Sunday’s Exhibition Game Fights Off The Lockout Blues

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What a day for Reggie Jackson, man. Drafted 24th in the 2011 pick, the guy headed into the Cox Convention Center to play on a star-studded team next to forces of nature like Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and got a chance to go toe-to-toe opposite heroes like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul last Sunday. That must be pretty amazing, going straight from the draft to essentially taking part in a DIY All-Star game. Jackson slid in for six minutes, shooting 10 points, with 5 of 7. That’s not too shabby at all.

But the game belonged to the vets, and they acquitted themselves nicely. Durant scored a triple-double, cutting down the game with 42 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists, leading the White team to a 176-171 victory in overtime. But the Blue team, consisting of a wily Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Jonny Flynn, James Harden, Damien Wilkins and a stunning Michael Beasley, kept things tense to the end.

While the White team, with Durant, James, Jackson, LaMarcus Aldrige, Jeff Green, Jamal Crawford, and Russell Westbrook, crushed the fourth quarter with a ludicrous 20-2 run, they had to step things up in overtime, going against a determined Blue team with a tie of 161.

With a scoring machine like Beasley (56 points, good lord!) and Paul (14 points, 13 rebounds, 25 assists), the Blue team came close to the crown, but Durant and James kept up the heat and took it home. That means Reggie Jackson got to be on a winning All-Star team, the lucky bastard.

But a rookie getting his chance to be on the receiving end of LeBron James’s passes wasn’t the only human factor that night. For the fans, this was a real treat. The game took place in the Thunder’s own Oklahoma City, with a turnout that proved that the love of basketball was still thriving in that part of the country. Under the eyes of a crowd of 13000, the exhibition was a showcase for basketball love.

The game was also a clear symbol for the far-reaching effects of the lockout, as it allowed 700 employees to work for the first time since the playoffs.

When questioned about the lockout, there were the usual measured, safe responses that are par for the course in every NBA interview, but Chris Paul and James Harden both revealed where they stood on the subject. “You know as you’re seeing these games that we’ve been playing we love to play the game,” Chris Paul said. “We’re going to find a way to play, any way possible. We want to keep giving our fans the opportunity to see us. Because if not for the fans, we’re not who we are… We just want them to know that we still want to keep working towards a deal because it’s not just about us. It’s about the fans, it’s about the employees, all the people that make our game happen. We want to play, just make sure everyone understands that.”

Meanwhile, Harden’s response was even clearer: “”53 [BRI]. That’s where we stand at. We’ve had plenty of talks and we’re not dropping. We set our number. We already dropped and we set our number at 53, so that’s what we’re sticking to. We definitely talked about it before this thing even happened. We definitely talked about it, told the guys to prepare for it and it’s here. “

With no movement in lockout negotiations, we might be in this thing for the long haul. In the void left by the lockout, NBA players have been turning to streetball, the other leagues, and looking at playing overseas. It’s nice to know that great basketball is still getting played, and for that reason, and others, Sunday’s exhibition game was an inspiration.

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