At our annual sit-down meeting with Penn Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky, we discussed the possibility of the rumored Philly vs. Baltimore scrimmage happening at the Palestra. According to Bilsky, talks with the groups involved -- the Phoenix Suns' Hakim Warrick and the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, former teammates at Syracuse, first hatched the idea -- are in the "late-seventh, early-eighth inning."
Representatives of the NBA players and of Penn Athletics held a conference call this afternoon to continue to work out the details of the event, which reportedly would take place on September 25. "There are discussions every day," Bilsky said. "They want to do it, we want to do it. … I haven’t heard of any major stumbling blocks."
Bilsky explained that an agreement hasn't been reached — and cautioned that nothing is certain yet — because of the issues involved with an outside group using a Penn facility, including insurance, liability and security. Even the ongoing lockout is an issue, as both sides need to work out contingency plans should the owners and players' union come to an agreement before the Palestra game takes place. But Bilsky reiterated that the athletic department wants to make it happen and is "making it as easy as possible to happen."
"What we tell them is, 'you guys just need to show up. We’ll handle tickets, we’ll handle security, we’ll handle operations, we’ll do all of that stuff,'" he said. "We’re not charging a rental fee, which we normally do, because we want it to happen. … To make this happen, we’re eliminating all those things that could be deal breakers."
One of Penn's chief concerns is trying to ensure that tickets are available to students should the game take place. Bilsky said Penn representatives haven't "demanded anything" but have "made it clear what we want." Since there would be so much demand for tickets in an arena as small as the Palestra (capacity is listed at just under 9,000), the most likely scenario is that tickets are made available to season-ticket holders, including students who participated in The Line. That was the case back in December of 2002, when LeBron James' St. Vincent-St. Mary High School team played Maureece Rice and Strawberry Mansion at the Palestra.
Among the players rumored to be participating in the Philly vs. Baltimore game are Philly natives Warrick, Tyreke Evans, Jameer Nelson, Richard Hamilton, Kyle Lowry and John Salmons (plus the Sixers' Lou Williams) and Baltimore/Washington D.C. natives Anthony, Kevin Durant and Ty Lawson.
Stay tuned for more on this game -- and more from our sit-down with Bilsky -- as we learn more in the coming days/weeks. Believe me, we're crossing our fingers as much as you are...
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