the ClipsNation envoy to the City by the Bay, I checked out former Clipper Drew Gooden's charity game at the Cow Palace last night. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone camera with me, but I thought I'd post a few pics along with my impression of the game. If you're like me, you're hungry for some morsel of NBA basketball goodness, so I was excited to see something that was, well not quite NB, but basketball....sort of....involving NBA players. Oh yeah, and it was technically Ricky Rubio's first game in the US, so I was more than a little curious to see how he'd perform.I look at something related to basketball on the Internet just about every day, usually multiple times a day. So I'm pretty much a hoops junkie. And yet, I had absolutely no idea that during this drought of NBA action, a game composed entirely of NBA players was to be played 15 minutes from my house in San Francisco. Only when I skimmed an entry for Ricky Rubio on the Hoops Hype rumors page that mentioned San Francisco did I find out that there were going to be NBA ballers getting their hoop on in my backyard, so to speak.
Apparently, most of the players found out about the game only a few days in advance as well. Even Drew Gooden had to play chauffeur to pick up Harden and Powe at the airport:
From @drewgooden1 via lockerz.com
In addition to the expected lack of any sort of defense, hustle, or organization, there was also the questionably high ticket cost - $120 for courtside, $65 for the next closest section, $25 for nosebleed seats. But there was no way I could pass up the chance to see some basketball. After all, who knows when these guys will play on TV again?
So the girlfriend and I drove down to the Cow Palace, wondering how many people would be at the game. One report today said there were something under 2,000 in attendance. Here's a shot a few minutes before tip off:
To the best of my memory, the line ups were (to the extent there were actual positions being played):
Reserves: Dorell Wright, Jeremy Tyler, "Richie Rich" (non-NBA?)
Coach: a disturbingly paunchy DeShawn Stevenson
Amar'e Stoudemire was a last minute scratch, but there still plenty of dunks to go around. In fact, like most games of this sort, nearly every possession resulted in a dunk or an ill-advised 3-pointer. I was excited to see EJ get some burn at the lead guard spot. I was ready to scrutinize his handle to see if he'd managed to improve it in the off-season. But in this game, point guard was more of a "shortest guy on the court" designation than anything else. You know there are no coaches and the game is unstructured when Andy Varejao starts bringing the ball up the court. The lady sitting next to me, who at a lanky 6'4", had clearly spent some time on the court herself, couldn't help but exclaim, "Oh my LORD, what is he THINKING!?" every time someone started playing point-center. She said it a lot.
My apologies for the low quality of the shots. Cell phone camera + low light + action = horrible results. More people showed up by tip-off time, but my very un-scientific guess is that the crowd maxed out at about 300 fans in attendance.
There was at least one foul called last night, although it was the organizer himself who drew it, so the call was a little suspect...
Varejao watching Gordon pretend to play defense.
Collison and Harden banging hard for low block position, while Rubio sets up to drive on opposing PG Gordon.
Gooden signals for the alley-oop. Rubio thinks to himself, I've been playing in the states for 5 minutes and I already know that's the play we're running for everyone, every time down.
Rubio waits to inbound. Is that a Magic Johnson reference with his jersey number?
Fighting for every rebound. I think one of them even got some air under their feet!
I was having trouble capturing the action, with all the moving around, so the players started to accommodate me in the second half.
The one guy taking up a low defensive stance is an unknown (and non-NBA) player nicknamed "Richie Rich."
Rubio watching his 3-pointer hit the bottom of the net. Shockingly, his shot was falling more than EJ's was.
Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson were in street clothes. JET seemed to spend time "coaching" both teams. I couldn't tell what was going on with Stevenson: his trapezius muscles (upper back area) were huge, but so was his gut. I guess he's in a "bulking" phase.
He looked like he was getting ready to make a switch to the NFL.
After the game, EJ was nice enough to take a pic with me, with trademark snarl-smile and all.
EJ, along with DeShawn and Harden, were really the only guys that stuck around for photos and autographs for the 30 or 40 fans waiting near the locker tunnel after the game. As you might expect, EJ actually seemed like the most down to earth player at the event.
How was the game? You'll notice I haven't said much about it. Think NBA All-Star game, without coaches. Or TV cameras. Or All-Stars. Rubio had some really nice behind the back passes - he threw them frequently during the game, but he executed them so fast, I don't think I even noticed half of them. His full-court fast break behind the back outlet pass to DeRozan (check the vid) was clearly the play of the night, but watching it live, I didn't even realize what he'd done, nor did most of the fans. It just happened so fast and was so natural, that only when you see it on video later, do you realize how amazing it was.
But ultimately, I was wishing that someone would play just a little defense, and that the players would play like it MATTERED. The knock on the NBA - from college hoops fans - is that NBA players don't care and don't play hard. I've never bought that for a second. This is what basketball played by guys who are talented but not really trying looks like. It's ugly, and it's not interesting to watch. As much as I've been on the side of the players in the lockout, and as much as I despise the league and the owners for trying to squeeze out every dime they can from the players for their NBA vanity projects, I couldn't help but wish that the league was there to bring some structure, some meaning, and some discipline into the game. Without that, all you've got are some tall guys dunking while some others tall guys watch.