MANILA, Philippines - Kevin Durant, the two-time scoring champion of the Oklahoma Thunder, has finally agreed to join the star-studded NBA team playing Smart Gilas and a PBA selection this weekend, completing a blockbuster cast in a once-in-a-lifetime series dubbed the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend at the Araneta Coliseum.
Slam-dunking and shot-block artist Javale McGee of the Washington Wizards is the eighth player in the stellar NBA roster headed by five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, reigning MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and former top rookie Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets.
MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio said Durant will be the ninth member of the team to be coached by Bryant while the seven-foot McGee will replace the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, who backed out at the last minute due to passport problems.
“Yes,” said Panlilio when asked if Durant will be the ninth member of the team.
“McGee will also replace Jordan, because he has no passport,” he said.
MVPSF executive director Chot Reyes also gave his hints in his Twitter account (@coachot) of Durant and McGee coming to Manila.
“Bad news! Kevin Durant is replacing DeAndre Jordan in the Smart Ultimate Weekend. Bad news for us and Gilas. Great for Pinoy Bball fans,” MVPSF executive director Chot Reyes said in his Twitter account Monday.
Reyes will coach the PBA selection which will take the first crack at the “Dream Team” on July 23.
The high-leaping, long-limbed McGee’s presence could pave the way for the staging of the slam dunk side event which was earlier scrapped after reigning NBA slam dunk king Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to join the NBA team before begging off due to a wedding in the family.
McGee finished a close second to Griffin, also the reigning ROY, in this year’s NBA slam dunk competition.
Meanwhile, organizers said tickets at all levels have been sold out as early as last Friday when news about the event came out in various social networks.
Even General Admission tickets have been sold out with fans guaranteed a courtside view of the action through the Big Dome’s four-sided high def LED screen.
In the black market, the prices of tickets for the event have reportedly quadrupled with the upper box tickets worth P800 now being sold at P3,600.
Patron and lower box tickets are pegged at P5,500 and P3,800, respectively.
The other members of the NBA squad are Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden of the Oklahoma Thunder, and Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The event is sponsored by Smart, PLDT, Meralco, Maynilad, TV5, Metro Pacific Tollways and Investment Corp. and Philex Mining.
Smart Gilas, to be handled by Rajko Toroman, will play the NBA stars on July 24.
James Yap and Marc Pingris of BMeg, Mark Caguioa and JC Intal of Ginebra, Arwin Santos and Rabeh Al-Hussaini of Petron Blaze, Ryan Reyes, Jason Castro and Larry Fonacier of Talk N’ Text, Sonny Thoss and LA Tenorio of Alaska, Sol Mercado of Meralco, Gary David of Powerade, Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine and Danny Seigle of Air21 will comprise the PBA team.
Talk N’ Text’s Kelly Williams, Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo, Meralco’s Asi Taulava and Air21’s Dondon Hontiveros will suit up with the Nationals, who are on the thick of preparations for the FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China.
Smart Gilas’ other members are naturalized Marcus Douthit, captain Chris Tiu, co-skipper Mark Barroca, JV Casio, Mac Baracael, Marcio Lassiter, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Lutz, Dylan Ababou and Jason Ballesteros.