The regular season is slated to begin Nov. 1 but with no deal in place for a new collective bargaining agreement, the league risks postponing or cancelling regular season games for only the second time in its history.
"There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend," NBA Commissioner David Stern said.
"Either we'll make very good progress and we know how good that would be. Or we won't make any progress and then it won't be a question of just starting the season on time. There will be a lot at risk."
National Basketball Players Association President Derek Fisher, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, agrees.
"We realize the calendar, watch, clock, whatever, is running out in terms of starting the regular season on time," he told reporters. "If we can't find a way to get some common ground, really, really soon then the time of starting the regular season at the scheduled date is in jeopardy big time.
"We still have a great deal of issues to work through so there won't be any magic that will happen this weekend and make those things go away," he said.
NBA owners contend the league lost $300 million last season with 22 of 30 teams in the red. They want the league's share of basketball-related income increased from 50 to 57 percent, along with a firm salary cap and shorter contracts.
The players offered to reduce their share to 54.3 percent.
The three-month long dispute is similar in many ways to the recent conflict between the National Football League and their players.
North American sports' use of a centralised CBA inevitably brings forward a whole host of negotiating points - almost a guaranteed recipe for disputes.
But there are those in the game who worry that the NBA is more vulnerable than the NFL to the negative effects of a lockout.
"Face it, whether you're an NFL season-ticket holder and have to buy 10 games, it's on weekends and Monday nights - it's predictable, it doesn't change your lifestyle," Jeff Van Gundy former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach told the Star-Ledger newspaper on Thursday.
"Even the fans of the worst (NFL) teams don't complain; they're coming back, because it's a weekly tradition. But the season-ticket holder in the NBA is different.
"People split the package. It's a major time and financial commitment. I'm not trying to be gloom and doom here. It's just that people don't have the disposable income they used to have, and it's not like they're pining for NBA basketball.
"I just worry at some point - I know at some point - that some sport will go too far."
So far, training camps that were scheduled to open Oct. 3 have been postponed indefinitely and 43 preseason games slated for Oct. 9-15 have been cancelled.
The only previous time the league had to cancel part of its schedule was in 1998 when a six-month dispute reduced the season by 32 games to 50.
- Related links