Whenever 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...