NBA players suited up Friday to prove a point and raise some money for charity.
Teams of pro players coached by Clyde Drexler and Kenny Smith played the closest thing to a real NBA game fans may see for some time since the owners' lockout is threatening to eat up even more of the season.
"These guys are well trained and they are trying to show solidarity on the part of the NBA players," Drexler said. "They want to show the fans and let the public know that they're willing to play but they are locked out and there is nothing they can do."
The game was promoted by Houston businessman Jim McIngvale, with proceeds going to cancer research. It was played on the University of Houston's home court, where Drexler will begin his coaching career this season after retiring from the Houston Rockets.
A near-capacity crowd showed up in the 8,400-seat Hofheinz Pavilion to get a look at NBA players in action. The list of players included All-Stars Penny Hardaway, Tim Hardaway and Nick Van Exel.
San Antonio center David Robinson attended the game but did not play.
Damon stoudamire, who finished last season with Portland, hopes the lockout won't affect attendance when the dispute ends.
"I don't think the everyday person can understand the significance of what we are fighting for," Stoudamire said. "It's hard to tell the everyday person why millionaires are fighting.
"We just hope the fans will stick in there with us and eventually, we'll be back."
"It was a chance to get to see all the NBA stars; you don't get a chance like this very often," Brian Davis of Houston said. "I don't think the NBA will be as affected as much as baseball.
"With baseball you have 45,000 fans coming to the games. With basketball, there are only maybe 20,000 seats so I on't think it will be that hard to get 20,000 fans back."
"I'll probably stay away for awhile, but with a little time to heal, I'm sure it will get back to the way it was before and I'll be back," Stuart Lynn of Houston said.
John Perrella of Houston doesn't think the average fans has much influence.
"The people buying tickets to the game are the corporations, the rest of the fans watch the games on TV," Perrella said. "It's entertainment for them, they buy the tickets to keep the customers happy."
Houston Rockets guard Mario Elie just wants a deal.
"The deal is not correct and we'll stand our ground until we get something worked out," Elie said. "I've got no crystal ball. I can't predict what the fans will do. We are one. We just want to play."
Forward Antonio McDyess said he needed the work.
"I need the conditioning bad," McDyess said. "Not having a basketball around me is like having a big part of my body missing. Hopefully things will get worked out and get out there soon."
The dispute hasn't lasted long enough to frustrate Houstonian Kelvin Washington.
"I think there is enough money on both sides," Washington said. "The owners should come back to the bargaining table and deal with the players."
One thing hasn't changed: Prices for the charity game were still NBA caliber. Tickets ranged from $20 to $100.
"They told me the $20 tickets were all sold so I had to get $40 tickets and they charged me $5 to park," Washington said. "This is just like the NBA."
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