BIG3 DEBUT: Kwame Brown, Rashard Lewis and 10 Thoughts | Wizards Blog Truth About

BIG3 DEBUT: Kwame Brown, Rashard Lewis and 10 Thoughts

Updated: June 26, 2017

[Former Washington Wizards Kwame Brown and Rashard Lewis, along with coach Gary Payton, at the post-game press conference after winning the first BIG3 game. Photo: A. Rubin]

Ice Cube’s much hyped BIG3 3-on-3 league debuted in Brooklyn on Sunday and it started with a bang. The first two games went down to the wire and featured game-winning shots from former Washington Wizards Rashard Lewis and Deshawn Stevenson.

The quality of play dipped slightly in the final two games, but each contest had some memorable moments. Without further ado, here are ten thoughts about the BIG3 debut at Barclays Center.

#1. Defensive Intensity

My biggest concern was the league would be a glorified pickup game with matador defense and a parade of uncontested shots. That fear was quickly allayed in the opening game between the 3-Headed Monsters (Jason Williams, Rashard Lewis, Kwame Brown, Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, and Eddie Basden) and the Ghost Ballers (Mike Bibby, Ricky Davis, Ivan Johnson, Marcus Banks, and Mo Evans).

These guys went after it. There was more diving on the floor than a regular season NBA game. In fact, the biggest cheer of the first half was for Ivan Johnson throwing his body to the hardwood to snag a loose ball from Rashard Lewis.

When Mo Evans subbed in, he raised the intensity even higher and turned the game into a spirited playground affair. The intensity only increased throughout the afternoon, culminating in some ridiculously rough play by Reggie Evans in the final game.

While Reggie Evans may have stepped over the line (more on that later) the rough play should not be a surprise. It was by design. The BIG3 — at Ice Cube’s direction — legalized hand-checking. That meant all those NBA ticky-tack fouls on the perimeter and quick whistles on post-ups were nowhere to be found at Barclays Center. Instead, there was a healthy dose of grabbing and shoving virtually any time a player was within arms-length of his opponent.

This type of officiating is like Christmas morning for Reggie Evans. He bulldozed his way into the paint every time he touched the ball, and his defensive style was akin to a baggage handler loading luggage onto a plane — just tossing people around.

But Reggie took it a bit too far midway through the second half with his team trailing by a wide margin to Rashad McCants’ Trilogy. McCants, who had already been involved in several shoving and trash-talking scrums with Stephen Jackson, had the ball on the wing against Evans. Reggie apparently decided he wasn’t interested in watching McCants score another basket.

One way to accomplish that goal would be playing tight defense. Another way would be to let McCants drive right and then brutally crush him out of bounds with a full body check.

Evans chose the latter.

McCants was clearly hurt but he stayed in the game for a couple minutes — even attempting a ferocious revenge dunk on Brian Cook — but he eventually left the game and hobbled to the locker room with the help of a trainer.

#2. Captain Jack Gonna Captain Jack

The BIG3 is made for guys like Stephen Jackson. Guys who like to talk trash, like to play rough, and are not afraid to inject the kind of raw emotion that is quickly snuffed out by technical fouls in the NBA.

At one point, McCants stripped Jackson and shoved him aside to grab the loose ball. Jackson was not pleased and did not even pretend to play defense after McCants recovered possession. Instead, he simply walked up to McCants and gave him a full body shove and started talking trash. Jackson, never one to de-escalate a tense situation, turned to BIG3 Founder Ice Cube, who was sitting court-side a few feet away, and let him know this was how it was going to be. Ice Cube just smiled.

#3. Wizards, Wizards Everywhere

Former Wizards players made their mark early and often in the inaugural BIG3 matches. In Game 1, Kwame Brown and Rashard Lewis, teammates on 3 Headed Monsters, were the best two players on the court.

Rashard dropped 27 points (10-for-17 FG) on an array of low post and mid-range moves that had me reminiscing about his Seattle days. Kwame displayed an ability to grab rebounds in traffic and corral loose balls that was frustratingly absent during his tenure in Washington. The competition was not great, but just the fact that Kwame asserted himself against undersized opponents is a step in the right direction. He scored 17 points (7-for-10 FG) and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

Rashard also provided the biggest highlight of Game 1 when he fought back a furious late rally by Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis by overpowering Davis at the rim for a game-winning layup and free throw. After the layup, Rashard started jawing in Davis’ face.

I asked Rashard after the game about his exchange with Davis:

“It got a little chippy I think because of physicality. It makes you start to talk noise. With me I’m not a big noise talker but when someone gets to talking trash to me or my teammates it wakes me up a little bit.  I wasn’t going to let him hold my down down there. He got to talking some noise so I had to put it in his chest.”

