NBA world tour in doubt as players withdraw
NBA players' global all-star tour will officially get underway in Puerto Rico - but Australian fans could still be left in the lurch.
In a statement released on Thursday, the organisers of the tour confirmed Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade were expected to take part in the Puerto Rico exhibition game.
That match was to be the first on a six-game supertour dubbed "the World All-Star Classic" that would take in London and Macau before finishing in Melbourne on November 8 and 9.
But curiously the release did not confirm the previously scheduled games outside of Puerto Rico, casting serious doubt over any of the stars appearing Down Under.
Also among those boarding planes for the tour are Boston trio Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, excitement machine Blake Griffin, New York's Amar'e Stoudemire and Dallas' championship-winning centre Tyson Chandler.
"I'm looking forward to it ... I've never been to Australia," Chandler told ESPN.
"I'm looking forward to getting to play again with some great talent and the opportunity to see new lands."
There is some concern about the length of time the players will spend in the air - with flights from Melbourne to Los Angeles alone taking roughly 15 hours, and the total time on planes possibly chewing up to 60 hours over the two-week trip.
This has contributed towards some players pulling out of the trip including superstar LeBron James, reigning MVP Derrick Rose and perennial all-stars Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
Each player will receive a salary of up to $1 million for the exhibition games, with much of the proceeds to go towards charity.
Atlanta businessman Calvin Darden has worked with player agents for almost three months to organise the tour, ESPN reported.
Meanwhile, NBA clubs owners and players resumed talks on a new contract and negotiated for more than 14 hours as the prospect loomed of more games being wiped off the 2011-2012 schedule.
The NBA has already called off the first 100 scheduled games of the season and league officials are expected to cancel at least the remainder of November's schedule if these latest negotiations fail.
The continuation of the lockout is good news for Melbourne Tigers, who have recruited Boomers point guard Patty Mills for the lockout's duration, but is not as pleasing for stranded Milwaukee centre Andrew Bogut.
Last month, Bogut missed out on a chance to join NBL strugglers the Sydney Kings when his management were unable to secure the necessary insurance for him to suit up - forcing him to train on his own while the stalemate continues.