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Roger Mason Jr.: Labor talks urgent

NEW YORK -- While NBA owners and players broke from their labor talks on Thursday to observe the Jewish New Year, perhaps the holiday inspired some new approaches heading into Friday's critical meeting in New York City. Because if not, both sides will know they're "very, very close to a point where games will be canceled if we don't have a deal," according to NBPA executive vice president and New York Knicks combo guard Roger Mason Jr.

"David Stern knows that there's some deadlines coming up, so there's a sense of urgency coming up," Mason Jr. said while on his way to the airport on Thursday afternoon for his flight to NYC. "There's actually a sense of urgency beyond belief because we know that training camp is right around the corner."

Mason Jr. said no matter what happens this weekend, the most important thing the owners know is that the players are not going to fold on the hard salary cap.

"We're not going to allow the soft cap to take on the system," Mason Jr. said. "I'm hopeful that even with whatever system changes they want to make, that stays intact because I know what our guys want to do."

Mason Jr. said where the union has shown a willingness to compromise has been with what percentage of Basketball Related Income (BRI) players receive.

Initially Thursday, Mason Jr. told ESPNNewYork.com that "we would go down from that 54," but later that day he said that he had misspoke and that players had softened their demand from 57 to 54 percent and would absolutely go no lower.

Mason is hopeful this weekend that the divide in revenue split will be tackled.

The NBPA has considered other negotiating tactics to counter the stalled talks, including decertification, which Mason Jr. said had been "brought up quite a bit" among the group. But he said their priority is to still work directly with the owners.

"Up until to this point, we haven't really made as much progress as we'd like," Mason Jr. said, "but I'm hoping that the first time we can make progress is this weekend."

Perhaps the presence of a few of the league's stars will help. Mason Jr. recognizes their support will have a significant impact during Friday's meeting.

"Star players have a huge influence on what's going on in our game," Mason Jr. said, "and the fact that they're there is just going to make our union even stronger."

Although he's not sure who exactly will be there, including LeBron James, he mentioned he reached out to his Knicks teammate Amare Stoudemire, who hasn't confirmed yet due to his "swamped schedule."

If he can't make it, there are no conference call lines open. The discussions are, literally, behind closed doors. But Mason Jr. said Stoudemire has provided a very active voice throughout the process, even showing up at a few of the earlier meetings this summer and providing valuable ideas. While Mason Jr. wasn't able to disclose what they were, he did say they were brought up during the meetings and Stoudemire is constantly staying in touch with him asking for updates.

"If he's not there then I'll be calling him after the meeting and giving him a recap of exactly what's going on," Mason Jr. said. "He wants a play-by-play. That's pretty much been our role on the board all year. We're there representing the star players to the minimum-salary guy, and it's our responsibility to let everyone know what's going on."

Above anything else, what troubles Mason Jr. the most is the possibility the league could lose fans, and he hears their pleas and disappointment every day on his Twitter account (@MoneyMase). He has an important message for them, speaking for all the players: Please don't think we're in this only for the money.

"The fans are frustrated and they're getting impatient, and I don't blame them," Mason Jr. said. "I was in that seat one day and I still am a fan of the game. It's frustrating for us as players because we want to play, we want to work and we don't want people to think that the NBA guys are just being greedy because that's not the case. As it stands now, the deal on the table doesn't seem too fair and realistic."

If the lockout does continue and regular season games are canceled, Mason Jr. will likely travel to IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla. to participate in Stoudemire's organized training camp for his Knicks teammates. Mason Jr. will also carry out his plan for a charity game on Oct. 29 at his alma mater's gym, University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena, where former ACC stars, who are now in the NBA, will face an NBA-select team featuring Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and John Wall. Proceeds from the event will go to a charity Mason Jr. is involved with, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.

When asked if a star player, business rep or sports brand could start their own league if the lockout persists, Mason Jr. said he could see that happening.

"It's a different world we live in now," Mason Jr. said. "People have dynamic ideas. Nothing would surprise me at all."

Mason Jr. will also open up his international Rolodex once again. Already this summer, he's turned down three offers to play in China, Italy and Israel, where he previously played from 2005-06 for Hapoel Jerusalem.

Earlier in the summer, when the lockout was in its first week, Mason Jr. said he considered himself an optimistic person and envisioned lacing them up in the fall. Well, what about now?

"I just feel like everybody has the same overall goal, and that's to have an NBA this year," Mason Jr. said. "So with that being said, when two people want something you need to try to work it out. I think the owners understand that they need to try to work the situation out and us, as players, we understand we do too. I'm bringing my positive energy tomorrow, and I'm hoping that everyone else in the room has the same type of energy."

Jared Zwerling is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.