OSSEO, Minn. (AP) — Michael Beasley rounded up some of his friends for a charity basketball game at a Minnesota high school on Friday night, hoping to bring a few smiles to the faces of some fans disillusioned by the NBA lockout.
Fellow Timberwolves Wes Johnson, Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington, Lazar Hayward and Anthony Tolliver were among NBA players who made appearances, as did Golden State swingman Dorell Wright and Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who served as a celebrity coach.
“The lockout is very frustrating and the fans are the main ones suffering,” Beasley said before the game. “Just doing my part to bring bball back to Minnesota.”
About 600 to 700 fans paid to watch the game, with net proceeds going to several charities, including St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Peterson’s All Day Foundation.
Several of the biggest names scheduled to attend, including Kevin Durant, John Wall, Kevin Love and Derrick Williams, canceled because of scheduling conflicts.
The players wore T-shirts that read “Basketball Never Stops” during warmups, and the lockout dominated talk before the game. Mediation between the owners and players in New York City broke off Thursday night, with both sides at a stalemate over how to split up more than $4 billion in annual revenue.
The first two weeks of the regular season already have been canceled, with the possibility of many more games being wiped out any day now as the acrimony between the owners and the union increases.
Tolliver, the Timberwolves’ union representative, echoed claims made by Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher on Thursday night that the owners issued an ultimatum on a 50-50 split of revenues, telling the players to take it or leave it.
“They’re trying to bully us and I can’t respect that,” Tolliver said.
Beasley said he watched the proceedings this week closely and grew encouraged when owners and the union met with mediator George Cohen for more than 30 hours over three days.
“I was hopeful. I really thought they were going to come through with a deal,” Beasley said. “I’m still positive. I still know in my heart they’ll come to a common ground pretty soon.”
Until they do, Beasley said he will continue to organize and participate in exhibitions and charity games like this one to reach out to fans, some of whom view the players as greedy for not agreeing to a deal sooner.
The players are trying to connect with fans and get their message out as part of their public-relations battle with NBA Commissioner David Stern and the owners.
“I think that players are doing a really good job of getting out in front of fans and continuing to show that we really just want to play basketball,” Tolliver said. “Whether or not we have to put it together ourselves, play pickup games, do charity events or paid events, whatever it is, we just want to play basketball. I think that a lot of fans understand that and people respect that.”
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