In case you missed it: the OTHER Battle for I-95

chocolate cityWhenever you have the opportunity to travel 140 miles to watch bored NBA players take the court in a meaningless exhibition game, you have to take advantage of it, right? That's Rule No. 76 of the Mano-A-Mano handbook, and you better believe your favorite Buzz tandem obeyed it this weekend. Kevin Esteves and I made the trek to Washington D.C. for Saturday's "Chocolate City for the City of Brotherly Love" scrimmage at Coolidge High. Call it a case of attempting to cure our post-lockout withdrawal. Here are a few notes, observations, tidbits and early-Monday morsels from our travels -- most importantly: how this Battle for I-95 compared to that epic one at the Palestra a few weeks ago, which we still can't believe happened:

  • Takeaway #1 from this game? Appreciate how awesome the Team Philly vs. Team Melo game at the Palestra was. I realize the play on the court left something to be desired -- LeBron James in particular seemed thrown off that Team Philly defenders were, you know, actually playing defense (or at least acting as an obstacle to highlight-reel dunks) -- but the atmosphere that night was unmatched by any on this NBA exhibition tour. For one, comparing the Coolidge High gym to the Palestra would be like comparing Bryant Reeves to Kobe Bryant. In D.C., the stands were about two-thirds full and the place wasn't half as loud as the Palestra (it was, however, air-conditioned).
  • Maybe I'm an overly sentimental Philadelphian, but Team Philly really embodies the spirit of Philadelphia basketball -- scrappy, tough-as-nails and above all, proud. The squad is easily likable because of how starkly the players contrast some of the pampered, self-entitled stars on Team Melo and Team D.C. (I won't name any names, JeBron Lames and CaMarcus Dousins). Instead of stars, Team Philly is comprised of basketball journeyman who began their blue-collar careers in the City of Brotherly Love, from Hakim Warrick to Mardy Collins. Even Atlanta-born Sixer Lou Williams (who hung a ridiculous 53 points in the defeat of D.C.) has taken on Philly's feisty personality in standing up to Melo and D.C.'s titans. And, as Kevin pointed out, Lou just seems to genuinely love balling -- before both games, he was the first out on the court to shoot around by himself.
  • The Palestra absolutely played in a role in Team Philly's Battle for I-95 upset, as those Big 5 graduates just had a greater appreciation for the moment than Team Melo did. Saturday, their personality shone through again in that they didn't want to be shown up and refused to roll over to Kevin Durant, John Wall and the hometown heroes.
  • If you thought the 131-122 game at the Palestra was high-scoring and free-flowing, you should've seen the 172-169 D.C. game. There was a lot less contesting of layups and a lot more I-dare-you-to-shoot-that three attempts (and makes). Of course, it helps when you replace LeBron 'Ames (there's no J) with Durant and his unlimited range.
  • Aside from the taxi and subway rides and the Sbarro dinners and late-night 7-11 snacks (#lifeofasportswriter), the Team Philly beat isn't so bad. Maybe there are some positives to this lockout after all...

Top 10 Plays from the Battle for I-95

The magic was back in the Palestra last night as Team Philly and Team Melo took the court for the highly anticipated duel. The boys from the City of Brotherly Love defended their hometurf though, as guys like Tyreke Evans and Kyle Lowry stole the show from LeBron, Carmelo, and CP3.

In case you missed it, here are the top 10 plays, from Ball is Life.

Iverson “supposed” to play in Battle for I-95?

31percent.blogspot.com

31percent.blogspot.com

Well, so much for that rumor dying down.

The possibility of 76ers great Allen Iverson playing in Sunday's Team Melo vs. Team Philly "Battle for I-95" at the Palestra is looking more and more likely after ESPN.com published a report this morning. ESPN New York's Ian Begley quoted a "source with knowledge of the game rosters" that said Iverson is "supposed" to play in the game.

Rumors initially spread because Iverson is reportedly hosting an event on Saturday at a Philly night club. The addition of "The Answer" would give Team Philly some star power to counter Team Melo's LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

Game organizer Rahim Thompson continues to respond to questions about Iverson's participation with "no comment." But it appears we're in for some surprises once 6 p.m. on Sunday arrives. We'll keep you posted as we find out more.

