TAYLORSVILLE — For one fun night, NBA players didn't have to tweet out a "Let us play" slogan for support.
Locked-out guys from the Utah Jazz and NBA got to play. And they had an estimated 2,750 basketball-starved fans hooting and hollering over their every move during the high-flying Pro Players Charity Classic at SLCC on Monday night.
"It's great," Jazz rookie-to-be Alec Burks said. "I haven't heard a whistle blow in a long time, so it's great to get here and just have some fun."
And the Colorado product said that before he went out and scored a smooth-looking 29 points.
He's just a youngster, but Burks' comment was the prevailing attitude amongst the put-on-hold pros who participated in this charity event.
Judging comments from players — ones who've yet to play a minute of NBA ball to seasoned veterans — it's evident they want to do what they theoretically get paid to do.
Even if it means settling for what's on the table now.
"There's millions of dollars here and everybody doesn't get that," Jazz forward Jeremy Evans said. "So I'm just like, (let's) take whatever is given and let's play."
Evans, a dunk machine Monday, was among the players who sounded like they'd vote to end the lockout this week if the National Basketball Players Association handed out ballots.
"We've got people out here struggling and doing things, and not living the best life," Evans added. "I just think it's silly that we're fighting over so much money."
Jazz center Al Jefferson smiled and hinted he might get in trouble if he were to go off on his thoughts about the whole sticky labor situation.
"I want to play ball," Jefferson said.
Big Al, who hadn't played in Utah since April before Monday's game, followed that statement up with an important addition.
"But," Jefferson added, "I want to play under a fair deal. That's all that matters."
While everybody involved in this exhibition smiled, sweated and scored, there is an ominous cloud looming over the NBA.
One player representative from all 30 teams will meet with union officials today in New York City to discuss the possibility of decertification — a move that could eventually give the players leverage. Or it could backfire and result in the cancelation of the entire 2011-12 season.
Raja Bell's agent confirmed that the guard and team representative will be at the meetings on behalf of the Jazz.
Player reps have their work cut out for them, even if the group decides to seek enough votes to proceed with the decertification process. Some players aren't paying attention or don't even know if they want to go down that road.
"I have no opinion on decertification right now," veteran Earl Watson said, adding that he's heard too many rumors about the entire labor situation.
Today's critical player rep meeting precedes the ultimatum given to the union by David Stern. The commissioner told NBA players they have until the end of business day Wednesday to agree to the owners' current offer — one that ranges from 51 percent to 49 percent of basketball related income for the players — or they will get a much worse one.
Despite their current significance, the words decertification, ultimatum and lockout weren't popular at Monday's event. This rare 40 minutes of hoops during a month in which all NBA games are canceled was all about playing for the fans and charities.
"Whatever happens, happens," Jazz swingman C.J. Miles said. "I hope that it is over soon. Hopefully, we can get on the court. I don't even want to touch on it."
Devin Harris receives updates from his agent and his buddy, Keyon Dooling, one of the elected players directly involved in negotiation talks. But the Jazz point guard didn't want to get into the nitty-gritty. For one thing, he said there is so much misinformation out there players are still sorting things out.
"We've got to think about how it affects you and your current situation, how it affects us as a whole and then make a decision," Harris said. "It's a tough situation all around. ... We've got some tough decisions to make in the next couple of days."
Players realize they have to be cognizant of the long-term ramifications of what signing an unfavorable or favorable collective bargaining agreement will have.
That's why Jefferson, who attended a couple of the players' meetings this summer, said he insists on a fair deal "that's not just for me but the guys that's in high school now. Just a fair deal for the guys here and the upcoming guys."
Like Burks, Jazz forward Derrick Favors said he hasn't paid attention to the ins-and-outs of the negotiations.
"I don't know what's going on right now, so I'm just sitting around waiting," said Favors, who has actually stayed busy bulking up and working on his skills.
"I don't even talk to my agent about it. I just wait for the call. That's all I want to do (play hoops)."2 comments on this story
Free-agent-to-be Ronnie Price is among the NBA players in limbo because he doesn't know where he'll end up even after the lockout ends. He just wants that to happen, and for peace to be made between both sides.
"My thing is whatever's going to happen is going to happen," the former Utah Valley standout said. "I just hope that when it does happen everyone is OK with it and we can move forward, put this year and this lockout behind us and prevent it from happening in the future."
Utah basketball fans can only hope more exhibition games like Monday's take place if an agreement isn't made soon.