Amigos, NBA hoops won't be showing up on our TV machines anytime soon. Best case, the league's labor mess magically resolves in time for preseason contests in October. Worst case, the calendar flips to 2012 before Stu Lantz and his basso cantante return to our lives. And the worst case is a lot more likely than the best.
Those of us in Los Angeles, though, have a chance to watch pro ballers ply their trade this summer. The Drew League, an offseason pro-am league for NBA players, hip-hop artists and local streetball kingpins, has started play, and already several Lakers have made appearances. Steve Blake is participating, as is Shannon Brown. Ron Artest has dropped in on at least one game. I've heard that Michael Beasley is there. On any given day a handful of pro and former college players with SoCal roots, guys like Austin Daye and DeMar DeRozan, can be found on the court or the sidelines.
The Drew has been around for almost four decades. Originally it took place at Charles Drew Middle School in Compton. (Hence the name.) Now it's at Colonel Leo H. Washington Park, just north of 92nd Street in Watts. Spectators are welcome, and admission is free. The Drew's website has a schedule. If you're going though, get there early. As this piece by Rayshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West chronicles, the crowd to watch the best teams is standing room only.
Haylock was there to see Go H.A.M., the squad with the highest concentration of pro talent. Blake and Shannon are on it, along with Cedric Ceballos and The Game. The second half of the contest Haylock watched began with Blake hitting The Game on a lob pass, and if anyone has video of that I implore you to send it to me. YOU SEND IT TO ME RIGHT NOW DAMMIT!
But it was Ron-Ron who stole the show:
Lakers star Ron Artest walks into the gym with 4:27 left in the first half. The crowd gets louder than it has been all game long.
Artest, wearing jeans and a black shirt and cap, walks towards the bench and is immediately handed a uniform: red top and shorts. He walks through the crowd to change in a tiny room behind his bench.
Artest makes an impact immediately, handling the ball in the middle of the floor - something that rarely occurred in Phil Jackson's triangle. He immediately contributes two assists, both on buckets by a player who simply goes by the name Stix. The crowd goes wild. Spectators try to capture the moment on their camera phones.
However, Artest wasn't done. Defense still is respected in this setting, and Artest stops repeated attempts to get past him by former Cal State Northridge standout Deon Tresvant, sending the crowd in a buzz....
The intensity ratchets up in the fourth quarter. The game is more physical and players begin to knock down tough shots. In the end Artest, clearly the best player on the floor on this day, knocks down three 3-point field goals in the final four minutes as Go H.A.M goes on to a 106-100 win. "It's fun man. (I'm) just out here for some competition," says Artest who finishes with 16 points in 20 minutes. "It's good for the community, you know, and playing some ball. A lot of NBA players (are here), so (it's) getting ready for the season next year. It's a good league."
All hail The Drew.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.