Mano-A-Mano Volume VII: Special Philly-Melo edition

ManoAMano1This segment started with a simple debate over whether a Big Five foe had pro potential. Maybe we were grasping at straws, judging a prospect based on one game against Penn, or maybe we're just NBA junkies searching for the slightest opportunity to write about our beloved Association. As fate would have it, the NBA players are now coming to us. And how else would we respond but to return Mano-A-Mano to its roots for Volume VII with some heated hoops talk? Let's just hope our debate lives up to the hype of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition...

Question 1: Who will own the night at the Palestra's Team Philly vs. Team Melo event a.k.a. "The Battle for I-95"?

Kevin Esteves: I’m going to go with “The Durantula,” but not for the reasons that immediately come to mind. Yes, KD made the summer his personal showcase by dropping 66 at Rucker and 59 against Team Melo. And, yes, he’ll be the best pure scorer on the floor. However, I don’t think that alone makes him such an easy pick. Durant won’t get nearly as many touches as he did when he was the alpha-dog on his DC Power team that played in Harlem or the Goodman team that played against LeBron, Melo, CP3, and Co. This time, he’ll be paired alongside Carmelo — who will want to show out as the de facto captain — LeBron and CP3 (he’ll be throwing lobs all night, but still). Even if this game turns out to be a track meet, I don’t anticipate KD getting enough touches to just hang 66 on Philly. That said, I still think he’ll steal the night because this kind of exhibition fits Durant’s game perfectly — a free-flowing, up-and-down style that will allow KD to operate in space and hoist up countless threes against what I anticipate will not be a world-class defensive effort. He also has the right swagger and attitude to go into any gym and dominate — he reportedly said, “I do this,” after his historic performance in NYC — because he genuinely loves to play and compete. So if Durant can get it going, knock down a few threes in a row (especially if this game is somehow close by the end) he’ll have the crowd on its feet and we’ll all be left buzzing about how easy he makes the game look.

Brian Kotloff: And if the game takes on the free-flowing style you expect, who will shine more than the world's greatest all-around talent, LeBron James? The league's best athlete -- and maybe the best athlete the sport has ever seen -- will be unleashed in a fast-paced, high-flying showcase like this. But that's not the reason I'm taking LeBron. Above all else, I think LeBron will steal the show because he has to steal the show -- it's his time. Don't think for a second that seeing Durant own the headlines with his epic summer league tour hasn't gotten King James' competitive juices flowing (I know, I know -- this thinking didn't work out so well with his Decision to play sidekick to D-Wade, but here's a second chance). That's the beauty of basketball: the stage gets bigger and the game becomes a business, but the playground mentality never leaves. Even if they're on the same team, you know KD and LBJ will try to one-up each other. And I expect LeBron to re-establish himself as the NBA's alpha dog by dominating this game with his scoring, passing, rebounding and overall athleticism. People love to hate him, but the man has the swagger to take over the gym, too. I think his charisma (and of course, talent) will help him own the Palestra on Sunday night.

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Kobe Bryant unlikely to play in Battle for I95

mediaoutrage.com

mediaoutrage.com

As soon as Hakim Warrick said he has "a few all-star surprises" up his sleeve for the Team Philly vs. Team Melo game, rumors swirled about Lakers star Kobe Bryant potentially joining his hometown team. After speaking with Kobe's marketing manager Jerry Foyer this afternoon, however, I can tell you that it's safe to count Kobe out of the September 25th event at the Palestra.

Foyer said Bryant has a European tour scheduled for that week and he will thus be out of the country until the end of September -- which explains the "other obligations" Warrick mentioned to philly.com. The tour is scheduled to take him through Turkey, Greece and Italy, where Kobe will run youth basketball clinics.

According to Foyer, Bryant, a Lower Merion High School (Pa.) graduate, has not even been contacted about participating in the Battle for I95. "He actually brought it up today," Foyer said, but the two "didn't go into depth" about the possibility of playing because of the prior commitment.

It's an unfortunate scheduling conflict, because Bryant's participation would have taken the exhibition to an even higher level (if that's possible). As is, the star power is heavily weighted toward Team Melo, with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul already in the fold. Recently committed Chester native Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings) will at least give the Philly fans a hometown hero to root for, but Kobe playing at the Palestra would have been a sight to behold and would have certainly helped his shaky relationship with fans in this city.