Rashard was not the only former Wizard with the midas touch in Brooklyn. In Game 2, Deshawn Stevenson hit the most dramatic shot of the day — a game-winning 3-pointer (when only two points was needed for the win).

#4. 14-Second Shot Clock

This was a good idea. Even when the players were tired, the pace of play remained fast because there was only enough time for a few passes before a shot had to go up.

#5. Free Throws Worth 2 Points

This rule modification may not be possible in the NBA, but it’s a nice time-saver for the BIG3. Instead of attempting two free throws after a shooting foul, a player gets one free throw attempt worth two points. Same goes for fouls on 3-point and 4-point attempts.

#6. Prime-Time Atmosphere

Barclays Center was only half full for the first game, but it quickly filled and the lower bowl was at near-capacity when Stevenson’s Game 2 winner splashed through the net. There were a couple big name celebrities — LL Cool J and Whoopi Goldberg — and plenty of NBA royalty — current and retired players Paul Pierce, James Harden, Jalen Rose, Sam Cassell, and Lou Williams — as well as legends on the sidelines — Dr. J, Clyde Drexler, and Rick Barry. With Gus Johnson handling play-by-play and Michael Rappaport working the sidelines, there was a definite air of legitimacy. The event will be broadcast Monday night on FS1.

#7. Iverson World

Allen Iverson is the current face of the BIG3 and anticipation of his return to the hardwood was at a fever pitch in Brooklyn. The cheers during his introduction drowned out the P.A. announcer:

Although Iverson only played a few minutes, he got the biggest reaction every time he touched the ball. Perhaps the second loudest crowd noise of the night (behind the Answer’s fevered introduction) were the “We Want A.I.” chants when he subbed out of the game. Iverson acknowledged the crowd in his post-game press conference but made clear that he wears three hats in this league (player, captain and coach) and his “player” role will be limited.

#8. All Day Affair

While the game play was fast (thanks to the 14 second shot clock), the event did drag at times. There were too many stoppages. Too many team timeouts. Too many league timeouts. Halftime for each contest was too long. And the games might need to be shortened to 50 points.

The final game ended almost six hours after the event’s 1 PM start time. It seems like four-to-five hours would be an ideal duration for the entire event, which included a Fabolous concert between Games 2 and 3. It definitely takes a commitment to last through all four games and the stadium was fairly empty by the time Al Harrington hit the final shot of the night.

This is one of the advantages of broadcasting the BIG3 on delay. FS1 can edit the games to a fast-paced, three-hour broadcast.

#9. Injuries

With players in their mid-30s to late-40s, injuries were an expected part of the league. Jason Williams provided a stark reminder of this reality in the opening game when he drove right and flailed in pain after jumping off his right foot. He pointed to his knee and stayed on the ground for several minutes. Fortunately, after initially being helped off the court by Reuben Patterson, Williams was able to walk to the locker room on his own recognizance, albeit with a severe limp.

Kenyon Martin also appeared to tweak his hamstring and exited to the locker room for a brief stretch in the final game. He seemed destined to miss the remainder of his team’s victory against Reggie Evans’ Killer 3’s, but he made a surprise return late in the game. The Brooklyn crowd — no doubt remembering Kenyon’s all-star play with the then-New Jersey Nets — roared as Martin took the court to bang with Evans. Martin immediately committed a hard foul to send a message to Reggie. Corey Maggette also suffered an apparent knee or ankle injury and hopped off the court.

After the game, Jason Williams’ coach, Gary Payton, said that injuries are no bigger a concern in the BIG3 as they are in the NBA:

“That was just a play that was a freak accident. J went up and his leg just went the wrong… Anyone can go and move any kind of way and blow a knee out. So we don’t get scared of that.”

Payton reiterated that he does not expect injuries to be a problem:

“If you in shape you ain’t going to pull a muscle that easily because if you stay limber and you stay loose – I don’t care how old you are – I see 60-year olds, 70-year olds on video that are looking really really good.”

#10. More to Come?

Paul Pierce was in the crowd to watch Iverson’s return to basketball and one of Iverson’s teammates, Andre Owens, dropped an interesting nugget about the future Hall of Famer after the game. Owens said Pierce visited his team in the locker room and there are rumors that the newly retired small forward may join the BIG3 in the future. Owens also added Kevin Garnett to the list of potential new players.

Final Verdict

The BIG3 was a fun event and the quality of basketball was a lot higher than I expected. If TV ratings are decent (and I think they will be), the BIG3 has a bright future.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.