John Wall didn’t arrive until the end of the first quarter. The well-traveled Washington Wizards point guard was at Kentucky for Friday night’s Midnight Madness, then hopped a plane Saturday afternoon to play in the Goodman League vs. Philly League game at Coolidge High School on Saturday night.
“My plane was delayed,” Wall said. “Then I got stuck in an hour and a half worth of traffic. That’s why I was late.”
Despite a slow start, and a lot of missed shots, Wall finished with 38 points on 16-of-28 from the floor. Team Philly led by as much as 20 points, and threatened to blow the game wide open, until the Goodman players made a dazzling comeback in the second half.
The crowd, roughly 1,200 strong, greeted the D.C team with enthusiastic cheers at the long 3-pointers, alley-oop dunks and highlight-reel plays that have become standard in these games, but the Philly team pulled out the win, 174-167.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win,” Wall said. “That’s the main thing. I’m all about getting the win.”
Wall and his fellow NBA players put on another tremendous performance, with Goodman League teammate Kevin Durant leading all scorers with 56 points on 15-of-28 shooting, and a perfect 18-of-18 from the free-throw line, and 8-of-19 from 3-point land.
Matching Durant’s show-stopping performance for the visitors was Philadelphia 76er guard Lou Williams, who scored 53 points on 21-of-38 shooting, and was 7-of-18 from 3-point land.
Even though Wall has a good time playing in these games, he admits these exhibition showcases aren’t exactly what he hoped he’d be competing in right now.
“You get bored after a while,” Wall said. “It’s fun to play, its fun to give people in the community the opportunity to see NBA players play, if they can’t see a real game in person, but after a while, you want to get back to real basketball.”
Wall’s is optimistic that a deal will get done, and the NBA lockout will end, but he’s also realistic about the situation the players find themselves in.
“It didn’t take the canceling of games for the lockout to feel real to me,” Wall said. “It became real the day I couldn’t talk to my coaches or drive to Verizon Center and work out anytime I wanted.”
Wall also addressed the comments made by teammate JaVale McGee, who spent some time at the Los Angeles players union meeting last week. McGee left early, and tweeted that some players seemed ready to fold, although most seemed ready to fight. McGee soon backed away from his comments.
The Wizards point guard said he believed more players are united than those who are considering folding, and aren’t going to accept any deal the owners offer.
“I think we’re going to stand firm at 53 [percent of Basketball Related Income]. That’s our number,” Wall said.
The players made 57 percent of BRI in the last collective bargaining agreement, and have stated that they don’t plan to go below 53 in the new CBA. The two sides are also far apart on the system issues, such as the luxury tax, length of guaranteed contracts, and Larry Bird rights.
NBA commissioner David Stern has already canceled the first two weeks of the season, and could cancel more games if the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting with a federal mediator does not bring the two sides closer together.
“We gave up some things, sacrificed some things, but we feel like they’re not trying to meet us halfway,” Durant said.
“We’re not willing to do anything just to get a deal, but we want to get a deal. I think we’re going to stick at 53 [percent of BRI]. They [the owners] have to do something. I think they’re not leaving off of 47 [percent of BRI]. In a negotiation, you have to give a little and take a little.”
Durant said he understands the common misperception among fans who are growing weary with what they perceive as a fight between millionaires and billionaires, but hopes that the fans will understand the real issues, and stick by the players.
“A lot of people are saying we’re fighting to get more money,” Durant said. “It’s not like that. We’re not on strike. But we’re players, so we’re going to take the most heat.
“At the end of the day, they [the owners] just have to help us out. That’s what it’s about.”