Imagine the NBA lockout from the perspective of players like Warriors rookie Jeremy Tyler.
The big man was an NBA prospect as far back as the eighth grade. After years of hype, followed by two seasons overseas, Tyler was drafted by Golden State in the second round. He'd finally arrived -- kind of.
"It's like my dream came true," Tyler said, "but not yet."
The 6-foot-10 Tyler is part of a forgotten crop lost in the mess of the NBA lockout. Rookies -- voiceless and sitting square at the bottom of the player totem pole -- are left in limbo while others decide their fate.
For now the rookies wait -- for their chance to play at their sport's pinnacle, for their NBA riches to roll in, for the culmination of a frustrating process that leaves some questioning their decision to leave college early.
Denver Nuggets forward Al Harrington, a former Warrior, knows exactly what the rookies are going through. Drafted No. 25 overall by Indiana in 1998, his rookie season was delayed by an NBA lockout until January 1999.
With no money, he said he got a loan from his financial adviser. Pacers veteran Antonio Davis opened his home to Harrington, keeping him from having to returning to live with his mom.
Even with his hookup, Harrington said he remembers the agonizing uncertainty.
"When college basketball rolled around, I couldn't help but think that could be me," said Harrington, who went pro straight from St. Patrick's High, passing on a chance to play at Georgia Tech. "That was my whole frustration. Because our lockout was a lot like this one in that it was really looking like we weren't going to play at all."
Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, "it probably would have affected my decision" to leave college early.
Whether they should have stayed college isn't the only nagging question.
Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out?
It is common practice for rookies -- especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting -- to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don't want to accumulate debt. So he's "living like a broke college student" while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino.
The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they'll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane.
"They need to work out," Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. "Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree."
Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes.
Tyler, who's been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He's trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area.
Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all.
"It's de-motivating," Thompson said. "Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We're doing the same thing every day. I'm not going to lie. It's hard to stay motivated."
Harrington assured, however, the wait is worth it. He said he knows the rookies are eager to play, but said they'd be wise to endure and be supportive.
He said he hears the "let's play" grumbles. But he said today's rookies have to trust the vets working on their behalf much like the rookies did during the last lockout.
"In the deal that's on the table, the rookie wage scale is five years," Harrington said. "In the deal that's on the table, they can be sent to the D-League for the whole year and they can pay you just $75,000 no matter how much their contract is worth. We're trying to get the best deal for them. So they need to just be patient. They should be used to not having any money anyway."
Tyler said he will consider going overseas, though he has already been down that road, playing in Israel, then China. Thompson said he is ready to consider playing abroad since an end to the lockout isn't in sight.
Thompson said he believes the players are doing the right thing by not accepting the NBA's deal. Still, that doesn't alleviate the frustration.
"We left school early thinking we could do our dream job," Thompson said. "Now, we're just lost."