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Mild Thunder in Kevin Durant’s Summer Debut at the Goodman League

D.C. residents crammed "inside the gates" on Sunday to welcome the return of Suitland, Md native Kevin Durant back to Barry Farms' Goodman League (Camera photo by Stephen D. Riley)

Kevin Durant showed up for his Washington, D.C. Goodman League summer debut on Sunday with lots of people to please but little to prove. After all, the NBA’s reigning scoring champion did give spectators at Barry Farms something to remember last summer with a 62-point outburst.

Topping that feat would’ve been difficult for even the modest NBA 2K champion, let alone the NBA’s leading scorer. But fans didn’t withstand the sweltering heat and bypass the first half of Sunday night’s NBA Finals to see the extreme; they just came to show support for one of the best home-grown ballers in the league do his thing. And Durant answered their wishes.

His performance wasn’t 62-point-esque but Durant’s 35 points raised enough ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from a packed crowd to grade his Goodman League debut as a success. Playing alongside the Washington Wizards’ Andray Blatche, Durant and Blatche dazzled at times “inside the gates” for their 3rd Eye ball club. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward launched the first shot of the game; a three-pointer that grazed off the rim before executing a spin move on his next possession and finishing with a one-handed dunk. That would turn into an ongoing theme for much of the night for the 21-year-old nicknamed “KD.” While his normally reliable jumpshot wasn’t falling, KD was busy attacking the rim and finishing strong with two-handed and one-handed rim rattlers. Clapping his hands after explosive finishes and face-flexing to the crowd.

“KD is officially here at the big show,” announcer Miles Rawls bellowed whenever Durant would throw down one. Watching the 6-foot-10 scoring machine glide up and down the court with his smooth handle and crossovers galore made a few onlookers shake their heads in disbelief but if you’ve been watching Durant emerge as one of the NBA’s best players over the last three seasons then the display came as no surprise.

Durant wasn’t the only NBA specimen impressing. Much like his Wizards’ responsibilities, Blatche did a little bit of everything on Sunday. Rebounding, passing and scoring, Blatche recording a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on his own courtesy of some slick crossovers and a few athletic finishes. But while NBAers Blatche and Durant were starring, it was Team Cricket’s pair of And 1 superstars Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones and Lonnie “Prime Objective” Harrell that stole the show. Following along the lines of his And 1 exploits, “Baby Shaq” made play after play during the evening’s twilight game, scoring at will and swishing the final shot in overtime that sent Durant and his 3rd Eye team home losers on the night.

Despite the defeat, Durant’s presence alone made winners out of the neighborhood kids who arrived by the masses to come see him. With their fingers pointed in amazement and juice stains decorating their shirts, star-struck youngsters applauded Durant’s every move and grinned in excitement with his every dunk. Durant didn’t have to top 60 on the evening; he just had to show up. And for local D.C. residents on Sunday night, that’s all anybody could ask for.

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June 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rondo’s Shove on Artest Pushes Lakers in 3-2 Hole

When Rajon Rondo shoved Ron Artest with 4:41 remaining in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 92-86 Game 5 victory on Sunday, it triggered a role reversal that played out for the rest of the night. With less than five minutes remaining in the quarter, Rondo attacked the Lakers on a fast break, setting up Boston center Kendrick Perkins who later dished off to a cutting Kevin Garnett. Garnett was then shoved to the ground by Artest on a hard foul, prompting Rondo to push Artest in retaliation after the whistle was blown. Rondo received a technical foul for his exploits but his team received a shot in the arm for his courage.

With his team leading 34-31 in the second period, here’s Rondo —the second smallest member of the Celtics’ rotation— shoving Artest — arguably the Lakers’ best defender and most physical player— to the side like he’s two inches shorter than him. Rondo’s push, followed by a profanity-laced reprimand of Artest, showed the Celtics’ heart and passion and was just one of a series of plays that helped to mentally subdue two of the Lakers’ most important players for another contest.

Highlighted by 6-foot-4 reserve guard Tony Allen’s block on Laker seven-footer Pau Gasol in bottom of the third quarter, the Celtics out-muscled and out-played the Lakers for a second consecutive game. Gasol, who went on record after his 23-point, 14-rebound performance in Game 1 to say “Garnett has lost a step,” was stuffed three times in the period. One by Allen that left him on the floor and two others by Garnett, the same player who had “lost a step.” 

In fact, Garnett has actually gained a few steps over the past few contests, averaging 19.6 points per game in the last three outings. Light years more effective than the 11 points per game Garnett struggled to score in the series first two games. Garnett’s inspired containment of Gasol (15.3 points per game the last three meetings, 12 points and 12 rebounds in Game 5) has helped swing the series in Boston’s advantage but it was Rondo’s shove that swung the series momentum.

Artest, known for his bruising style of in-your-face defense, was pushed by Rondo and later torched by Paul Pierce for 27 points while the Laker forward could only muster a seven-point, 2-of-9 shooting performance. Since churning in a strong Game 1 with 15 points and two steals, Artest has bottomed out over the last few games (like Gasol). Artest has averaged just six points per game and is shooting a wretched 24 percent from the field, connecting on 8-of-33 field goals in his last four games.

Artest was acquired by the Lakers last summer to be their hired hit man; their bruiser sort to speak. After his first career Finals game, Boston has now turned Los Angeles’ biggest offseason acquisition into its biggest goat and a player that Lakers coach Phil Jackson has to strongly consider lessening minutes for at this point.

Gasol and Artest aren’t the only two reasons why the Lakers now find themselves down 3-2 and one game away from another Celtics’ championship. However, Los Angeles cannot afford to have two of their core players physically and mentally manhandled again in Game 6 if the Lakers want to even the series.


June 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment