When Carmelo Anthony explained how he was able to get LeBron James and Chris Paul to play with him in a charity exhibition in his home town of Baltimore last month, he joked, “I use my favors when I can.” The trio of all-stars and Olympians combined to lead the Melo All-Stars to a 149-141 victory over the Kevin Durant-led Goodman All-Stars at Morgan State, but Anthony apparently wasn’t done using his favors.
Anthony convinced James and Paul to join him again on Sunday to headline the “Battle for I-95” at the Palestra in Philadelphia. “After doing the one in Baltimore, that I did I kind of knew it was going to open some doors and everybody was going to want to start playing,” Anthony, the New York Knicks all-star, said on Saturday at Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play on the Ellipse. “I just got with LeBron and CP and said, ‘Y’all want to do it again.’ They was like, ‘Yo, we in.’ So, I set the game up with Philly. It was that easy.”
Team Melo, which will also include players from Baltimore, with take on Team Philly in a game that came together mostly as Anthony and his former Syracuse teammate Hakim Warrick engaged in some playful trash talk. Warrick, the Phoenix Suns forward, assembled a team of players with Philadelphia roots, including Sacramento Kings players Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson and John Salmons, Houston guard Kyle Lowry, Minnesota guard Wayne Ellington, twins Markieff and Marcus Morris and 76ers guard Louis Williams.
Kevin Durant had originally committed to playing with Anthony but had to back out to film a movie called, “Switch,” in Baton Rouge, La. SI.com will live stream the game, which starts at 6 p.m.
“It’s fun,” Anthony said. “For some reason, summer basketball is back. I think right now, with the lockout uproar, and all that stuff going on, fans want to see something, so we couldn’t just give them the one basketball game. We had to keep it going.”
Since the NBA locked out its players on July 1, players have been playing in exhibition, charity and summer league games around the country. Wizards guard John Wall had 41 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds on Saturday to lead the local Goodman League to a 170-167 victory over Knox Indy Pro-Am in Indianapolis.
Paul said on Saturday that he didn’t hesitate to get involved both times Anthony asked him to play. “It ain’t hard. Them my brothers,” Paul said of Anthony and James. Paul will host another charity game of his own on Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Anthony, James, Wall, Dwyane Wade and Durant. “It’s all about the fans. Giving them access that they’ve never had.”
Anthony added that the games are necessary to keep players active and competitive with the season not expected to start on time. “We have no training camp or preseason, we got to do something,” he said. “We already got guys signing overseas. They are not even waiting to see what happens. We want to play basketball and we want to have fun doing it. And we never want to lose that connection with the fans.”
When asked about the lockout last month, Anthony offered a unique solution. “Just let us play and continue to negotiate, that’s what we say,” Anthony said. “I want a deal done. We want something that’s fair to both parties. We just want to play basketball, at the end of the day. We don’t care about all of the other stuff. They can settle that.”
Paul is the only player with a maximum contract who serves on the board of the players’ union, but he is hopeful that the labor dispute can soon be resolved. “It’s tough, because at the end of the day, we want to play, we want to give our fans the opportunity, so this is a way for our fans to continue to see us play,” Paul said of the charity games. He said NBA players would continue to participate in charity games, “as long as guys want to.”