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NBA lockout leaves drafted players in basketball limbo

Many thought they'd be experiencing the NBA lifestyle by now, but they're just scraping by on tight budgets.

October 05, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Former Bruin Tyler Honeycutt, left, is waiting to start his NBA career with the Sacramento Kings; Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock have yet to take the floor with the Lakers; former UCLA guard Malcolm Lee is still working out in Westwood during the lockout.
Former Bruin Tyler Honeycutt, left, is waiting to start his NBA career with… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

They are going to class, taking out loans and renting instead of buying.

Is this the NBA lifestyle?

"It's like I'm still a college student," said Malcolm Lee, the former UCLA guard and now-in-limbo Minnesota Timberwolves rookie. "It's the same life. No income checks are coming in, none of that good stuff that comes with being in the NBA."

Lee is living in a Los Angeles apartment, working out in Westwood and driving what he called "my little car from college." It's almost as if he's still a Bruin, except for the lack of eligibility after being selected in the second round of the NBA draft four months ago.

Andrew Goudelock remains a Cougar, at least in the classroom. The Lakers rookie is completing course work toward his sociology degree at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, where he was a standout combo guard the last four years.

"People are surprised when they see me," Goudelock said. "They are like, 'Oh, my God. Why aren't you with the Lakers?' "

At this point, it might require divine intervention for Goudelock to set foot in Staples Center any time soon.

On Tuesday labor talks broke down. The NBA canceled the preseason and said it would also cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no collective bargaining agreement in place by Monday.

With the NBA lockout in its fourth month, first-year players are wondering when they will finally get to cash their first checks and trade in their budget lifestyles for five-star hotels, chartered jets and catered postgame meals.

Newly minted Lakers rookie Darius Morris soon could be among the lucky few to enjoy a taste of NBA life. The former Michigan and Los Angeles Windward High guard said he was on the verge of signing a sponsorship deal with Nike that could help sustain him financially until the lockout ends.

In the meantime, Morris might take his talents … to Mexico City. It would be part of a two-game exhibition tour this month in which NBA players would also teach basketball skills to children.

Morris said he learned how to live on a tight budget in the dorms at Michigan. He didn't think his lifestyle would be much different than what it would have been had the lockout been averted because he would have been trying to conserve money anyway.

"At this stage in my career," Morris said, "I'm trying to save all that I get."

The one exception, Morris concedes, is that he would have purchased a residence instead of renting an apartment.

Lee said his agent, Mitch Frankel, is fronting him money for housing and meal expenses. Frankel advised Lee to be frugal with his finances, Lee said. So he has resisted the urge to buy a new car.

"You can't have an NBA mind-set without NBA financial income, so our mentality is still like a college student living-wise," Lee said. "I'm not going to buy something I really can't afford."

Goudelock said he had to take out a loan to help cover expenses even though he is working as a personal trainer in addition to taking classes.

If you think locked-out life has left the rookies mildly depressed, you're right. Sort of.

"Honestly, sometimes you think about out of all the years, why is this the year that I have a good shot to come into the NBA and now we get the lockout?" Morris said. "But you have to start thinking positive because you don't want to get too down."

Goudelock said he is glad he can work toward, if not complete, his college degree. Morris said he likes having extra time to work on areas that Lakers management asked him to address after post-draft workouts: his muscle tone, three-point shooting and floaters that can help him score over NBA big men.

Not that it's an easy endeavor. Morris goes through upper- and lower-body weight workouts and sprints on the Manhattan Beach sand dunes each Tuesday and Thursday. He also makes 1,000 shots twice a week and has played in pickup games at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa High with other NBA players.

The rookies will keep playing, even if the games don't count.

Former UCLA small forward Tyler Honeycutt, who is waiting to start his career with the Sacramento Kings, played in an exhibition for first-year NBA players late last month in Provo, Utah. The opposing team's roster included Kawhi Leonard, the former Riverside King High and San Diego State star who was drafted by Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs.

Rookie Nikola Vucevic will make his season debut this week, though it won't be for the Philadelphia 76ers. The first-round pick from USC will play for KK Buducnost Podgorica in his home country of Montenegro, though the 6-foot-10 forward has an opt-out clause should the NBA resume play.

Lee said he would also be willing to play abroad if the lockout lingers.

"One hundred percent I would think about playing overseas if there's no season," Lee said. "You might as well. There's nothing else to do."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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