Gilbert Ballin in Southeast
There were 10 seconds left last night at Barry Farms. Gilbert Arenas's team, Alldaz, was down, 114-112, but had the ball. Maybe 800 people stood crammed around the court, waiting to see what would happen. Gil was inbounding it in the frontcourt, from the left. I was convinced--convinced--that he would get the ball back, take four dribbles, launch from the top of the key and then walk away, arms raised, before the ball went in. I was already planning on dubbing Buck's "Daggerrrrrrr!" call over the top of the grainy YouTube Footage.
It didn't happen. What actually happened was teammate Brian Chase got the ball, drove, was fouled, made both shots and sent it into overtime, where the play-by-play man announced "Man, they bumping like a [bad word]" and where the Chase/Gilbert team lost by a single point, with Gilbert taking just one shot.
Anyhow. If you recall, the big Goodman League game was supposed to be on Sunday night, and was supposed to include Gilbert and Kevin Durant. During the lead-up, the rumor mill also included the following players as possibilities: Caron Butler, Rudy Gay, Delonte West, Eddie Basden, Carmelo Anthony, Tywon Lawson and Nick Young. Not a bad rumor mill.
Sunday's rain meant the game was rescheduled to Monday at 7, and I knew that would mean bad things for the rumored attendance. When I got to Barry Farms around 6:30 last night, there were zero NBA players on the court, but many little chubby kids and larger sweaty men flinging basketballs, which was perhaps equally entertaining. Plus, "DJ Storman Norman" was rocking some go-go. Plus, one guy was wearing a Michael Vick jersey.
The new rumor was that Kevin Durant would not be attending because his mother didn't want him to risk injury; "technical difficulties," was the official explanation given to the media. What celebrities we had gradually trickled in: John Thompson II, who stayed in his car until gametime. Andrew "Spongebob" Washington, who plays for the Maryland Nighthawks. Boxer Clarence Vinson.
Anyhow, only one NBA guy showed up. No surprise who. At 7:40 Gilbert appeared, in Wizards shorts, black and red Gil Zeros and a white t-shirt. He immediately stripped off the white t-shirt, put on a No. 6 red Alldaz jersey and joined the Alldaz layup line.
(Wait, No. 6? "They didn't have a zero," explained Miles Rawls, the Goodman League commish. "Down here, the Agent Zero doesn't count. They love Gilbert Arenas; they don't even know Agent Zero. They just love Gilbert Arenas for coming back in the hood.")
By 7:57, Gilbert and All Daz's opponents from 3rd Eye still weren't wearing uniforms, but shortly thereafter they donned black and the game was ready to begin.
Loosely, the rosters looked like this. Alldaz started Gilbert, former Va. Tech star and Wiz Summer Leaguer Brian Chase, D.C. legend Curt "Trouble" Smith (the younger brother of Charles), Syracuse recruit Donte Green and And1's Baby Shaq. 3rd Eye started former Charlotte star Eddie Basden, former Temple star David Hawkins, someone named D-Nice, someone named Terrance and someone named Young Zo. Off the bench, 3rd Eye featured someone called "The Unknown Dude." Yes, the team featuring the NBA all-star lost to the team featuring "D-Nice" and "The Unknown Dude."
The atmosphere? Well, it smelled more like Woodstock than like the Verizon Center, for one. Many people brought foldable chairs. Many people stood. There were perhaps 10 white people in the crowd; "man, we got white folks in the house," jokingly announced Rawls, who does the play-by-play with a handheld mic. "When you've got white folks in the house, you know you're special."
Vendors roamed the crowd with those giant blue "D.C. Recycles" cans, filled with ice and bottles of water and gatorade. Lots of kids ignored the action and played on the smaller rims off to the side. Attendance was, of course, free. The lemon cake with frosting ($3) was excellent. There was the requisite card game, and the requisite brown paper bags, and all the other stuff Mike Wise described in his story last year, which I won't rewrite.
As for Gil's performance. Well, he wasn't shooting much, by design.
"In the huddle he was like 'Yo, I'm gonna play off y'all," Trouble told me. "You know what I'm saying, that's amazing to hear that from an NBA all-star, a guy that averages 28 points in the League. He can score when he wants to, there's no secret towards that, everybody know that."
Maybe, but he was clearly still favoring one leg. "Trust that knee, Gil, leave your feet!!!" one guy yelled from the front row, but Gil didn't, not very often. He dunked during layup lines, but in the game he didn't score for the first 11 minutes, and ended the first half with (I think) six points on three-of-seven shooting. He airballed a three, was stuffed by the rim on a layup, was blocked by "The Unknown Dude," and, to a casual observer who knew nothing of the NBA or knee injuries, probably appeared to be Alldaz's fourth-best player. "Hey Gil, get on the floor!!!" his coach yelled when Gil failed to dive for a rebound, but he was joking. Gil did nothing to put his body at especial risk.
Now, Donte Green? Whoo boy, he's a live one. And Trouble is basically unguardable. His back-to-the-basket moves were incredible. It sounds nuts, but you couldn't take your eyes off Trouble and Dante, on a court featuring Gilbert Arenas.
Anyhow, some reviews of Gil's performance:
Alldaz coach Jeffrey Johnson: "I don't think he's 100 percent, but 60 percent of Gilbert Arenas is good, so I'll take that. "
Hawkins: "Of course he wasn't Agent Zero today, but I mean it's good to see that he's recovering from that injury as fast as he did, and I know from today that when the season start he'll be back to the same form. Full blast, everybody knows what Gilbert can be, but at the same time nobody just gonna lay down because of that. They gonna go at him, because they want to get a name or they want to show they can compete. But it's all love out here, and it's good just for Gilbert to come out here, because he doesn't have to come out here. He could easily get hurt. But that just shows his passion for basketball."
Trouble: "Gilbert looked good. He's kind of favoring his knee. That's expected, you know what I'm saying, a knee injury is hard to come back from. I'm still coming back from one that happened four years ago. It's just amazing to see him come out here and just try to test it out. It's coming along, it's coming along. He told me that himself, he said it's coming along, give him a couple more weeks, he's going to be right in full blast again."
The Commish: "When he goes in there for the finger roll, last year he was throwing that down with ease. So I know he's still kind of scared of the knee, and I understand that, especially on concrete, but I just appreciate his appearance....Sometimes he caters to the city stars. He had his time. He's not tripping off getting a bucket, he'll let the neighborhood guy or the known guy in the city, he'll live and die with that. You know. You've seen him play. He has a killer instinct."
Anyhow, Gil's team went down by 12 early, took a 9-point lead at the half, and then we got an endlessly back-and-forth endgame, featuring illegal defense calls, several video replays to fix the score, and lots of referee lobbying conducted by an increasingly animated Mr. Arenas.
After Donte Green made one of two free throws in the final minute of overtime to tie the score at 124, 3rd Eye held for a last shot (no shot clock here). Basden got an offensive rebound and was fouled with 0.7 left by either Green or Arenas, and his free throw gave the team without the NBA all-star a 125-124 overtime win.
"You can't call that [bad word] right there, man," an outraged Gilbert said to the ref, who laughed.
There will be video of some of this on Washington Post Live tomorrow night, or you can watch Jess Atkinson's video from last summer.
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