Losers of the Lockout
Ten players who have the most to lose.
by Matt Domino / @PuddlesofMyself
All NBA fans are depressed. The news that came out of this past week, namely the decertification of the Players’ Union, means that we will most likely not have an NBA season in ‘11-12. As Bill Simmons wrote last Friday, there is no one to like or truly side with in this whole mess—and that is really what the NBA Lockout has been, a complete and utter mess.
This has been one of the most poorly handled negotiations not only in sports history, but also in history in general. All of this is true, all of this is depressing, but it is the reality we are stuck with in this moment.
So, looking ahead to a lost season, I’ve listed the 10 players who will be the most affected by not being able to play. Opinions are purely subjective, but I feel that anyone who has followed the NBA over the past year will be able to see my logic, even if you disagree with it.
When looking at the NBA and sports in general, I tend to look at the larger story of an individual player rather than the specific stats. Like many people, the enjoyment I get from sports comes from the stories and the historical meaning that certain players provide, rather than the numbers. And I think that is important.
Obviously everyone has a lot to lose with this lockout, but here are the 10 players I feel who stand to lose the most without being able to play in ‘11-12.
10. Marc Gasol
This might seem like a strange entry to some people, but when you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. We were always wondering if Marc Gasol would live up to his potential or if the Grizzlies truly did give away Pau Gasol for nothing back in 2008. In the 2011 Playoffs, Marc finally touched on the ability many of his supporters saw in him. He averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds during the Grizzlies’ thrilling run to the Western Conference Semifinals, which in the process made them the most fun team to watch since the ’06-07 Golden State Warriors. Gasol and Zach Randolph completely anchored the front court and provided two great and completely different playing styles that frustrated the Spurs and the Thunder. Marc was steady every night and even showed the similar flair for passing (inside and out) that his brother Pau showcases on the Lakers. With so much momentum going into ‘11-12 and Memphis extending his qualifying offer, you knew that someone was going to offer him big money. And while that still may be the case when NBA play does resume, momentum means a lot in a sports society (or even society at large) that has such a short memory. Marc Gasol certainly doesn’t have the most to lose without a season, but he would have benefited greatly from a competitive bidding war had NBA play resumed as normal.
9. Dirk Nowitzki
“Wait a second,” you’ll probably say. “What does the best player on the defending champs, a player who just made an heroic and historical run to the title and vaulted himself up the All-Time Greats list have to possibly lose?” Well, sort of a lot. Like I said, momentum means a lot in the NBA and even though Dirk could benefit from the rest, I’m sure that he and the rest of the Mavericks were eager to defend their title. Pat Riley has often spoken of the disease of “Me” in defending champions, but that sort of illness didn’t seem like it would be possible in the DNA of Dirk and the Mavericks as they are currently constructed and they most likely would have had a good shot of repeating as champions. Now, though, when the NBA resumes next year, Kidd will be even older as will other vets like Jason Terry and Shawn Marion and while those guys are savvy enough to keep themselves in game shape without regular play, there is no accounting for the power of time on an athlete’s body. The Mavs may benefit from the extended time off and approach the next NBA season with the fervor of defending champs, but after a torturous and messy lockout, Dirk and the Mavs may lost the hard-earned swagger they would have carried into ‘11-12 as the defending NBA Champions.
8. Derrick Williams/Kyrie Irving
OK, I know these are two different players, but their collective pro experience only really makes them one full NBA player. Fine, if you want to get technical than this list has eleven players on it. Sue me!
Anyway, both Irving and Williams had a lot to prove in the ‘11-12 season. They were the top two picks in a draft that was regarded as the weakest draft class in NBA history. Irving had only played a handful of games for Duke as a freshman and though he was impressive, there were significant questions about how good he would actually be in the NBA; how high his ceiling was. Williams showcased his talents on a national stage during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, especially against Duke in the Sweet 16, where he was basically dominant: hitting threes, grabbing ferocious rebounds and killing morale with powerful dunks. Many people thought he should have been the number one pick instead of going to Minnesota at number two where he joined a confused front line with a lot of overlap. Both Irving and Williams were probably itching to get on to the floor and prove their worth and make their case as the best player from the Draft. Now their rookie seasons are indefinitely postponed and the pundits have more time to wonder and they have to continue to endure waiting to play in their first NBA game. And like Tom Petty said, “waiting is the hardest part.”
7. Carlos Boozer
Poor Carlos Boozer. Alright fine maybe not “poor Carlos Boozer,” but he definitely loses a lot without an NBA season in ‘11-12. Boozer was one of the most high profile free agents in the Summer of 2010 and he landed with a Chicago Bulls team where we was a perfect fit alongside Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose. He had to battle back from injury, but he helped the Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference. But Boozer disappeared in the Playoffs, especially against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Some said his disappearance was due to nagging injuries, some questioned his fitness and still others questioned his overall ability. If there was anyone who was anxious to get on the court and let his play silence the critics, it was Boozer. Now, he has to keep those doubts swirling in his head while he gets another year older. And age is not on his side at this point. Alas, poor Carlos!