Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick was at the Compton-based Drew League this week, a summer league that features players every year, but is studded this year with no other summer leagues and no league-sponsored events due to the lockout. Plus, there's no team officials telling them they shouldn't play. Convenient. Amick spoke with what seems like everyone short of the maintenance guys and I'm sure those were just off the record conversations he didn't use. In a wide-ranging piece that lists half a dozen players who say they're considering Europe (at this point, pretty much every NBA player is "considering" Europe), Amick also discovered that Kevin Durant and his agency are working to set up an exhibition game between the Drew League and the D.C.-based Goodman League. There are so many star players involved, reportedly, that television is actually getting into the talks. From SI:
In other words, the Plan Bs and Plan Cs are quickly becoming Plan As. The perceived hopelessness of the labor situation is at the root of these ruminations, with players eager to find alternate outlets for their competitive juices. Durant did just that this week, when his plan to create an East vs. West streetball championship came to fruition in the form of an Aug. 20 faceoff between the Drew League and the D.C.-based Goodman League.via Kevin Durant, other NBA stars busy playing during lockout - Sam Amick - SI.com.
Los Angeles natives Wright and Baron Davis are handling the logistics. Wright says he wants to make it a "huge, huge, huge deal," and the game is expected to take place on the court where the likes of Durant, John Wall, Michael Beasley and DeMarcus Cousins so often play in the inner-city D.C. neighborhood known as Barry Farm. Smiley said ESPN has shown some interest in airing the game. The best NBA players from both leagues are expected to team up with some non-NBA players. The trash talk already has begun.
It's a genius idea. Every summer there are players constantly playing in pickup summer league games but the television rights can't be had due to the players' contractual obligations with their teams who are part of the league's negotiated television rights. Plus teams would freak out over the possibility of their players getting injured in such a game.
But with the league having locked the players out, which very much is a slap in the face, this allows the players to do what they want, when they want, how they want. The players can set up this exhibition, sell the television rights for a one-off, star-studded event, and make a little lockout cash. It's yet another in a series of initiatives from the players to prove to the owners they can survive without them, which is what this whole thing comes down to.
Plus, we'll get to see dunks like this.
One side note to these things, or rather a question. Would a player getting hurt really be the worst thing for the union's efforts? First and foremost, there's the pain, which everyone always seems to overlook when discussing a player. Getting injured in any form sucks. And these are often severe. Then there's the treatment, which would have to come out of the players' own pocket, and would be expenesive. And then there's the impact on his career, which could be damaged without constant professional treatment like he'd receive from his team.
But beyond that, wouldn't a severe injury be the best thing for the union? The owners can't void his contract. They can't sue, they're the ones who locked him out in the first place. If the players make it clear that they're going to keep doing things which endanger their ability to play under the lucrative contracts the teams have signed them to, and which they'll still have to pay them, as a response to the owners' approach, isn't that a huge gun put to the head of the owners? It's basically asking, "Do you really want to risk losing a Kevin Durant or a John Wall for a whole year and possible damage the rest of his career after all you've invested in him for merchandise and the hope of the franchise to win this lockout?" Most owners will say yes. But planting those seeds would help the union. I'm not saying anyone should get injured on purpose or that it would be worth it. Neither of those things are true. But it's something to think about it as this chess match continues.