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No European vacations, just charity tilts for stars

SHARE No European vacations, just charity tilts for stars

A long way from where his original itinerary would have taken him, Terrell Brandon was playing in a charity game instead of a World Championships tuneup.

The Milwaukee Bucks guard had arranged to bring his family to Greece from Portland, Ore., to watch him play. He moved the dates of his basketball camp to avoid a conflict with the quadrennial event.Yet here he was Sunday, not practicing in Monte Carlo with the likes of Seattle's Gary Payton and Charlotte's Glen Rice but instead exchanging passes with them in one of those summer charity games long on dunks and 3-point bombs and short on defense.

Brandon's European working vacation was scuttled by the NBA's labor strife, but he's not going to lament the missed opportunity.

"Naturally I was looking forward to it. I wanted my family and some people in Portland to come," he said. "But we had to do what we had to do as a unit."

The 12 original members of the U.S. team were removed from the roster in late June for refusing to play in the event of a lockout. They have been replaced by a team of overseas players, CBA stars and collegians.

"I'm sure it'll be good for the college kids, as far as experience," Hardaway said. "Still, the other teams are putting their best players out there. It's kind of unfortunate that the lockout came."

Brandon, Payton, Rice, Seattle's Vin Baker and Miami's Tim Hardaway joined 19 other NBA players and two top draftees Sunday for the second "Zo's Summer Groove" charity game, put on by Heat center Alonzo Mourning.

Based on the talk around the locker room, these summer charity games could be the only organized basketball they expect to see for a while. Unity for the cause - keeping the current "soft" salary cap in place - remains strong.

"We have definite unity," said Washington's Juwan Howard, a member of the union's executive board. "Three years ago, we didn't have this kind of camaraderie."

Brandon said: "We have a stance, and we're sticking to it. All of us are real proud of each other. We're not going to let others take away what we believe in."

New York's Patrick Ewing, the NBAPA president, and other union officials will sit down this week with commissioner David Stern. It will be the first time the sides have met since the lockout was imposed July 1.

"We'll see how it goes," said Ewing, limited to coaching duty Sunday because his right wrist remains bandaged from the dislocation he suffered in December. "I don't know what's going to happen."

A half-dozen other charity games are scheduled over the next few weeks. After that, nobody seems to know. While most believe it's still early in the process, some think the NBA might very well lose regular season games for the first time in league history.

"It's a concern," Payton said. "Look at baseball. You see there are fans who still don't want to watch baseball. I think (owners) could lose more money in the long run than by (reaching agreement) with us.

"We don't need to see this sport go down."