No More Pretend Time — The Lockout is Around the Corner

News — By on May 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

“To ensure that each player is informed to the fullest extent possible as we enter the height of negotiations in the next few months … we are asking all player agents to discuss with each of their clients on an individual basis: (i) the player’s negotiated deal and financial status; (ii) how the player can expect that his deal and status might change under a more restrictive system; and (iii) steps the player can take to withstand what is likely to be a months-long lockout.”

This is an excerpt from a letter ESPN obtained a few months ago, from the NBA players association to all respective player agents, as reported by Marc Stein. This was not some big announcement/head game to gain public trust in the owner/player scuffle that’s coming, a la the WWE-style nonsense of the NFL lock-out, this was a deadly serious missive from the player’s association, basically stating that the lock-out is all but certain.

Maybe it’s because the play-offs are still in full swing and exciting as hell. Maybe it’s because the media is so over-saturated with constant news of the NFL’s battle (the big brother of American sports). Maybe everybody just realized its quite nice out and started being social as opposed to bitching on websites about more millionaire vs. billionaire feuds. (Not this kid.) Whatever the reason, the looming NBA lock-out is being handled like an embarrassing pimple — but there won’t be enough make-up or Katy Perry acne commercials to cover it up once the new champs are crowned and the dust settles. Because the lockout is coming. 

Still feeling optimistic? I can empathize. Every few days I say to myself, “this has been one of the most exciting NBA seasons in years, some of the fiercest and surprising playoffs in years, people care about professional basketball, there is just NO WAY David Stern and Billy Hunter will let a lockout destroy all that good will!” I mean, it isn’t as if pro basketball is teflon like football. Footballers can rape, murder, torture animals and make total asses of themselves in any arena imaginable, but as long as they deliver on the field the general sports populace just shrugs it off. (Not counting ol’ Plexico’s hard time for almost shooting his own dong off. Gotta love NY.) Owners can behave like rejects from Donald Trump’s reality show, but will the fans stop going to games and buying expensive TV packages once the season eventually starts again? Do you hear anyone saying “screw the NFL and their lockout! I’m watching the CFL!”

No. But professional basketball is only just coming off some of its roughest years since the pre-Larry/Magic/Jordan days, and it is only recently that it has regained some of that mojo. A lockout could be disastrous. Perhaps because the average NBA fan knows this, the general consensus seems to be, “ah, they’ll work it out. Stern is a lawyer, after all.” 

Consider this: president of the player’s union Derek Fisher has been emailing players, sending out podcasts giving them advice on how to save money and cut costs as the prospect of paychecks grow slimmer and slimmer. According to David Biderman of The Wall Street Journal, James Jones of the Miami Heat, finance major at the University of Miami and current secretary-treasurer for the player’s union has stopped hiring his own trainers, using the Heat’s facilities instead. “We’ve got a lockout coming. I’m not going to pay that much money to have somebody stretch me for an hour.”

Why is this lockout so inevitable? Because, unlike in 1998, the owners are coming from a rather dubious position. League revenues are up, player salaries are down. And the awful contracts some of the owners are holding up as proof of players being overpaid are really just damning examples of just how ignorant many of the NBA’s execs are. Look at the deal Atlanta gave Joe Johnson, who yes, is a good player, but not that kind of money good player! They’re trapped now, much as Washington was trapped with Gilbert Arenas’s mind-numbingly stupid deal — only to be saved by an even stupider front office in Orlando. Seriously, was anyone going to pay Johnson anything near what Atlanta gave him? No way in hell.  And that’s honestly one of the less grievous examples of bad executive decisions made by millionaires and the yes men they employ, pretending to understand basketball or the business of basketball. Ask Clippers fans how they feel about giving away a top 5 pick just so their racist, lecherous owner could fulfill his vendetta against Baron Davis. Yeah, I’m sure they would much rather have Mo Williams than grab a young, hungry guard to throw Blake more alley-oops.

So, it’s a lot harder to predict what happens when the guilty party is the one saying “hey, something’s wrong!” But I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here. Just as most experts in the media and the league are saying the lockout is somewhere between 99% and 100% going to happen, many of them also think it’s doubtful the league will cancel games as it did in 1998 (one of the least watchable seasons in memory). Both sides stand to lose too much, the games have to be played. They don’t have NFL money to play with. But Hunter and Stern and Patrick Ewing were saying much the same thing over a decade ago and we saw what happened.

So, you know, not to be a total buzz kill as we ponder how to revamp our team for another run, but we might not even be scrimmaging by October. And the true fans of the NBA need to be ready to let Stern and Hunter know just how unacceptable this is. Because no football and no basketball? What am I supposed to do? Pay attention to politics? Watch reality tv? Increase my comic book intake? 1.)No, 2.) #$*! no, and 3.)I’m already broke and considered too dorky by the opposite sex.

3 Comments

  1. Jamie Canu says:

    check out PLAYER X’s column in the most recent issue of ESPN the Mag. Normally I can’t stand anything ESPN related, but I must say I do enjoy the PLAYER X column every month because of the inside view on certain points from each sport.

    This month the player discusses the reprecutions the NBA could suffer from a lockout and how players are discussing a jump to Europe and the money being offered to marquee names like Kobe and LeBron (30-Mil).

  2. Farnsworth says:

    Just read it, good column. I’m surprised some money bags in Europe hasn’t tried to reunite Shaq and Kobe. While I’d love to see the self-proclaimed Black Mamba take a hike, I have to admit I’m enjoying watching his game and his body break down little by little.
    That being said, if this lockout isn’t handled just right by the players and owners, we could see a lot of consequences.

  3. Adam says:

    I think the best base lockout scenario (is that an oxymoron?) is a reduced season of about 29 games, playing each team once. This would allow the older players of the Celtics to be fresh come playoff time, giving us a better chance at making it to the Finals than we had this year. Maybe Shaq would be healthy for a playoff run, too!

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