Now what? After FIU game, players meet on lockout
MIAMI—Carmelo Anthony fully expects the NBA to cancel some regular-season games soon, and said players around the league have been bracing to hear that grim news.
The way Anthony put it Saturday night, it almost seems inevitable.
"They're going to cancel the first two weeks of the season," Anthony said. "We'll see what happens then. If they want to lock us out, lock us out. We're going to stick together."
The New York Knicks forward played in the South Florida All-Star Classic hosted by Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, the latest -- and most competitive -- of the many exhibitions players have participated in during this lockout that reached the 100-day mark Saturday. NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that the first two weeks of the regular season could be canceled as early as Monday if a deal is not struck.
Anthony says it would not be "realistic" for the sides to agree on anything before then.
"I don't think nothing is going to happen between now and Monday," Anthony said. "So we've just got to be prepared for that, be prepared for the lockout for the first two weeks and see where all this is going."
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Wade called an hourlong meeting with players after his Team Wade pulled out a 141-140 overtime victory over Team LeBron. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were to remain private, saying Wade, Chris Paul and Miami Heat player representative James Jones fielded questions about the status of negotations.
The person also said Wade has taken "a more active role" in talks about a new labor deal of late and that he urged players to be "informed rather than accept any deal."
Before the meeting, Anthony said the lockout is "sad all the way across."
"It's sad for us as players. It's sad for the whole NBA. It's sad for the fans of the NBA. It's sad for our personal fans. So we want to keep giving back like this," Anthony said.
Virtually all the players in Saturday's game shared a similar sentiment. The game drew a sold-out crowd of 4,000 to Florida International University, where Basketball Hall of Famer -- and past NBA players' association president -- Isiah Thomas is the Panthers' coach.
Thomas has said often during the lockout that he expects nothing to happen until owners and players agree that neither can succeed without the other.
"The players aren't canceling the game, so they shouldn't take the responsibility, nor should they have the fault of carrying the burden for canceling games," Thomas said Saturday night. "They're willing and ready to play."
Saturday's game at FIU wasn't like many other exhibitions. Defense was played by both sides until the final seconds, players argued for calls and even dove for loose balls. Other games this summer have had little defense, almost no offensive structure and turned into glorified dunk contests.
"You could see from the way we played tonight, we want to play," Golden State's Dorell Wright said. "And the way the fans reacted to us, you could see they want to see us play."
On Friday, word came that a late attempt to get the two sides together broke down when the NBA wouldn't move off a 50-50 revenue split with players. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous collective bargaining agreement and have proposed lowering it to 53 percent in a new deal, but that remaining 3 percent represents an unbridged gap of about $120 million.
For players and fans, the prospect of no basketball this season -- or even a shorter schedule -- was difficult to take Saturday.
"The good thing about this whole situation is that the fans are thirsty for basketball, we're thirsty for basketball and we want to play it," said free agent forward Caron Butler. "Everyone needs to understand that we're locked out. We're not on strike. We're locked out. We want to play basketball, so when we're able to play basketball under the right terms, we're ready."
Anthony said he would like to schedule an exhibition in New York for sometime around the middle of November. He's holding off on the planning for one big reason -- he'd rather be in training camp with the Knicks soon.
"We'll keep it going," said Anthony, who has been a key part of several exhibitions this offseason, including ones in Baltimore and Philadelphia. "Until they say the lockout is over, we'll keep putting these games on."
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