Michael Beasley hosts game
OSSEO, Minn. -- Michael Beasley and friends threw down alley-oops from half court, launched 3-pointers from nearly the same place and didn't play a lick of defense.
It was all fun and games at Beasley's All-Star Classic game at a suburban Minneapolis high school on Friday night, where a group of NBA players went up and down to raise money for charity and boost the spirits of basketball fans disillusioned by the league's lockout.
Fellow Timberwolves Wesley Johnson, Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington, Lazar Hayward and Anthony Tolliver were among NBA players who made appearances, as did Golden State swingman Dorell Wright. Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson served as a celebrity coach.
"The lockout's been very frustrating for the players, the coaches, the owners, but mainly the fans," Beasley said before his team's 179-170 victory. "I feel like basketball is a getaway for a lot of people and they can't get away right now. I felt like it's our job to bring basketball back to Minnesota. I'm glad that a lot of my friends came to help me do that."
About 600 to 700 fans paid to watch the game at Osseo High School, with net proceeds going to several charities, including St. Jude Children's Hospital and Peterson's All Day Foundation.
"Obviously with the lockout, you're kind of just craving basketball," said 49-year-old Randy Borgeson of Maple Grove, a Timberwolves season-ticket holder. "The best thing is you go to Target Center and you're usually far enough away that you can't get an appreciation for how big and fast these guys are."
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 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.
"The No. 1 thing is staying together, standing strong and waiting for the best deal," Wright said. "Not just jumping the gun and trying to take anything. It's not just about us. We're trying to make sure my son, my little brother that's coming up right now, that they're fine in the future."
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 this week's negotiations 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.
"I really do see both sides of it," Borgeson said. "I like the idea that owners want to try to make it more competitive. But the players are the product and I think they should be getting the lion's share of the money. It's a tough one to figure out."
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."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press