HOUSTON (AP) — Zach Randolph, DeAndre Jordan and Luis Scola were among the top players who dazzled NBA-starved fans in a charity celebrity game in Houston pulled together by former player and coach John Lucas.
But former player Mike James, also a minister, summed up the issue looming on everybody's mind in his pre-game invocation Sunday.
"I pray you will unlock the lockout, in Jesus' name," James said, to laughter. "Amen."
NBA players are taking game opportunities where they can, with the lockout into its fifth month and no end in sight. The players at Lucas' game say they're stressing patience and remain supportive behind union leaders who rejected the league's latest proposal for a new labor deal.
"I'm not too optimistic, I'm not too pessimistic," said Houston point guard Kyle Lowry, the Rockets' player representative. "We're all together, we're all in this together. We've missed checks, and we're going to miss checks. But we have to get a fair deal."
When talks broke off last Monday, NBA commissioner David Stern declared a "nuclear winter" had arrived and said the 2011-12 season was "in jeopardy." The locked-out players began filing class-action antitrust lawsuits against the league in at least two states, saying Stern's ultimatums left them no other choice.
"This is for us, this is for the future of the league, this is for everybody," Lowry said. "It's for the good of basketball. Now it's up to our lawyers to get this deal done."
Meanwhile, more players seem to be considering playing in Europe as an alternative to an NBA season.
Kevin Durant was supposed to headline Sunday's event, but Lucas said the Oklahoma City star is working on a deal to play in Germany. Kobe Bryant was in contact with a team in Italy and Dwyane Wade authorized his agent to listen to viable offers.
Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose also attended, though he sat out the game. Rose has been working out in Los Angeles with other players during the lockout, and said he's not looking to play overseas.
"I'm not going anywhere, I'm good," Rose said. "I'm just trying to stay in a nice place where you never know what will happen, or what can happen, what will happen. Now, I'm trying to keep myself in nice shape, and stay positive. Hopefully, we'll have a season
Scola has been working with his Argentine national team and a club team in his home country. He was hoping the lockout would've ended by now, but may start considering playing overseas as well.
"It's very hard to make a plan, because you really don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I've been saying that I don't want to go to a place for a week or two for three or four months. If I would've gone, it would've been more than two weeks, it would've been two or three months.
"At some point, I have to just go play," he said. "I don't know when is going to be that point."
For two hours on Sunday night, the players at Lucas' game set aside their dispute with owners to remind fans what they're missing.
The 6-foot-11 Jordan, a Houston native who's played three seasons with the Clippers, set the tone with three powerful dunks in the first three minutes. Neither side played much defense and the officials hardly blew their whistles in the fast-paced, entertaining game rich in dunks and 3-pointers.
Kenneth Faried, Denver's first-round pick over the summer, stole the spotlight with a handful of fierce dunks, including a one-handed windmill jam in the second quarter. He was glad to at least get into a simulated NBA game as he awaits the start of his pro career.
"It's very helpful, getting a feel for the game and how guys play," Faried said.
Lowry's team, which included Scola, Randolph and Marcus Camby defeated a team with Jordan, Damion James and Jordan Hill by a score of 166-157. No individual statistics were kept.
"It's good to get some live work in, some action," Jordan said. "Working out an individual drills is not the same as going against a body and getting that real conditioning."
The game was played at Delmar Fieldhouse, a 5,400-seat gym on the northwest side of the city. It was the home court for the Houston Cougars' basketball team in the late 1960s.
Proceeds from the game benefitted Lucas' foundation, which helps athletes who need after care or wellness services and programs.
Former Rockets Moses Malone and Robert Horry were the celebrity coaches of each team, All-Pro Texans receiver Andre Johnson sat next to Malone and former Rocket Steve Francis sat at courtside in the second half.