Kevin Durant continued his barnstorming tour last night, joining a cadre of NBA stars and youngsters in Baltimore for an exhibition game that likely supplanted Drew-Goodman I as the game of the summer. It was not a true MELO-Goodman League game, in the sense that each side recruited players from across the country. Carmelo Anthony recruited LeBron James and Chris Paul, while Durant was joined by buddy and former teammate Jeff Green. I like Green, but he's not quite in the same stratosphere as 'Melo.
'Melo's team won the game with a 149-141 final score that was likely not as close as it seemed. LeBron was the headliner and star of the game, playing in an aggressive manner that I'm sure leaves Heat fans wondering, "what if?"
Paul was the wizard and James was the evolutionary Dr. J, but the guy who really stood out was Durant. Durant led all scorers with 59, which in my mind is actually more impressive than the 66 he dropped in Rucker Park, because in this case, he was being guarded by James most of the game.
A few more random thoughts after the jump.
- The NBA crew spread the gospel in Baltimore at Morgan State's gymnasium. Check out SB Nation's Andrew Sharp, and how he managed to get entry to this memorable event.
- Beckley Mason has 10 takeaways from the game. His observation on Durant:
"Durant's handle has improved dramatically this summer. He seems much more confident dribbling through traffic in the open court and using his crossover and hesitation moves, often one after the other, to reach the rim. Durant's long arms make for a crossover that covers about eight feet side to side, and he seems more comfortable using the move to both step back and explode toward the basket. His rhythmic crossover routine repeatedly befuddled his defender for the night, LeBron, and with his step-back as an ever-present counter-threat, Durant was able to get to the rim with surprising ease."
- Carmelo Anthony was excited about the outcome:
"I think Baltimore needed this...I think they definitely needed this, just to bring the morale of the city back up. The fans haven't seen seen something like this in a long, long time, so we just want to keep it going."
Left unsaid is the idea that 'Melo probably needed this as well, along with James. They seem to have rediscovered the joy of competitive basketball in the process. Also, say what you want about 'Melo and his various issues over the past few years, but one thing that has never changed is the fact that he loves his home town of Baltimore and has invested himself fully and financially to help it survive.
- "Melo on Durant:
"Durant's gone on a rampage this summer...I told him to ‘Slow down.' Because every other night I see him in a different city playing. But that's just the love of the game that he's got, and I respect that. I'm glad he actually showed up and played in this game, too."
Durant has often said that basketball is what he does, and he has proven it time and time again this summer.
- Kevin Durant's endearing simplicity remains a sight to behold. It was reported that Durant actually arrived late to the game, striding onto the court wearing his signature backpack about 30 minutes after everyone else. Said Kevin: "It was a lot of traffic coming from my side of town, so I tried to hurry up. I apologize for making everybody wait." Aside from his never-ending politeness, what it also says is that Durant drove himself up from DC to Baltimore. Maybe that's nothing in the grand scheme of things, but to me, that says a lot. He didn't fly from Reagan National to Baltimore International Airport, he didn't charter a helicopter...he just drove up on his own accord.