Hoops action was a blast this summer for the lucky fans who crammed small gyms and lined playground fences for a live glimpse of NBA stars balling during the lockout. Unfortunate others had to be content with highlights on the Internet and, in select cases, ESPN.

Maybe they'll have better luck next time. There's talk of more showdowns like the one on Aug. 30 in Baltimore, when Kevin Durant led a D.C.-based squad against Carmelo Anthony's hometown crew, which featured ringers LeBron James and Chris Paul. And after hosting some all-stars from Los Angeles' Drew League earlier last month, Durant and his Goodman League cohorts have promised a rematch out West.

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But the real NBA action just took place in New York, where negotiations between the league and the players' union apparently suffered a setback on Tuesday. The two sides failed to come to an agreement and are running out of time to end their 2-month-old lockout before the 2011-12 season is harmed.

Each side was expected to meet with its respective membership group on Thursday. Here's hoping the dispute is settled before any games are sacrificed, because the whole barnstorming thing has gotten old and clearly demonstrated that it's not a viable alternative — unless tiny venues, no TV, sparse promotion, little marketing and few sponsors is considered a good option to NBA games.

Yes, an organized competition in Las Vegas, a so-called Lockout League, got under way this week. But it's slated to last only 12 days, and all games are at a gym two miles from the Strip.

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And yes, there's been a fanciful suggestion that players can form their own league. But judging by the summer get-togethers, there's no evidence of the organizational skills needed to produce rosters and schedules, secure arenas and broadcast partners, sell tickets and advertising, or attract media and sponsors. There's also no indication that high-salaried players are willing to dig into their pockets to front such an operation.

The players' union could look into coordinating and creating the framework for a substitute league (though it might divide the membership, because it couldn't possibly accommodate 450 players like the current NBA, which is considering contraction anyway).

But the players' best course of action is getting a deal done quickly, because the offers will be worse later. Especially if the entire season is lost, which the owners seem willing to risk.

In other news: Saving Troy Davis' Life: NAACP Speaks Out.