- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

During this NBA offseason, it’s been business as usual for some players, filled with pickup games, attending college classes and doing charity work.

So until the cancellation of 43 preseason games Sept. 24, and later the entire preseason Tuesday, a lot of players have been either unfailingly optimistic or in a flat-out state of denial about the upcoming season in the face of a lockout, which is now into its third month.

“I’m just trying to stay positive and hope for the best,” Washington Wizards center Andray Blatche said last week during a charity event for the Wounded Warriors hosted by his foundation and the USO.

“I’m not trying to get discouraged when I hear negative news. I hope everything will be resolved soon.”

Wizards draft pick Chris Singleton echoed the sentiment.

“All we can do as rookies is get ready for the season and hope this thing gets solved,” Singleton said. “I know people are worried about not having a season, but I think we’ll have one.”

Wizards franchise point guard John Wall has said little about the lockout while he focused on burning up the summer-league circuit.

“It’s a chance for the fans that don’t have the chance to come to Verizon Center to see us play,” Wall said Sept. 17 after a game at Coolidge High School, where he and Kevin Durant headlined a star-studded squad. “I still get a chance to work on my game and play against other NBA players,”

Wall and Durant will team up again at Coolidge on Oct. 15 for another exhibition game, along with Jeff Green, DeMarcus Cousins and several other NBA players.

“We all want to get a deal done,” Durant said last month. “We all want to start on time, but we have to stand up and fight for what’s right for us.

“I think we’re going to stand up and stick to what we want. I don’t think we’re going to give in to a deal just because we want the season to start. I know fans may not want to hear that, but its kind of tough to put [the players] in that position. But hopefully everything gets resolved soon so we won’t have to worry about it.”

But clearly, the time to worry has arrived, since Durant and the rest of the NBA’s top-tier stars — who have been conspicuously absent for most of the negotiations — finally showed up at the meetings in New York this week after receiving a call from union president Derek Fisher.

The latest meetings were attended by Durant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and a few others, as players and owners continued to try and reach a new collective bargaining agreement. But the talks broke down Tuesday, prompting commissioner David Stern to cancel the preseason.

Stern further said that if no deal was reached by Monday, the first two weeks of the regular season would be canceled. At present, the two sides have not scheduled further talks.

“We were not able to make the progress that we hoped we could make, and we were not able to continue the negotiations,” Stern said after Tuesday’s meeting.

The two sides met for four hours, with Stern floating the idea of a 50-50 split of basketball-related Income, but with the split coming after the owners take $300 million to $350 million off the top. But the players say they won’t go below 53, percent, or possibly 52 percent if other concessions are added. Last season, the BRI split was 57-43 for the owners, who claim to have collectively lost around $300 million last season.

The other unresolved issues holding up a new CBA include several so-called “system issues,” such as the mid-level exception, Larry Bird rights and contract terms, but the split of BRI remains the primary issue.

“Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games,” said players union executive director Billy Hunter.

The players believe the owners plan to hold out until players begin missing game checks, which would occur around mid-November, in hopes that the union will weaken.

“We find ourselves at a point today where we, in some ways, anticipated or expected to be,” Fisher said. “Faced with a lockout that may jeopardize portions if not all of our season.”