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James, Wade, Anthony and Paul are great players, but we enjoy them most in the context of their teams, not with a bunch of other luminaries. Basketball compels because it involves various individuals merging their skills to create a group identity.

Successful teams require scorers and rebounders, passers and defenders, screeners and hustlers. Everybody has a role, whether it’s taking the most shots, rarely taking a shot or never taking a shot.

The Miami Heat has the Big 3, but Udonis Haslem is the team’s heart and soul. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry led the Dallas to the NBA title, but the Mavericks wouldn’t have prevailed without Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea.

Touring superstars aren’t too worried about getting hurt. The risk of injury is greater in real NBA action because there’s a real emotional investment. The next time someone takes a charge in these charity/exhibition/pickup games will be the first time. And forget about them diving over the scorer’s table or body-surfing across the floor for loose balls.

They do that in the NBA, though, because chasing a championship with a team means something. They can’t manufacture that level of intensity while barnstorming in college gyms. Their jerseys don’t carry the same weight and their makeshift teams have no historical significance.

Thank goodness talks have resumed between the players and owners. Reports indicate that a shortened season can begin Christmas Day if a handshake agreement is reached this weekend.

Considering how negotiations have seemed close previously before they collapsed, we shouldn’t get too excited. The fact that both sides let the situation get this far doesn’t instill much confidence in their deal-making ability.

But the prospect of games Dec. 25 — the traditional start date for the NBA’s national TV schedule — just might do the trick. It would be a perfect gift for fans who are disgusted with the billionaires and millionaires, and for “little people” who are hurting.

Here’s hoping the dispute ends shortly. Because someone else might be hurting after another charity/exhibition/pickup game.

I might poke an eye out.