BEAUMONT, Texas – Decision time is approaching for NBA players mulling moves overseas.
More than a month into the lockout that appears far from a resolution, Boston guard Rajon Rondo, Milwaukee forward Stephen Jackson and Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant and James Harden mingled with kids Friday at a high school gym in southeast Texas, part of a camp hosted by Thunder forward Kendrick Perkins.
Training camps are due to open in the first week of October, and Rondo and Jackson have set an Oct. 1 deadline for deciding if they'll play in Europe or elsewhere, or wait out the labor impasse that threatens to wipe out games and possibly, the entire 2011-12 season. Durant said last month that he was "about 50-50" on going overseas, but he and Harden declined interview requests Friday.
The lockout began after the NBA's collective bargaining agreement expired on June 30.
Owners want the current salary structure revamped after saying they lost $300 million in revenue last season. Players question that number, meanwhile, and are resisting the league's push for a hard salary cap and reduction in salaries and maximum contract lengths.
Jackson says he's "in tune" with preliminary conversations between the two sides and he's trying to stay optimistic.
"I'm going to say that we're going to be playing on Oct. 1," he said, "but deep down inside, I'm not sure."
Rondo, a two-time All-Star, says he'll discuss options with his agent as the start of training camp draws closer.
"It just depends," Rondo said. "My agent and I will sit down and we'll talk about it, and discuss what's best for me."
Jackson, an 11-year veteran who signed with Milwaukee in late June, says he's talking to top-tier teams in France. He's not worried about missing NBA paychecks, but wants to stay on top of his game.
"I don't have money problems. I'm good," Jackson said. "I will go to play overseas just to stay in shape, so when we do start, I'm ahead of guys, not behind. I'm going to wait until the season is officially not going to start before I make any decision."
Rondo says he's putting the lockout out of his mind for now, and working out in Kentucky as if the season will start on schedule.
"I'm just trying to focus on getting better, and ready for next season," Rondo said.
Jackson says he's been practicing with Hawks forward Josh Smith in Atlanta. He's frustrated that the lockout prohibits players from having any contact with their teams, including using their facilities and the athletic trainers on the staffs.
"If I had the Bucks trainer, I'd be doing everything that I'd be doing during the season, so once training camp comes, my body would already be tuned," he said. "Now, I have to work out and try to do the things we do there. It's impossible to know what the trainer actually wants us to do."
The players didn't seem too stressed about the lockout on Friday.
Durant and Harden casually shot 3-pointers, and Jackson watched young boys play a scrimmage. Rondo signed autographs at a table outside the gym.
Proceeds from the camp go to Perkins' foundation, aimed at helping children learn life skills and teach them drug awareness. Perkins set up the Beaumont-based foundation in 2009, and he plans to expand its reach to other cities.
Jackson, who grew up in nearby Port Arthur, says the players would be attending the camp, even if the lockout wasn't in place.
"This is our routine. We really don't start toning things down until the middle of September," he said. "We're on our regular schedule. Hopefully, we can stay on a regular schedule and start the season at the same time."