There were a lot of moments that felt wrong here, a lot of scenes that shouldn’t have been. LeBron James and Kevin Durant going head to head at the DeSoto Civic Center. Kyle Lowry and Tyreke Evans on the same team. But the most bittersweet moment came midway through the first quarter, when they played that song. You know the one, by DJ Khaled, the one they played after every Grizzlies victory last year, “All I do is win, win, win …” How far away does that feel now? How wretched is it that on a night when the Grizzlies were to have been playing the Phoenix Suns at FedExForum we were given a barnstorming spectacle instead? One team beat another team 158-151. Your host for the evening, Rudy Gay, scored 45 points. “I miss the NBA,” said Joel Neel, 59, a drainage inspector from Coldwater. “These guys are the greatest athletes on the Earth. But did you see the press conference today?” He sighed. He meant the press conference in New York, where the NBA Players Association rejected the owners’ latest deal/ultimatum. “They don’t want to be told how they have to go to work, where they have to work and under what conditions they have to work,” said Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, as if he were talking about coal miners or something. But what he meant was, the players want to be able to go play for the Miami Heat if they want to. They want to be able to go play in Boston or Los Angeles or New York. The two sides aren’t even arguing about money at this point. That’s how insane it has become. They’re arguing about what everyone calls “system issues.” The owners want a system that makes it hard for big-spending clubs to sign or trade for the best players. The players want a system that allows them to play wherever they please. What the players don’t seem to understand: When you build your league by sticking franchises in places like Sacramento, Portland, New Orleans, Charlotte, San Antonio, Memphis, Orlando, Toronto, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis — and, believe me, that’s just a partial list — the owners of teams in those places don’t want to be told to suck eggs. Another thing the players don’t seem to understand: They really aren’t the entire game. It is fashionable to say they are, of course. Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said it the other day, wondering aloud why the players would have to settle for 50 percent of revenues when “(performance) artists don’t give up 50 percent of their revenues.” True. But performance artists can sell out the DeSoto Civic Center. James, Durant, Gay, Tyreke Evans and a cast of glittering all-stars cannot. Maybe 5,000 showed up for this one. For a single night of basketball. The Grizzlies have to sell 41 nights. You think the broader league has something to do with that? People love to watch the games, yes. But what they really love is cheering for their teams. They don’t shell out a hundred bucks again and again for the opportunity to watch great athletes do their thing. They pay for the right to cheer for the team with “Memphis” or “Chicago” or “Dallas” across its chest. On this night, the players wore Nike jerseys instead. Their warmup shirts said: “Basketball never stops.” After the pregame clock was rolled back for a second time, fans had to wonder: “Yes, but does it ever start?” Never mind the players and the owners going 50-50 on revenues. How about going 45-45 and giving 10 percent to whomever gets the games to tip on time? This 7:30 affair went off at a casual 8:22. If Jimmie “Snap” Hunter had shown up, it could have been the Bluff City Classic. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t entertaining. At times, it was wildly so. James and Durant matched ridiculous 3-pointers. The fans seemed to have a grand old time. At halftime, a young fan yelled from the front row: “Hey, LeBron!” When James looked up, the fans said: “Can you get Penny for me?” Yes, Penny Hardaway. He played on James’ team. That’s the sort of evening it was, part brilliance, part farce. It was basketball, but it wasn’t the NBA. It was fun, but it certainly wasn’t the Grizzlies vs. the Suns. “Stay with us,” said James, after it was done. “We really want to play.” The hope is that the players and owners can figure something out today, before the owners follow through on their threat to roll back their current deal. “We don’t want to be bullied,” said Durant, and you can certainly understand his point. The owners may be right, but their tactics are not. Why would anyone think the players would allow a deal to be shoved down their throats? The players have said they want the owners to relent on those “system issues.” The owners should relent on the split of revenues instead. Give the players something to hang on to, something that allows them to believe they actually negotiated. Do that, and the season could be saved. Do that, and we can get back to games that count. “I think we’ll have a season,” said Durant. “But I’m an optimistic guy.” To reach Geoff Calkins, call (901) 529-2364 or e-mail . Visit his blog at geoffcalkinsblog.com.