- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2011

There were no playoff shares involved, no rings, no trophies. Just bragging rights for a few locked-out NBA players, and the street-ball stars who suit up with them every summer.

And while its rare than an event lives up to its own pre-game hype, the first ever Drew League vs. Goodman League game at Trinity University did just that, and more. In a game that had fans on their feet screaming, players diving for loose balls and playing lockdown defense in the fourth quarter, it was Goodman 135, Drew 134 when the final buzzer sounded.

Fittingly, Kevin Durant led all scorers with 44 points, and was named the game’s MVP. Without Durant, this first ever East vs. West game for summer-league supremacy might never have been played.

“It’s all fun for me, that’s what I’m here for,” Durant said. To a man, every player involved said it was Durant’s efforts in elevating the presence of the summer league circuit that made them want to be a part of this historic contest.

The Goodman League made up a formidable squad, with Durant, John Wall, Gary Neal, DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Selby among the NBA players. Wall and Durant made a spectacular duo, connecting on several jaw-dropping plays worthy of an NBA All-Star game. Wall was the Goodman League’s second highest scorer with 28.

“To get to play with a great point guard like him [Wall], that something players only dream of. Too play with so many great players at one time, it’s a blessing, man. To play in my hometown, you can’t beat that,” Durant said.

Wall liked the pairing as well.

“Whenever you team up with the leading scorer in the NBA, it’s always going to be easy to find assists,” Wall said.

The Drew League brought along its own contingent of NBA stars, including James Harden, Brandon Jennings, JaVale McGee, DeMar DeRozen and Marcus Banks. Harden, Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, was the second-leading scorer for the Drew League team with 29 points. Jennings led the way with 34.

“We’re enemies right now. I don’t want hear nothing about that Kevin Durant. We’re enemies,” Harden said before the game.

“Both teams are going to play hard; that’s why we set this thing up,” said Harden, who hopes to reverse the home field next summer. “We can do it [play the game in L.A. Next year.] We made this trip; they can make the trip as well.

“But I think all of us wanted to come here to D.C., all of us NBA guys. The Drew League is in our backyard.”

It’s hard to know whether this game would have meant as much to players and fans if the league were not currently in a lockout, and with players having to make tough decisions about whether to play overseas, and wondering when and if they’ll have an NBA season at all come the fall.

But Wall cautioned every fan who believes that it’s all about the money, to take a good look at what this game meant to the players, who did far more than just show up. They competed, and they played to win.

“I’m very disappointed [about the lockout],” Wall said. “Everybody thinks it’s all about the money. It’s not about the money.

“I just want to play basketball. I love to play basketball.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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