Kendall Gill happy to join Big 3 in time for Sunday's Chicago stop
Kendall Gill is approaching his 50th birthday, but he didn't mind waiting a few extra weeks for his basketball career to resume.
The former Illinois star and longtime NBA shooting guard hoped to play in the Big 3. the new 3-on-3 league featuring retired NBA players. He participated in a preseason combine and wasn't drafted.
Gill subtly voiced his displeasure with some choice retweets, but it was just a matter of time until some of the older players needed replacements and Gill got the call. He made his Big 3 debut last week in Philadelphia and will take the floor with his team, Power, on Sunday when the Big 3 arrives at the UIC Pavilion.
"I felt like I played really well (at the combine)," Gill said in a phone interview. "I totally expected to be drafted, but it didn't happen. I couldn't do anything about it. It was up to the captains.
"I was working out two weeks ago on a Friday. I was just about to get into the (boxing) ring to spar and I got this phone call and it was a California number. In the back of my mind, I'm like, 'That might be Big 3.' Then I thought, 'Nah,' so I ignored the phone call."
Turned out it was Chicago native Corey Maggette asking Gill to fill his spot on Power. Maggette suffered a knee injury the first week of the season.
Power won last weekend to improve to 3-1 on the season. Besides Gill, the team includes Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson, former Bull Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams, ex-DePaul guard Paul McPherson and Moochie Norris. The coach is Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler.
In Sunday's opening game, Power will take on Ballhogs (1-3), another team with a heavy Chicago flavor. The roster features ex-Bulls Brian Scalabrine, Derrick Byars, Rasual Butler, former NIU star Xavier Silas, along with Josh Childress.
"A couple things (stood out); the first was how professionally run it was," Gill said. "I actually told my wife I felt like I was in a Hot Tub Time Machine because I feel like I'm back in the NBA. Everything was just like when I played in the NBA, from the production to the transportation, the accommodations, everything.
"Also the competition; these guys are serious about competing. It's not like a joke. Everybody's going for the jugular, so to speak. This is a real league."
Gill doesn't box competitively these days, but said his frequent sparring sessions put him in good enough shape that half-court basketball isn't too difficult.
"One time when I posted Mike Bibby up, he was a lot stronger than he used to be," Gill said. "Of course, we know since retirement he's been lifting weights a lot. He wasn't as easy to move around as he used to be. That surprised me a lot."
The league-leader at 4-0 is Trilogy, featuring Kenyon Martin, Al Harrington, Rashad McCants, James White, Dion Glover and former Bull Jannero Pargo. The initial Big 3 campaign includes an eight-week regular season and two rounds of playoffs.
The league has eight teams, so each week there are four games in a different city. Games are played to 50 using familiar 3-on-3 rules. The one major innovation are 4-point shot circles located well beyond the 3-point line.
The league is loaded with ex-Bulls, 14 by my count. Besides Gill, Williams, Scalabrine, Pargo, Byars and Butler, there are Mike Sweetney, Joe Smith, Larry Hughes, Eddie Robinson, Hakim Warrick, Eddie Basden, Lou Amundson and Mike James. So far, the Big 3 has put an emphasis on entertainment and celebrities. Rapper Ice Cube is one of the league founders. Allen Iverson is the biggest-name player, but he's hasn't stepped on the floor very often and didn't play at all last weekend in Philadelphia.
The league doesn't list statistics so it's tough to talk about which players are standing out. Some of the other big-name players are Kwame Brown, Rashard Lewis, Jermaine O'Neal, Chauncey Billups and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who at 48 is a year younger than Gill.
Gill talked about what it takes to be a good professional 3-on-3 player.
"A player that knows how to play team basketball," he said, "that knows how to go and set picks, that knows how to roll, that knows how to cut to the basket. He has to know the fundamentals of the game to excel at 3-on-3 basketball.
"One on one (skills) are a great asset to have, but it's more important to be able to play away from the basketball because you can get easy shots since it's so wide open."