The Timberwolves should be nearing the end of an eight-game preseason schedule intended to prepare them for a grueling 82-game NBA season.
Instead, one could find Wolves forward Michael Beasley and five of his teammates playing a beautified pickup game before several hundred fans in the Osseo High School gym.
Billed as the "Michael Beasley All-Star Classic," the evening instead became something more like "Michael Beasley, Friends and Acquaintances." Organizers promoted the appearance of NBA stars Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, but Beasley's Wolves teammates Wes Johnson, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Wayne Ellington, Lazar Hayward and lone other NBA player Dorell Wright showed in support instead.
They were there throwing up lob passes and shooting long three-pointers in a cozy high school gym as they remain locked out by owners in a nearly four-month dispute that grew nasty Thursday night when both sides abruptly departed three days' worth of negotiations.
"Obviously I'd rather be in camp and playing preseason games and getting ready for the regular season," said Tolliver, the Wolves' union representative. "But this is a bigger cause than just me. This is for the next five, 10 years, guys coming into the league. We do have to sacrifice a little bit of time -- hopefully not too much longer -- and hopefully both sides can come to their senses and figure something out."
Until they do, Tolliver will remain home in Houston working out, spending time with his family and traveling for an occasional exhibition game. He has played three in Australia and two in Mexico during this lockout, and on Friday he flew into town for the night along with other teammates at the request of Beasley, who said he organized Friday's game for fans who are locked out as well.
Organizers originally priced tickets at between $60 and $300, then changed them to $40 general admission, $100 for VIP reserve and $300 for court seats when it became clear Durant, Love, Wall and No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams wouldn't play.
Net proceeds will go to St. Jude's and three Twin Cities area charities.
Organizers estimated the audience at 1,200 fans, which might have been a bit generous. Those fans watched the six Wolves players, Golden State's Wright, former WNBA player Tamara Moore and a smattering of summer-league players run and shoot until the Beasleys prevailed over the Visitors 179-170.
"The lockout is very frustrating, and the fans are the main ones suffering," Beasley said. "I'm just doing my part to bring basketball back to Minnesota."
Beasley, Johnson, Ellington and Tolliver all played on one team -- Randolph and Hayward were placed on the other for competitive balance.
"I've worked hard all summer and I've accomplished a lot: my shot, the strength in my body," said Johnson, who is taking classes at Syracuse this fall after spending the summer in Los Angeles. "Now I'm just ready to play. It was fun to get out tonight and see all the guys again. I'm excited with Ricky [Rubio] coming over, Derrick [Williams] and Coach [Rick] Adelman here. I'm so ready to play."
Beasley has played exhibition games from China to New York City's asphalt playgrounds and now Osseo High during the lockout. On Sunday, he is scheduled to play in Durant's charity game in Oklahoma City.
"We just want to play basketball," Beasley said. "The NBA can end, but basketball will never stop."