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Monday, Sep. 26, 2011

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Putting in work: John Wall drives around Jeff Teague during a game on Saturday in Indianapolis. Wall and other NBA stars are trying to stay in shape as the league's lockout drags on. AP

NBA stars weighing options amid lockout


INDIANAPOLIS — John Wall isn't taking his game overseas yet.

If the NBA lockout continues to drag on, well, he just might.

"Maybe down the road, but not right now," the former No. 1 overall pick said Saturday night when asked about the possibility before a loosely organized exhibition game in Indianapolis.

One day after league officials announced the postponement of training camp and the cancellation of 43 preseason games, 16 NBA players participated in a game that could become the new normal for NBA fans. Most participants played high school, college or pro ball near Indianapolis.

The game, of course, came without many of the NBA's usual trimmings.

Instead of thousands of fans, only a few hundred showed up at the University of Indianapolis, a Division II school that will be the practice site for this year's Super Bowl team from the NFC.

Instead of hearing a live person sing the National Anthem, a recording was played over the public address system.

Instead of wearing clearly distinguishing colors, the team with black jerseys was told to turn theirs inside out just before tip-off in an effort to delineate themselves from the navy blue team.

And instead of making money, the proceeds from Saturday's Indy Pro Am Lockout League game will benefit foundations headed by new Pacers player George Hill, former Indiana Mr. Basketball Eric Gordon and WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings.

Officials wore gray shirts with an NBA logo but were not sanctioned by the league, and team officials were not allowed to attend.

Players will take it, for now.

"I don't know how many games we'll miss or how long we'll be locked out," Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague said. "But this going to have to do because it's the only way to play against the best talent and be at an NBA level when it (the lockout) ends."

Five of them told The Associated Press they are carrying insurance to cover any potential injuries during the lockout, and that's not the only way they're protecting themselves.

"The best thing about games like this is that all the guys realize you have careers," former Butler star and current Utah Jazz player Gordon Hayward said. "So we're not going to do something stupid."

Perhaps that accounted for the lack of defense Saturday night.

The blue team, Goodman League, won 170-167. Wall had 41 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins had 33 points and 15 rebounds. Gordon led the Knox team with 40 points and nine assists. All but three of the 16 players reached double figures.

The players said they aren't even sure the league owners know what they want in a new deal.

"That's what it seems like from what I've seen in the media and from what I hear," Gordon said. "It's going to take a collective agreement by everybody to get this thing settled."

In the meantime, they'll continue working on their own.

Hayward is going through his training at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indy. Some are working in groups, and others are playing in games like this, where there are almost as many smiles as dunks. Teague plans to return to Atlanta next week, where he will continue playing pro am games.

But each player has his own primary concern.

Josh McRoberts, an Indiana native who played with the Pacers last season, is a free agent who hasn't been able to negotiate a new deal. Shelvin Mack left Butler after his junior season, was selected by Washington in the second round of this year's NBA draft and is still unsigned.

"It's kind of tough," Mack said. "We've got things like this so we can still work on our skills, but you'd really like to get back to work."

Irving heads to school


Westlake, Ohio — Kyrie Irving left college after one year to play in the NBA.

He's back in school.

It's all the No. 1 overall draft pick can do during the lockout, and Cleveland's rookie point guard has no idea when he'll start his real job.

As Irving waits for the league to settle its labor dispute, the 19-year-old is working toward a psychology degree in North Carolina — and getting healthy.

Irving has played in just 11 games since last year because of a severe injury to his right foot, which doctors have told him won't be fully healed for three more months. Irving said he hasn't had pain in his foot for seven months. A delay to the start of the season may actually help him.

"My foot is not going to completely heal for a full year," he said Saturday while taking a break during a two-day youth basketball camp he's hosting. "I still feel 150 percent healthy. But as far as my foot healing properly it will take another three months."

Irving has been working out without any restrictions while taking four courses this semester. He's also keeping an eye on the labor dispute, which reached a crucial juncture Friday when the league postponed training camps indefinitely and canceled 43 preseason games.

"I'm not really disappointed," Irving said. "I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible with this whole labor situation. "Hopefully, the NBA and players' association can come to a deal that is fair for both sides."

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