Lockout Drama 2011
The NBA’s problems are worse than you think.
by Doobie Okon
At some point a few months ago, a legitimate fear was established that America would lose not one, but two of its major sports for their respective, upcoming seasons. Folks, we may never see a year quite like this again, so be aware that you are currently witnessing history… and the dumbest history at that.
The NFL and NBA did have one thing in common: the aforementioned fear of a possible lockout for ’11-12. And it pretty much stops right there.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m an expert on antitrust issues, revenue sharing and all the rest of that legal mumbo-jumbo. But I do greatly enjoy getting the takes of my fellow fanatics on all issues sports-related, and obviously these two impending league nightmares has had everyone talking lockout for the first time since the NHL closed off its doors in ’04-05. And the general assessment I’ve gathered from talking, and listening, and watching: Hmm…nobody really cares about the NBA right now. Especially when you compare the NBA’s current state of affairs to the NFL’s four-month-long migraine.
It’s everywhere. It’s in the players’ attitudes and quotes. It’s in the fans’ sentiments. It’s In the commissioners’ efforts. The difference between these two leagues, and the varying degrees of urgency in regards to getting them back on the field/court, is palpable.
Sure, the NFL took lightyears (at least it seemed like forever) to hash out all its issues. Indeed, the two sides were a billion dollars apart in the beginning. Yes, there were some harsh back-and-forths between the owners and players, much of the time via Twitter. Again, so dumb. But at least both sides were heated since the NFL’s lockout officially began on March 3. And for the right reason—everyone was just frustrated that football might be taken away for seemingly negotiable issues. Players wanted in on meetings and discussions. Owners and league commissioner Roger Goodell—say what you want about them—were all extremely adamant about getting a new CBA done. And now, it’s done. An effective, 10-year agreement at that, too.
And while this hellish process was going on, the fans paid attention. It seemed that many people were aware of the frequent deadlines and court rulings. And interestingly enough, now that the NFL is back in full throttle, people seem even more excited! Anyone who was pissed off at the NFL for being too greedy or whatever has probably long forgotten those feelings now that football will be played. Everyone is craving the preseason, which is usually so bland and meaningless, just because it’ll be so refreshing, and relieving, to see the players actually out on the field.
Now, while the NFL was dealing with this from March-June, we were actually treated to an amazing NBA postseason. I even wrote an article, ‘The Saving Postseason?‘, back on April 18 in hopes that the 2011 second season might save the League’s popularity. Now what happened two months later? The Dallas Mavericks, indeed, capped off one of the most memorable postseasons, and Finals, in recent memory.
There were amazing games and performances in the Playoffs, storylines abound in the Finals, and with Dirk Nowitzki stamping his legend in LeBron’s face (and the rest of America’s too), it seemed like there might be some hope for the future.
But now that the postseason is done and the NFL’s lockout problems are pretty much over… the NBA’s horrible status is that much more magnified. And no, I’m not talking about the actual monetary issues that are prohibiting a new CBA, but rather everyone’s attitude toward it.
The players? Wow. If nothing else tells you the trouble this league is in, look at Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Carlos Boozer… and all the other players signed on to play in Europe or in talks to. And look at Players Association executive director, Billy Hunter, whose given his blessing to all players to play in Europe. Doesn’t he want some help getting this season back? Well yeah, I’m sure he does, but that’s how certain he is of the impossibility of a deal getting done. It’s truly sad.
And I know basketball is way more popular overseas than American football is, but still, would Tom Brady or Troy Polamalu ever consider playing for the Berlin Adler or the Bologna Warriors? I’m pretty sure if any one of the NFL stars went over to Europe, football would absolutely blow up over there too. But no, it wasn’t even a speck of a consideration because no NFL season is flat-out unacceptable to everyone. But many of the NBA players are perfectly fine with this impending lockout and are more than happy to go play elsewhere.
How ’bout the fans? Yeah. How ’bout em. I’ll tell you what… now that football is back, is anyone paying attention to the NBA lockout? No. Because there are no updates. There’s no impending court rulings or deadlines, at least any crucial ones that could result in the season actually being played. And with many players jetting across the ocean, how could hope exist among the fans? We were told during the entire NFL lockout: a deal will get done, even if it is in the last minute. We’re being told now about the NBA: No chance in hell.
Lastly, David Stern. Yes, Roger Goodell irks me and I don’t find him to be the commissioner from heaven, but at least he played a key role in the lockout proceedings. David Stern, meanwhile, proposed a cap salary of $2 billion which had no hopes of igniting any kind of new CBA since that would disregard any future league revenue increase thus completely screwing the players. What this proposal really said: David Stern is in no rush to settle this. And the players know it, so they are taking their talents elsewhere.
All in all, the urgency to get something done, or even to start negotiations, is slim and greatly decreasing by the day…and with every European signing as well. Even when things seemed very bleak between NFL players and owners, optimism still reigned supreme and both sides were motivated and willing to negotiate as long as it took. Now, well… let’s just say the NBA’s problems are worse than you think.
— “I thought with the season we had and the TV ratings that we had and this being one of the largest grossing revenue season’s in the history of the game, you would think that we would be able to reach an agreement. But we are so far apart.” – Andre Iguodala
— “I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way.” – David Stern
— “Stern and the owners are articulating certain things in the room, expressing their desire to get a deal done. But where their proposal lies makes it hard to believe that.” – Derek Fisher
— “The NBA is coming off a record season. We’ve got a lot of momentum going. Everybody hates what happened in Miami, but it brought a lot of attention to the League. Dallas finally gets a championship. We’ve got a great thing going and we’re about to shut the League down.” – Danny Granger
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This lockout could have serious effects beyond this year, and we don’t even know what those could be. If the two sides are indeed so far apart—start closing the gap inch by inch. Get serious, Stern. Stop prancing off to Europe, players. Everyone needs to stay here and focus on saving the NBA’s image, which is dwindling mightily in so many ways.
The NFL knew scrapping the season would solve absolutely nothing. It’s just be so dumb. I keep saying ‘dumb’ because these are billion-dollar industries. These leagues rely on their games and fans and merchandise to keep those dollars in flux. The NHL, back in 2004, needed a lockout. They were suffering financially and popularity-wise. The NBA… doesn’t. They need tweaking, albeit major tweaking at that. But that’s not something a lockout, involving multiple superstars going overseas and a serious lack of urgency from both sides to get a deal done, will help.
Welcome to Lockout Drama ’11—it’s somehow actually made the NFL even more popular but at the same time is about to do some long-term, serious damage to our precious National Basketball Association. I’m just saying…it’s a little scary, right?