More on the NBA lockout to come, but I wanted to touch briefly on the posturing from both sides and why I really see no end in sight in for thevAssociation.
This brief report from ESPN reports the news that David Stern is threatening to cancel the entire 2011-12 NBA season if a deal, or at least the framework of one, isn’t reached by the end of the week. This seems like an incredibly desperate negotiation tactic and one that is bound to be received by poorly by all sides (unless you’re a small-market owner hemorrhaging money).
As much as I have a love/hate relationship with Grantland, Bill Simmons’ long-form site does a good job of writing about the NBA (it is the ultimate nerdy white-guy sport) and explaining the ongoing lockout drama. In fact, a piece yesterday by Jonathan Abrams and Simmons introduced you to some of the cringe-worthy contracts on each and every NBA team that owners are desperately trying to find outs for. One can see why a piss-poor team like the Charlotte Bobcats would want to get out of owing DeSagana Diop $14.3 million over the next two years when he has barely played at all over the past three. One can also see why Diop wouldn’t want to give up that money.
As a fan, it’s awful to see the NBA follow-up its most successful season in over a decade with this. It should be riding high and even casual fans should be talking about the Association before the season starts. But it’s looking like there won’t be a season for a very long time. And while that’s a blessing and a curse for a Rockets fan, it’s horrible for a basketball fan.
It can be difficult to justify saying that the NBA is an “under-appreciated” league when it’s an industry that brings in billions of dollars a year. But, compared to the NFL, college football and big-market baseball, the NBA often putters along until the playoffs when there isn’t anything competing against it on television (sorry hockey). Prior to the 2010-11 season, regular season games were for die-hards only. Suddenly, watching the Heat and Lakers became an event and there were more marketable stars across the league than there had been in the past decade.
However, owners in Milwaukee, Charlotte and Sacramento, among others, are saying that under-appreciation is a key reason for their “dire” financial situations. They don’t get to share in the Lakers/Clippers’ luxurious television revenues and they can’t sell LeBron, Kobe or Yi jerseys to a basketball-mad population in China. But they also paid tens of millions of dollars for Drew Gooden, drafted Adam Morrison with the third-overall pick and alienated one of the most passionate fan bases in sports, respectively. So they haven’t really given their markets a reason to appreciate them at all.
It’s going to be very sad if the NBA misses what could be its most important season ever. The league certainly does have real financial issues, unlike the NFL which was arguing over how to split up billions in revenue. But the players and owners are in a Mexican stand-off (cue imbed of clip from “Inglorious Basterds” that I can’t find on YouTube) and neither side appears to budge.
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