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Levels To This Shit

I went to the Miami Pro League Thursday to see some good basketball, and aside from some sloppy “Hero Ball,” the games mostly delivered. There’s a lot of basketball talent in Miami; I’m glad there’s an established platform for it. I wish they’d had this league back when I was playing.

There are a few NBA players who play regularly or randomly drop in for games in Miami Pro; last night there was only one: Montrezl Harrell, a 6’8” forward who last season was a solid double-figure scoring rotation player for the LA Clippers. I’d never watched Harrell much before, but I got a good look at him last night. Amongst several overseas pros, several of whom were just as tall, some taller, and just as big as he, Montrezl (mostly) dominated.

The Clippers missed the Playoffs this season; Montrezl’s offseason began roughly 10 weeks ago. So I understand why he wasn’t in his best game shape for his Miami Pro game (I have no idea if he’s a regular there or a one-time drop-in player; I’m a one-time drop-in fan, after all). Even so, the difference between he and the Overseas players he matched up with was clear, even to those with untrained eyes.

Harrell had about 8 dunks, none of which were of the breakaway, all-alone variety. He went up and over or through defenders, defenders who wanted nothing more than to shut down the NBA player in the gym. He blocked the shot of every player who tried scoring on him. Every time he drove to the basket (which he did on 97% of his scoring forays), he either scored, got fouled, or missed an easy shot (also got stripped of the ball a time or two — Miami Pro referees “let them play,” i.e., don't call fouls, a lot, which I like as a fan, but I know can be very frustrating as a player). It was clear that no one on the floor could stop this guy without fouling him. The opposing team smartly double-teamed him often to get Montrezl to pass the ball. Anyone other than him shooting was a victory for the defense. Harrell’s own teammates, many of them highly skilled, foolishly didn’t get the ball to Harrell often enough, and instead shot themselves out of what should've been a victory.

I didn’t see the stat sheet, but I’d estimate Montrezl scored about 30 points. His team losing the game is another story. Harrell’s lack of conditioning played a part — had he been in game shape and wanted to, he would’ve scored 50 points and his team would have won. Regardless of the final score, it was the clear distinction between Montrezl and everyone else that I want to point out — and why it matters.

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