SNYDER: Lockout spawns games that imperil players

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

The NBA lockout is hurting a lot of “little people” right now, from ushers and vendors to bartenders and waiters to bellhops and drivers.

But if the labor dispute continues much longer, some tall people might be hurting, too.

It could happen next week when the “Homecoming Tour” tips off in Akron, Ohio. Or during the “Obama Classic” on Dec. 12. Or another of the myriad charity/exhibition/pickup games NBA players have staged since summer.

I’m concerned about some participants in the fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Among the confirmed players are Magic Johnson, Doc Rivers, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo.

Maybe they’ve forgotten, but the NBA used to stage an old-timers game during All-Star weekend. It’s no longer part of the festivities (replaced by the Rookie Challenge) and for good reason: Retired All-Stars David Thompson and Norm Nixon suffered major injuries during the 1992 Legends Classic, a ruptured patella tendon and a ruptured quadricep tendon, respectively.

Thompson at 37 and Nixon at 36 were the youngest players in the game.

The aforementioned geriatrics will be the oldest players in Obama’s fundraiser.

Kevin Durant also is scheduled to play in the event, which hardly is surprising. The two-time defending scoring champion passes up shots more often than he passes up opportunities to play. He hasn’t expressed much interest in going overseas, but he’s racked up the same frequent-flier miles by playing stateside.

No word yet if he’ll participate in the four-city Homecoming Tour being headlined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. After starting in James’ hometown Dec. 1, the show moves to New Orleans, where Paul plays for the Hornets; then to Wade’s hometown of Chicago; and it ends at East Rutherford, N.J., across the river from Anthony’s New York Knicks team.

I’m wondering how long it’ll be before someone twists an ankle, breaks a bone or blows a knee. Not that the players expend tremendous amounts of energy and effort in these casual affairs. But all it takes is one freak play, one misstep, with no access to team doctors and trainers to help speed recovery.

The threat of injury goes hand-in-hand with another reason these games are risky propositions for the players.

Watching too much freestyle basketball dulls the fans’ senses and makes the games dull.

There’s a limit on our tolerance for get-out-the-way defense, streetball dribbling tricks, unstructured play and monotonous one-on-ones. We can only take it in small doses, specifically, once a year each February.

But if every game is like the All-Star Game, no thanks.

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About the Author

Deron Snyder

Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’s 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder or email him at deronwashtimes@gmail.com.

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