The NBA lockout always looked likey to happen eventually. It’s just a shame it had to happen this way, with the league going down during a year that saw the Dallas Mavericks win one back for every good American. A year the three Miami Heat glitterati sold short.
There’s definitely some sense in this lockout though, as opposed to the NFL’s nonsensical court hearings that have now lasted over 100 days. The difference is, fans will probably see some football, or as it stands, an entire regular season. Basketball fans, they could be out of touch for a whole season, that’s how far away David Stern is with the league right now.
Some of the things players want are justified, like equal contracts and fair salaries for players who, you know, actually earned it. But then again, all fans wanted was a level playing field like the NFL, and it’s not like Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James ever cared too much about that.
Yes, the NBA’s carefree attitude has made this whole scenario what it is. It isn’t LeBron’s fault, he was only doing what came naturally – earn money. Heck, it may not even be Stern’s fault, as the players themselves have set up this entire superstar league. But if the lockout hurts anyone more than the fans, or people who get paid to do the backstage work on and off the court, it hurts teams like the Celtics most.
In the NFL, when their lockout actually had people scared, it was all about the Cleveland Browns, or the fragile Buffalo Bills. Those were the two financially dependent teams that would suffer if doors shut indefinitely, as revenue and marketing would surely plummet, unlike say, the Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers who can stand on their own two feet with relative ease.
Of course, the Celtics aren’t quite as desperate financially. Boston sports are booming. It’s become championship city since the Patriots kicked things off in 2001. Only to see the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins follow suit. Marketing is at an all-time high, and Celtics merchandise would still draw in absurd numbers from all around the world. Teams like the Bobcats or the Cavaliers though, are the real worry.
But where the Celtics stand a chance to crumble is obviously on the court. That’s where three of Doc Rivers’ starting players don’t want to miss a season, and simply can’t afford to spend an entire year away from the game.
Still, Kevin Garnett doesn’t seem concerned. He is willing to sit out the entire season and pass on his $18.8 million salary. If that doesn’t stick it to Stern, what does? Garnett was also the first to raise his voice last week about the lockout, and he was the first to raise his hand as the lead spokesman of players who simply don’t give a damn. Tell me three other players who love the game that much.
The rest of the Celtics is a mystery. Paul Pierce won’t let a lockout dent another season that could lead to one last championship breath. And Ray Allen’s steady diet of beans and no burgers throughout his career leaves him as fit as the day he entered the league. O.K, maybe not. But he is far off from going Shaquille O’Neal on us in a 12 month timeframe.
But the Celtics ought to be concerned about free agency and trades, the talk that has so many NFL coaches sweating with less than three months to the regular season whistle blows. The very same free agent market in the NBA though, is less broad, and more dependent on wheelbarrows of cash, plus the same cities (Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, New York, Miami) to do the majority of the bidding. That’s going to change if Stern doesn’t reach an agreement, or some kind of negotiation that fans can hang their hat on sometime soon, however.
Obviously, free agency is the least of the NBA’s problems just a day into the lockout though. There’s a feeling that the months of October, November and December are already a write-off in terms of the regular season schedule, something the NFL struggles to match. That’s bad news for the Celtics development – particularly players like rookies JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore – yet it’s good news if you’re a glass half full kind of guy.
The NFL has toyed with an idea that looks likely to pass over to the NBA: a shortened regular season. Only, in the NFL’s case, a 16 week schedule would be cut back to say, an eight week schedule – meaning those desperate teams like the Bills actually have a chance at a playoff berth. In the NBA’s case, the first four to five months would be missed. But February through to June stands a chance of happening.
That’s good news if you’re a Celtics fan, or even a Lakers or Spurs fan for that matter. A shortened season means more practice time, less strain. Perfect for players like Kobe Bryant, who have been living through endless unpublished finger injuries, and asked to stand up for a team that has lacked star power from players that were once trustworthy (Pau Gasol, anyone?).
The Celtics fit that criteria, too. It’s less time for Garnett to injure his knee. Less time for Pierce to have hot and cold months. And less time for the Celtics big man problem to be exposed by the Miami Heat’s slam-dunk show come April.
Then again, a three month – or possibly two month season (that’s how glum things look now) – isn’t good news if you’re the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls or any other young team that needs extra months to charge their batteries. It’s more reason for fans to point towards the champion come the middle of June and say the winner was a jip.
The NBA is in strife like no other not because players yearn for equality and the right number of zeros on the end of their paycheck, but because half of the league’s teams are currently in negative numbers financially, and that’s a direct result of the Stern product since 1984.
The Celtics aren’t there. No Boston team ever will be in any lockout. Neither would a team from New York, Los Angeles and maybe even Chicago.
But the fact that this lockout has surpassed that of 1999s fiasco, and has the possibility of seeing basketball no later than February (again), is helpless. And NBA owners are ready to throw in the towel just a week in.
Boston will be fine money wise. Court wise, mentally and altogether physically, probably not. When this happened in 99’, the Celtics went 19-31, finished fifth in the Atlantic Division behind the Knicks and in front of the Wizards.
That was when Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose took the Pacers to their first Finals appearance only to luck out to the Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Bird was also coaching then, and the Celtics were flip- flopping momentarily.
Boy how some things have changed.