If anything, though, Kobe's packed schedule shows how improbable this turn of events truly is -- the game's organizers were able to bring international superstars onto our campus. Pretty amazing.

Mano-A-Mano Volume VI: The Battle for I-95

ManoAMano1Somehow, someway, a game that seemed like a pipe-dream a month ago has evolved into THE must-see event on campus this month. Suddenly, the worlds of professional sports and Penn Athletics are colliding, and we can proudly say that our school, our Palestra will soon be the center of the basketball universe. So before someone pinches us, let's talk the upcoming Team Philly vs. Team Melo scrimmage ("The Battle for I-95") and its impact on the Penn basketball program.

Question: How will the Sept. 25th event at the Palestra help Penn's efforts to revitalize its storied basketball program?

Brian Kotloff: I know it may seem like a stretch to suggest that an NBA scrimmage could impact Penn Basketball, no matter how much excitement this announcement is creating around campus. After all, who wouldn't be thrilled to host some of the world's greatest athletes in your own backyard? And isn't student interest in the Ivy League, not the NBA, the real issue? To me, this game transcends these questions. This game has Penn sports fans — and maybe even casual observers familiar with the celebrity status of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony — legitimately buzzing about an athletic event on campus. That's a good start.

But where this event will truly make its mark on this campus is in the promotion of the Palestra. Our cathedral was integral to making this happen, and students will recognize that. Hakim Warrick said the Palestra was his first choice as a venue. "When you think of Philly," he said, "... you think of the Palestra." A major part of the problem with student interest and attendance is that current and future students do not appreciate the historical significance of their school's basketball program and its home arena. Now LeBron James — perhaps the most famous, captivating, electrifying athlete in the world right now —wants to come play here. He wouldn't even participate in the dunk contest, and now he's taking on the pressure of performing against his biggest rivals in one of the country's best basketball venues. The message that sends can be invaluable in getting students to re-discover the Palestra as THE place to be on game nights.

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Is LeBron actually coming to the Palestra?

UPDATE: The ticketing page now lists Chris Paul and LeBron James, but not Kevin Durant...

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The "Battle for I-95" at the Palestra went from a big deal to a HUGE one with the announcements last night that LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant would play.

But will they?

The short answer is yes. The long answer:

Those of you who logged on to buy tickets for the event may have noticed that the page on Penn Athletics' site has a list of prospective players:

*According to Promoter, Rahim Thompson, Confirmed Players are:

Team Philly
Hakim Warrick Phoenix Suns
Markieff Morris Phoenix Suns
Marcus Morris Houston Rockets
Ronald Murrary NBA Free Agent
Lou Williams Philadelphia 76ers
Aaron Owens And 1 Mix Tape
Wayne Ellingtion Minnesota Timberwolves
John Salmons Milwaukee Bucks
Lynn Greer Overseas/Temple Alumni
Jason Thompson Sacramento Kings
Kyle Lowry Houston Rockets

Team Melo
Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks
Donte Greene Sacarmento Kings
Gary Neal San Antonio Spurs
Eric Bledose LA Clippers
Josh Selby Memphis Grizzlies
Other Players TBA

Currently, James, Paul and Durant aren't on that list, as it was set up before those three players announced they would play. Last night, Thompson couldn't confirm their attendance, only saying that “Carmelo and his friends will be there.” Based on Penn's news release this afternoon, which listed the three as confirmed players, we can assume that they are the "Other players TBA."

It’s Official: NBA stars are coming to the Palestra (with ticket info)

We've been hearing (and maybe spreading) the rumors for weeks. Now it is fact: Hakim Warrick's Philly All-Stars will host Carmelo Anthony and his Team Melo All-Stars in what is being called the Battle of I-95. The venue? Penn's Palestra. And as of last night we heard that Carmelo would be bringing some big name guests, including the game's biggest star, LeBron James, as well as Kevin Durant and Chris Paul.

The date we've known for some time, Sept. 25, 6 p.m. Now we know that tickets will go on sale at 3 p.m. today at PennAthletics.com. Ticket sales will be limited to 4 per person.

