NBA playing hardball

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - There's a lot of hardball being played these days and I'm mot talking about the Midsummer Classic, Barack Obama's handing of the nation's debt ceiling or Chris Matthews' afternoon shout-fest on MSNBC.

The NBA is digging in for a prolonged fight with its players in hopes of bringing fiscal sanity back to the game and they sure aren't being dainty about it.

As players start looking at real estate in Istanbul, teams around the league have already started to cut back on expenses during the lockout.

Already reports have trickled in that the Charlotte Bobcats let go radio play- by-play announcer Scott Lauer along with six other employees in the past week. In Detroit, The Associated Press reported that the Pistons fired 15 people two weeks ago and the mighty Lakers have laid off more than 20 employees.

Many other teams are also in the midst of cobbling together plans to reduce expenditures until the lockout ends.

Perhaps the best example of just how serious the NBA is, however, is this weeks's American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe.

Michael Jordan is a regular at the annual celebrity golf tourney and the Bobcats owner has been threatened with a $1 million fine if he plays with current NBA players in the field.

Boston's Ray Allen, New Jersey's Deron Williams, Jason Kidd of the world champion Mavericks and free agent to be Shane Battier are the current NBA players scheduled for the tourney, which will be televised by VERSUS on July 15 and NBC Sports the following two days. Sacramento rookie Jimmer Fredette is also going to play but the rule will not apply to him since he has yet to sign his first professional contract.

Williams, who is a member of the same golf club as Jordan in Park City, UT, has played with MJ in the past and pointed the finger at Jordan's current peers as villains here.

"I'm not trying to get anyone in trouble. That's the rules," the two-time All- Star said. "The rules state we can't have any contact with any owners or anyone affiliated with the NBA, so I'm not trying to break that.

"It's just the rule. It's what the owners want. He's an owner. It's his rule. It's not the players. We didn't lock the owners out. I'll say Hi, but then I just got to keep moving."

The NFL, which is also in the midst of its own lockout, is letting it's people co-mingle in the event, citing an exception because of the charity aspect of the tournament.

The American Century Championship has raised more than $3 million for a variety of national and local charities since its inception in 1990 and is working with LIVESTRONG - the organization founded by cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong to inspire and empower people affected by cancer -- for the sixth consecutive year this time around.


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