LONG BEACH, Calif. -- SoCal takes Round 2.
After falling to the Goodman League when All-Star teams representing the two vaunted summer programs met in August, the Drew League got its revenge Sunday night at the Pyramid in Long Beach. Final score: 151-144, in a very entertaining night of ball.
It wasn't exactly rich in fundamentals, but there was plenty of speed and flair on display, and the crowd seemed to get its money's worth. Here are 10 takeaways from the night ...
1. Watching John Wall in a game like this is essentially a science experiment. How much damage can one guy with that much quickness and speed do if the efforts to stop him are, at best, cursory? Wall doesn’t just have a fifth or sixth gear but pulls a Spinal Tap and goes to 11. Even on a floor full of NBA talent -- in some cases very high-level NBA talent -- the gap between Wall’s speed and everyone else’s is clear. The acceleration is absurd. Wall led all scorers with 55 points (31 after the break), and while Goodman didn’t actually win the game, he owned the second half.
He also turned in the definitive YouTube moment of the night, driving the lane in the third quarter and pulled off a complete 360, the fastest spin I’ve seen outside of a women’s figure skating competition, then finishing with the right hand.
Sick, sick, sick.
2. Much to the delight of Lakers fans, Matt Barnes looked like Matt Barnes. He doesn’t have enough flash to stick out in a game featuring little else (though he did make a nice move on the wing, faking a pass then driving to the rack), but even in this format his approach doesn’t change. A couple of 3s here and there, lots of crashing the glass, as close to genuine defensive effort as the game had to offer (often against Kevin Durant, often very effective), and plenty of muck work. He scored 20 points on the night and was a critical player for the Drew League down the stretch.
I’m not exactly sure how he got on the roster -- Barnes is a Northern California guy, and therefore might qualify as a ringer -- but however it happened, the home team benefited. More importantly, Barnes seems to be rounding into the form that made him such an effective player for the Lakers last season before a knee injury basically ruined his year. Barnes called himself "90 percent" following the game, and it showed.
3. Michael Beasley was awful. Hideous, really. He had more fouls (six) and missed layups (at least three) than points (two), and when he finally did manage to get Spalding through cord was met with mocking laughter from the crowd.
Overall, it was a poor night for the Timberwolves. Derrick Williams, the second pick in this year’s draft, had (if memory serves) only one bucket and seemed a step behind everyone else on the floor.
4. I only caught one person legitimately try to take a charge, and it was Nick Young. He wouldn’t have been my pregame pick.
5. Rudy Gay showed why he is such a dominant scorer, despite some legitimate rust as he recovers from the shoulder surgery that cost him most of last season’s second half, along with the playoffs. Not necessarily in his point total -- he missed a couple of chippies and lagged well behind Wall and Durant in that category -- but Gay busted out a couple of the more vicious crossover dribbles I’ve seen in a while. The first, from the right wing, nearly broke Trevor Ariza’s ankles, while the second came from the left side and again earned him an easy path to the basket.
Gay didn’t play in Drew/Goodman I and is not all the way back yet, but by the time the NBA gets to playing very well could be, and certainly should be in form come spring. Stick him on the wing with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol inside, an improved Mike Conley at the point, and guys like Tony Allen causing havoc? That’s a scary team.
6. It doesn’t matter how close people get to high-level NBA talent, nothing gets their attention like the possibility of a free T-shirt. You had John Wall, Kevin Durant, Brandon Jennings, and so on screaming up and down the floor and putting on a serious show, but as soon as the swagmen turned to the crowd, the game practically disappeared.
7. James Harden is a phenomenal player, with a decidedly old-school game. He has more quicks and athleticism than he’s given credit for, but has a patience most young players don’t. He rushes nothing, uses his body well, changes speeds and doesn’t need a play to set up perfectly to finish. The Thunder were very effective with him on the ball in the fourth quarter of the playoffs last season, and while people talk a lot about the balance between Durant and Russell Westbrook, how Oklahoma City flows between Westbrook and Harden this season could prove equally important.
8. Did they really need to stop the game multiple times to fix the shot clock? In a game in which it might have hit single digits maybe once, were they worried that without the 24-second clock, one side would suddenly go into the four corners?
9. I’ve seen a lot of questionable officiating in my time covering the NBA, but tonight might have taken the cake. Not one, but two technical fouls were called. Not because of punches or anything like that, but garden variety NBA-style complaining. But perhaps to make those whistles look brilliant, one of the refs actually called a defensive three-second violation.
Really? A defensive three? In what amounts to a street-ball game? Even Steve Javie thinks that was a stupid call.
10. It was a fun night of basketball, but I don’t want to see a rubber match until next summer.
Trevor Ariza on the game
Trevor Ariza on the lockout
Kevin Durant on the lockout
John Wall on the Drew League
Nick Young (and his amazing hair) on the Drew League game and the lockout