From Penn's release:

General Sale: Tickets will be available online starting at 3 p.m. at PennAthletics.com. A limited number of tickets will also be available starting Saturday at 10 a.m. at select Sneaker Villa stores in the Philadelphia area.

Penn Students: Members of last year’s Line will receive an email later today with information on how they can enter a lottery to win one free ticket to the game.

Penn Men’s Basketball Season-Ticket Holders: An email will be sent out later today with information on how they can enter a lottery for two complimentary tickets.

Additionally, season ticket holders and students can purchase tickets online along with the general public starting at 3 p.m.

There were also statements from Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky:

"We’re pleased that The Palestra was chosen as the site for this extraordinary exhibition of some of the greatest basketball players in the world,” said Penn’s Director of Athletics, Steve Bilsky. “These NBA players will witness firsthand what Philadelphians already know, that The Palestra is the most exciting venue for basketball in the country.”

And from Warrick, a West Philly native:

“My Philadelphia All-Stars look forward to getting on the court and proving to Melo and the people of Baltimore/DC that the best ballers come out of Philly!” said Warrick.  “Melo told me he was bringing a squad that can’t be beat so I have a few ‘all star’ surprises for him when my team takes the court on September 25.”

We're also happy to report that some of the revenue from this endeavor will be donated to the West Philadelphia Community Center, one of Warrick's old stomping grounds, and several blocks of seats for the game will go to local community groups.

NBA Palestra game tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. [UPDATED]

Update (1:19 p.m.): Penn Athletics has posted an official press release for the event. Tickets will go on sale at 3 p.m. TODAY on pennathletics.com. Members of last year's Line and last year's season ticket holders will receive emails regarding a lottery system to win tickets (Line members are eligible for one, season ticket-holders are eligible for two).

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Contrary to reports we heard last night, as well as information the DP published, tickets for the upcoming NBA summer-league game at the Palestra later this month are NOT going on sale at 9 a.m. today. This was confirmed to The Buzz by Penn's Athletic Communications staff. Those who showed up early to secure a ticket found this sign at the Palestra's box office:

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The game, which will now feature arguably the best talent in the league, inlcuding LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and more, is scheduled for Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. Last night, the Inquirer's NBA blog Deep Sixer reported that tickets would go on sale this morning at 9 a.m., both at the Palestra and online at RUVILLA.com. That blog has since been corrected.

The Inquirer's Kate Fagan, who wrote the blog post last night, tweeted this last night:

Picture 2

Rahim Thompson, one of the events organizers, tweeted multiple times that tickets would go on sale Tuesday, but did not offer a specific time. Thompson also told the DP to go off of information published by the Inquirer. Late last night he tweeted a picture of a ticket to the event being printed, but later tweeted that the ticketing system was being worked out, and more info would come later.

Philly.com is currently reporting that "Thompson said last night he should be tweeting the site around 1 p.m."

We apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by the misinformation about ticket sales. As soon as we confirm when and where they will officially be on sale, we will let you know. And we will most likely broadcast that first via our twitter, @dailypennsports.

LeBron, Durant and CP3 Coming To Palestra [UPDATED]

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UPDATE: For the full story, including an interview with the event's organizer, see the article here on thedp.com

UPDATE 2: Contrary to reports we heard last night, tickets will not be on sale at 9 a.m. Stay tuned for info as we get it.

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In the last report about the star-studded Team Philly-Team Baltimore game being held at the Palestra on September 25th, we found out that Carmelo Anthony would be bringing along some fellow NBA players from the Baltimore/D.C. area, including Josh Selby and Gary Neal, in addition to "more surprise guests."

Now we're hearing, according to Philly.com, those surprise guests will be none other than two-time MVP LeBron James, two-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and arguably the best point guard in the world in Chris Paul — as if this game needed any more star-power.

In the original ESPN report about the game, one of the event's planners, Phoenix Suns forward Hakim Warrick said that Carmelo would likely not be bringing along the same team — which included James and Paul — he brought for the Goodman-Team Melo game. Well, I guess plans have changed since then and now 'Melo's stacked team can add Goodman's finest, Durant, to the mix.

These video highlights could very well be a preview of what's in store.