept. 17 to run a randomly organized charity pickup game.
This marked the third time in less than a month that star basketball players have come together to play an organized pickup game in the D.C./Maryland region. Durant and Wall took on NBA stars like Brandon Jennings and James Harden during the Goodman League vs. Drew League faceoff at Trinity College on Aug. 20; Durant was also featured in a pickup game with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony during the Goodman vs. Melo League battle at Morgan State University on Aug. 30.
Saturday’s game at Coolidge didn’t draw nearly as many fans as the previous games in August, mainly because not many people knew it was scheduled. But the fans that did show up had plenty of room to take their camera phone flicks and videos as Durant led the team he played for to a 144-128 victory.
Durant, a proud Seat Pleasant, Md. native, played for the same team as Wall, along with Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, and a few other former premiere college basketball players. Their opponents featured Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley, along with former Georgetown University stars forward Jeff Green and center Greg Monroe and University of Connecticut point guard and 2011 NCAA Tournament MVP Kemba Walker.
Each of these players would usually be preparing for the upcoming season scheduled to start in October. But while the lockout keeps them away from their respective NBA clubs, they’re keeping their bodies busy the only way they know how–by playing basketball.
“I just want to play basketball. That’s why you see me out here,” Wall told reporters after the game. “I’m ready for them to get [the lockout] over with so they can see us play during the season.”
Wall suggested that some of the top tier names in the NBA may have to take on larger roles in negotiations in order to speed up the process of getting a deal made to save the season.
“I think we’re going to have to have guys like Kobe [Bryant], LeBron, the face of the NBA, to step up and say something,” Wall told the Washington Post’s Michael Lee. “[Player Union President] Derek Fisher and those guys are doing a great job, but I just want it to be over. I can’t really say too much. I only have one year under my belt. . . . I just want to sit back, learn and listen and see what’s going on during the meetings.”
Durant, the two-time defending NBA scoring champ, told Lee that he wants the lockout to end soon, too. But also explained how players are not going to agree to a deal unless they feel its right.
“I think we’re going to stand up and stick to what we want,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to give into a deal just because we want the season to start. I know fans don’t want to hear that, but it’s kind of tough to put us in that position. But hopefully everything gets resolved here soon and we don’t have to worry about it. That’s a tough one to swallow, if the season is not going to start, but I’m staying positive.”