On September 30, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo will be reunited as teammates in the Southern Hospitality Showcase Atlanta 2011, a glorified pickup game featuring more than 20 NBA players. Marquis Daniels will also make his return to competitive basketball, or at least his public return.
On Friday, September 30 Marquis Daniels, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Nate Robinson will suit up as teammates in the Southern Hospitality Showcase Atlanta 2011, a competitive, fast-paced “pick-up” style game featuring over 20 NBA players.
Along with the current/former Celtics, other NBA players slated to participate include John Wall, Jason Terry, Stephen Jackson, Josh Howard, Al Harrington, JJ Hickson, Josh Selby, and Trey Thompkins. Additional players are expected to be announced.
What follows is an account of what will inevitably occur on that day.
It’s a beautiful day in Atlanta, 83 degrees without a cloud in the sky, and Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are walking from their hotel room to Moorehouse College to play in a charity basketball game.
Nate Robinson is already in the gym working on his pullup 30-footers. To simulate reality, Robinson asks Scott Brooks to sit on the sideline shaking his head after every shot. Brooks declines because he doesn’t see the point: in reality, Robinson will be strapped to the bench and Russell Westbrook will be the Thunder point guard taking ill-advised shots. After about two dozen attempts, a few of which actually go in, Robinson stops shooting so he can work on the one aspect of his game that doesn’t need work: his celebrations. At that moment, he looks to the gym’s entrance and spots Rondo and Perkins walking through the door. But Nate’s a little surprised: Rondo and Perkins are holding hands.
As Nate, Rondo and Perkins share a nice moment together, old teammates reminiscing about the good ol’ days, the other competitors are getting loose for the game. Josh Smith is preoccupied with his three-point shooting, because obviously that’s his greatest strength, J.J. Hickson has a dunk contest with himself, Marquis Daniels is thanking the tournament director for not inviting Gilbert Arenas, and Josh Howard, Stephen Jackson, Jason Terry, John Wall, Al Harrington and Josh Selby are huddled in the corner, trying to figure out who the hell Trey Thompkins is.
“I have no idea, but he looks tall,” says John Wall. “And I can guarantee he has a higher basketball IQ than Javale McGee.”
The horn blows and the game is about to start. During pregame introductions, James Posey materializes out of nowhere and begins his odd hugging routine. He holds Marquis Daniels close and whispers into his ear, “I like the way your dreads smell today.” Then he bends down a couple feet so he can embrace Nate Robinson. Finally, he tries to hug Rondo and Perkins, but for the first time in his life, Posey fails to properly execute his homo-erotic pregame routine: Rondo and Perkins are too busy hugging each other.
In Rondo’s arms, Perkins finally stops scowling and his face lightens into a 10,000-watt smile. The game is beginning now behind them, but Rondo and Perkins are lost in their own world. After a few minutes, tears start falling down Rondo’s face. Perkins gently brushes them away.
“I wish I had been there to comfort you when you hurt your elbow,” whispers Perkins.
Tim Hardaway unexpectedly arrives to watch the game, and he gives the hug two thumbs up.
On the court, Trey Thompkins shakes his head in disgust — this is not exactly what he envisioned when he skipped his senior year at Georgia to enter the NBA draft. The embrace seems like it will never end, but the two are brought back to reality when an errant Nate Robinson pass strikes Perk in the back of the head.
“First time he’s ever passed to me,” says Perk, and the scowl has returned. Playing with Rondo again at long last, Perkins is freed to do the things he does best: mostly, set moving screens, elbow unsuspecting opponents, intimidate officials and occasionally stop his opponents from scoring a basket. Rondo, too, plays like himself for the first time in months. He sets up teammates for wide open jumpers, beats opponents off the dribble at will, and bricks any shot he takes from outside the paint.
For the whole game, the world is right. Rondo and Perkins are reunited. Their team wins by 27 points. Rondo is named the MVP. A well-placed Perkins elbow gives Thompkins a gash that requires 16 stitches. Josh Howard wears earmuffs during the national anthem. But the world cannot remain perfect forever.
Five minutes after the game, players are in the locker room changing into street clothes when Rondo’s phone begins to ring. He picks it up and looks at the caller ID.
“It’s Jeff Green,” he tells Perkins.
“Then don’t pick up.”