by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

Contrary to initial speculation, the League’s star players did show up for the latest CBA meeting with team owners. Afterwards, just about everyone expressed cautious optimism.

The League and the union even released a joint statement, in an effort to demonstrate solidarity and some measure of goodwill:

“The NBA and NBPA held a four-hour bargaining meeting today that included constructive dialogue and a productive exchange of information. While we still have much work to do, it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together. We all agreed to meet again before training camp.”

According to CBS, David Stern wasn’t as quick as everyone else to express joy during the negotiations:

According to people in the bargaining session, there was far less rancor and rhetoric than in the session at All-Star weekend, when the players rejected the owners’ initial proposal. The word “lockout” was thrown around less frequently, too.

But both sides acknowledge that there’s much ground to be covered. According to one person present, commissioner David Stern proclaimed at one point during the meeting, “There’s a gulf, not a gap.”

Despite the Commisioner’s ominous words, for the first time since these talks have begun, there seems to be a small sense that both sides could work things out, and perhaps avoid a lockout next season.

We’ll have to wait and see how future meetings go before anything definitive can be felt or expressed.