If it weren’t for the NBA lockout, I probably would’ve watched last night’s exhibition basketball game online just the same. It was either on a very small frame with fair resolution or via more disturbed pixels on a full computer screen blow up, but it was basketball. Basketball involving very good players. Namely, John Wall. It didn’t poetically go down-to-the-wire, but for brief spells, it was enjoyable to watch, even on that small screen streaming from the website of www.wkyt.com television station.
The Dominican Republic national team, coached by University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari, beat a team assembled of former UK disciples who are now locked-out NBAers 106-88 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Confusing connections? Certainly.
The Pros, a team name eligible to be sponsored by Bud Light in a college atmosphere, featured Wall, his former UK teammates Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins, along with Rajon Rondo, Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, and Nazr Mohammed. They started off with a burst of over-excelled activity, perhaps due to lockout inactivity. They’ve all played in other summertime Pro-AMs, but none of them like this, on a stage against legit, more consistent competition and in front of 24,000. Their desire to give the Rupp crowd a show was clear, but still with knowledge that it wasn’t going to be like their other individual forays into summer hoops, highlights of which courtesy of YouTube mix-videos.
The Dominican Republic team featured some pros themselves — Francisco Garcia, Al Horford, along with another guard familiar with Kentucky, Edgar Sosa, courtesy of time spent playing at the University of Louisville, with Garcia — and they didn’t come to tool around. The D.R. team had been working hard under Calipari’s tutelage for the last two weeks in Lexington. They preparing for international competition at the FIBA Americas tournament set to start in Argentina at the end of August.
Many of the Bud Light Pros, on the other hand, came from Las Vegas, the site of a recent birthday party for Cousins. They had a single practice together, but it sounds like the balls were simply rolled out onto the floor without direction. Their coach, Joe B. Hall, did all but throw his hands up in the air in a gussy over how much he hates this NBA, in my imagination, via this quote from the AP:
“I didn’t care what they did. They’re pros. They wanted to win,” said Hall, who led Kentucky to the 1978 NCAA title. “They did what they thought they had to do to win.”
Understandably, it was the Dominican Republic’s game to win.
At first, the Pros used their athleticism to compete, the hype of the crowd behind them. Cousins had a reported 28 points and 14 rebounds on the night, but often attempted moves much more loose than how his opponents played. He and Mohammed did little to keep the Dominican Republic off the boards, who held a 55-41 advantage over the Pros in that department. Horford had 17 rebounds to go with his 12 points and 7 assists.
John Wall looked as a hoppy as ever, thicker than a triple-double IPA. Speed will clearly continue to be the name of his game, he just might lead the NBA in transition points and transition assists next year. And that dunk he threw down in the video above was honestly was one his better get-ups that I’ve seen, ever.
Wall’s improving jump shot is, however, still working through it’s summer legs. On the night he went 3-13 from the field, un-fluidly missing a couple early jumpers but then hitting a three with confidence, which was his only make in three attempts from long distance. Wall ended up with 15 points thanks to an 8-11 mark from the free-throw line.
Counterparts Garcia and Sosa destroyed to bluegrass state nets, combining for 59 of the 108 D.R. points (Garcia dropped 30, 19 in the first half). Often given plenty of room, the former Louisville duo totalled 11-21 from three-point land. Both players had some select barking to do toward both their opponents and the crowd, who glady reciprocated with boos. In the end, the Dominican Team has more legs, more cohesiveness, more desire to win.
Clearly it’s hard to deduce much from such a game, I won’t. But also clearly the match was of higher proportions than most of the other sporting competition John Wall has seen this summer.
Because we’ve been seething at the opportunity to further evaluate the progression of a supreme talent like Wall. A summer lost of relatively inopportune chances to review, such as the annual Las Vegas Summer League, have deprived us to the point where exhibition games are scrutinized even more. The next chance at such an accelerated view, this Saturday’s “Capital Punishment” pitting East Coast players from D.C.’s Goodman League (which will include John Wall) versus West Coast players from LA’s Drew League (featuring JaVale McGee and Nick Young).
More than bragging rights will be on the line. More than Washington’s present reputation as a sleeping basketball hotbed will be on the line, as the game is to be played at the arena of Trinity University in NW D.C. The ultimate line may not be of much consequence to the wishes of Wizards fans to finally be able to root for a winner, but as Wall continues to make a name for himself at such events, it can only be good for his team and his city.
Question is, how many more inconsequential games can our hunger for basketball significance take before we start scrutinizing these silly little circus games to an unreasonable degree? I suppose I’ll be waiting around to find out.