Sunday, September 18, 2011

Excorcising the Demons of Summer (Bx3 #35)

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Pujit and Assisti were first introduced in this comic.  Think of them as the Yin and Yang of basketball.  Problem is, we’ve been getting a ton of Pujit this Summer- which normally wouldn’t be much of a problem by itself- but with the NBA lockout looming, let’s just say I’m worried about Assisti.

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Take some of the best basketball players in the world.  Randomly assign them to two teams (in different combinations than you’ve seen before) and fill out the rosters with high level amateurs. Pack the gym/park. Play ball.

That is summer league exhibition basketball- the current version at least. I’m not sure if it’s the looming loss of NBA season due to the current labor lockout, corporate sponsorship holding multi-millionaires doing whatever they can to maintain street cred (for future market targeting of course), or just a genuine love for basketball and fans (some of whom probably can’t get anywhere close to the lower sections of an NBA arena), but it seems like this year more than ever NBA stars are stepping out onto the Summer league court. (I think it’s mostly a combination of the 1st and 3rd explanation, except for Lebron of course- in which case it’s all about the marketing. I kid.)

This off-season we’ve seen Durant drop 66 in Rucker park, take down teams featuring Brandon Jennings and Michael Beasley, and then lose a game to the LBJ and Chris Paul Melo All-stars. Kobe graced the court in Los Angeles and promptly hit a game winner over James Harden in a Drew league game.  ...and that’s just the highlights that I can immediately remember.

It sounds awesome, right? Well it is awesome. It represents a big part of what basketball is all about. It’s a flowing showcase of the creativity and skill that makes basketball a beautiful game, played without all the pomp and circumstance of the modern NBA arena. If you haven’t seen it, watch what happened at Rucker when Durant hit 4 long range bombs in a row.  That’s what I’m talking about.

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Final score of that game: Durant 66.  I can’t find what the actual score was.  When Kobe hit the game winner over Harden, the game was tied at 137-137.  The Melo all-stars beat Durant’s Goodman league team 149-141.



It’s the off-season. Usually we wouldn’t be hearing much from these guys. There’s not really any grounds or reason to be critical- and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. But let it be known- I would trade all these exhibition games put together for even one regular season NBA game between playoff contenders.

My biggest takeaway from these games is how much I love defense. And real NBA games. And team basketball.  Especially when the teams have chemistry and help on defense at the right times and run plays and kick it around the perimeter before a corner three.  I want the dunk that you earn after having finally broken down the other team's defensive rotations, not the one with the court cleared.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not some “everybody’s-traveling-all-the-time” “why-can’t-anybody shoot anymore” old schooler.  I don’t mind the occasional “no-no-no-YES!” pull up jumper in transition. I love a little showboating; when you are capping off a good run and driving in that last nail- nail it down hard and with flourish I say.

But I’d rather watch LBJ try to shut down Durant for a key 3 minute stretch of a real game than for a whole 40 minute Summer-league game. I would trade an entire All-Star dunk contest for a single regular season meeting at the rim between Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka.

The thing is, I wouldn’t even be thinking about this if it weren’t for the lockout.  I’m like the patient that’s been told by the doctor to go live it up because I only have months to live. I’ll enjoy myself once you tell me that I’ve been cured- no sooner.  A little dramatic maybe- we’re not talking matter of life and death here- but we are talking about something which is a big part of my life- and probably yours if you are reading this. As much as I love all basketball, for me nothing compares to NBA basketball. My basketball life will not be normal until the NBA is cured.

After the lockout is ended and there’s another great NBA season completed; when the summer rolls around I hope those players go out and play in those summer league games again. Because next time, I’m really going to enjoy it.

-J.O.