I know there was a practice going on, but honestly, I can't really tell you much about what happened. That's because I was just so overwhelmed by the environment. I've never experienced any sort of Midnight Madness, so maybe this is hyperbolic, but what I just witnessed really was an incredible, groundbreaking thing in this league.
The NBA feeds to an increasingly corporate clientele. It's a side effect of big business, and it's lucrative for everyone. The unfortunate side effect, though, is that the connection between the player and the fan has faded. Practices are increasingly off limits. Diehart fans are increasingly relegated to upper decks. Players use mediums like Twitter to get "closer" to their fans, but really, they're getting even further apart, using a services that provides a barrier between them and their devotees. So to see an NBA organization put on some sort of event where they went completely out of their way for their most devoted fans was one hell of a treat.
And it really was the entire organization going out of their way. The players did their part, of course. Josh Howard, who isn't even cleared to run due to the knee injury, made the trip, participating with everyone during pre-game stretches and donning a uniform when introduced. John Wall didn't dance, but after it was all over, he went and signed autographs. JaVale McGee, normally the least talkative player with the media, was the one to address the fans and thank them for coming out, and he was also the first to go and sign autographs. Ernie Grunfeld made an appearance. Ted Leonsis flew in from New York to be there. Flip Saunders, of all people, lingered to sign autographs. Tom Izzo, for some reason, made the trip.
Finally, in what I felt was one of the most powerful moments of the night, the entire team lined up and tossed towels into the stands. There was a genuine appreciation on the players' part, and several said there were far more people there than they thought there would be. It would have been very easy for the players to nix the idea, but they went along with it and did everything possible to put on the kind of show that teams rarely put on for their fans anymore. It was so refreshing to see, and I'm proud to say I am a fan of a team that is this forward-thinking and this willing to sacrifice for its devoted fanbase.
It makes you wonder: what if a team that had more starpower did something like this? Why couldn't the Lakers do this kind of event this year before they go for a three-peat? Why couldn't Miami capitalize on that free-agent buzz and do this? Who knows. Maybe the Wizards just paved the way for a new way of thinking about training camp.
If so, I'll be proud to say I was at the first of these Midnight Madness NBA events. Everyone in the organization, from the owner down to the game operations staff, should be proud that they participated in the first NBA event of its kind.