LeBron James, star pals to lead tour
With no end to the NBA lockout in sight, the All-Star group is set to lead a four-game "Homecoming Tour," starting with a matchup in James' hometown of Akron, Ohio on Dec. 1, followed by a Dec. 4 game in New Orleans, a Dec. 7 game in Chicago and culminating with a Dec. 10 contest in East Rutherford, N.J.
James, Paul, Wade and Anthony are committed to play in all four games of the tour, which was announced early Monday. Proceeds from the tour -- which will include events such as food drives, educational outreach programs and clinics in each city -- will benefit the four headlining players' charitable foundations, and tour sponsor Google Plus will stream each game live.
"It'll be very neat," Wade told The Associated Press. "First of all, this is something we talked about doing a long time ago as players. To have an opportunity to go to these different cities that we're from, to bring basketball to them at a high level and also have a charitable component in each city and to be with the guys, it'll be cool. It's something we're looking forward to."
Tickets for the first three games go on sale Tuesday. Tickets for the East Rutherford game will be on sale Wednesday.
The rosters for the four games will likely change considerably in each city. James will play a significant role in organizing the Akron game, as will Paul in New Orleans, Wade in Chicago and Anthony at East Rutherford.
Chris Bosh -- who, along with James and Wade, makes up the so-called Big 3 with the Miami Heat, is expected to play in all four games. Bosh, along with James, Wade, the New Orleans guard Paul, the New York Knicks' forward Anthony, Heat forward Udonis Haslem and others have been part of a rigorous training camp in Oregon for players represented by Creative Artists Agency since late last week.
"I'm sore," Wade said from Oregon. "But that's why we set it up this way. We want to get into work mode. When we get into the tour, we want to play. We want to be equipped to do that. We don't want to just run up and down the court and jack up shots. We want to get into the things we need to do when it comes to strength, defense, all those things you usually do in training camp. So we're getting into that mindset."
There's been no shortage of exhibitions featuring NBA players during the lockout, which is now in its 21st week and already has led to the cancellation of more than 300 games -- roughly one-quarter of a full season. Talks broke off last week after players declined an offer that the NBA said would have raised salaries considerably, which apparently wasn't enough to convince player reps that it was the right deal.
The principals involved in this say the tour will be different from most offseason exhibitions in many ways, notably the extensive charitable aspects.
"I am so excited to have this opportunity to participate in this tour," Anthony said in a press release. "To couple two of the things I love to do -- play basketball and give back -- is special. This is just the beginning of a movement to facilitate change in our communities and I am happy to be a part of a group of guys willing to lead the charge."
Events begin Nov. 29 in New York with a court dedication and food drive, before the group moves to Akron for events the following day that include a Wheels for Education program -- something James is extensively involved with in an effort to help keep kids from dropping out of high school -- and a basketball clinic at the Boys & Girls Club bearing the two-time NBA MVP's name.
"I am really proud of the work we're doing in Akron and know what this tour means for the community," James said.
Paul will host an education-themed event and a clinic in New Orleans on Dec. 2, in advance of the game there two nights later. Wade hosts two events for charity in Chicago on Dec. 6, and another clinic is planned for New York on Dec. 9.
"Being able to play the game I love alongside my friends ... as well as raising money for charity is a win-win situation," Paul said.
Wade said another element he's looking forward to is simply being around NBA players on a full-time basis again, if only for a couple of weeks. While he remains hopeful that much of the season can be saved, he's also not necessarily optimistic that he'll be back in a Heat uniform again and trying for another NBA finals trip anytime soon.
"We're approaching it as basketball," Wade said. "We're not doing it so people don't forget our names. We're really doing this to continue to make an impact in the communities that we go to and also to show that we love this game, we're going to continue to play it and that this is something we all decided to do together. So that's what makes this special."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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