I’ve avoided writing about the potential lockout like I’d avoid being trapped in the Octagon with Ron Artest. Quite frankly, I’m in denial. The prospect of a lockout depresses the hell out of me. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if the NBA shuts down for an extended period of time. No League Pass, no barber shop NBA chat, no speculation about Doc Rivers’s rotation, no jokes about Paul Pierce’s facial hair, nothing. And what the hell would I write about?
Well, today Union president Derek Fisher (who I hope gets severely injured) spoke to David Stern (that egotistical genius who may or may not have fudged the NBA’s accounting numbers). The details of the meeting aren’t known, so basically this post is pointless, but the players might actually play basketball at some point in the future.
Not too exciting, eh? Which is why I’ve been in denial. My life, if the NBA locks out, would be uglier than Ben Wallace’s jumper. I couldn’t bring myself to write about a possibility that would leave me life entirely devoid of meaning (a bit dramatic, yes, but do you know how much my life revolves around basketball?).
I just couldn’t do write about it… until now. Larry Coon, and his masterfully informative piece on the NBA’s labor crisis, forced me to finally man up and face the lockout. I HAD to blog about his piece, which means I HAD to stare the lockout in the face, which means I’m damn close to an emotional breakdown of epic proportions. The lockout would kill me, and I’m pretty sure I’m not even exaggerating.
Coon points out all the obstacles standing between the Players Union and the owners. His points are extensive, in-depth, and intelligent. I would list them here, but 1) there are too many, and 2) if you want to enlighten yourself, you’re better off reading everything he wrote. Instead, I’ll list the argument that makes the most sense to me.
So in short, the league wants to replace what they see as a broken system with one where all 30 teams can turn a profit, and can afford to make the financial commitments necessary to compete for a title. “Our goal for our teams, our players, but particularly our fans, is to come up with a model that says that every NBA team can compete,” Stern said in February.
On the other hand, Fisher said that a system in which every team can compete doesn’t imply a system in which teams are insulated from the consequences of bad decisions. “We’ve run into situations where teams have either mismanaged spending, overpaid staff, or made decisions on rosters and personnel that weren’t in their best interest — things that we’re now being asked to take the hit for,” he said. “Each team needs to be responsible for running its business, and we don’t have anything to do with the decisions they make. So why should we be asked to make concessions for mistakes on their end, which we had no control over?”
Red Auerbach, wherever you are, please forgive me – I agree with a Laker. Why should the players make concessions when it’s the owners who are making the bad decisions? Why should the players agree to a hard salary cap and reduced revenue split when owners are willing to offer Brendan Haywood — Brendan fucking Haywood! — $55 million? The players shouldn’t have to make concessions when fiscally responsible and intelligent teams are able to build contenders and earn profits, while the dumbass teams spending $20 million on Darko Milicic, $30 million on Jerome James or $60 million on Eddy Curry build perennial losers. If owners screw up, if teams screw up, they should deal with the consequences themselves. As Fisher said, the players have nothing to do with the poor decisions certain owners make. So why whould they be charged with bailing the owners out?
I don’t consider myself an economics expert, but one thing I learned in school was this: price is determined by the market. If owners can’t afford to pay boat loads of money to fringe players, the answer is simple: don’t do it! With the money spent this summer by teams supposedly bleeding money, it’s hard to believe that the owners are losing cash left and right.
The owners’ defense is that they need to field competitive teams in order to keep butts in the seats. But does Wes Matthews ($33 million contract) sell tickets? Is Travis Outlaw ($35 million contract) going to ensure sell-outs every night? Is anyone going to be sprinting to the store to buy Richard Jeffferson’s ($39 million contract) jersey? How about Tyrus Thomas for $40 million? Anybody buy Bobcats season tickets just to see him play? Not only do the players mentioned in this paragraph fail to sell tickets, but they’re also players who fail to make a big difference in the wins column.
My point is this: the owners don’t need a hard salary cap to stop spending money. Instead of making the players concede certain rights (privileges?), the owners should take a good hard look in the mirror. Then they should stop spending eight figures on bums, stop hiring GMs like David Kahn or Isiah Thomas, and stop running their own franchises into the ground. After those changes, I bet a whole lot more teams would be making money.
Alas, real-life negotiations won’t be as easy as they are in my head. The owners are convinced they need “fundamental changes to the system,” but the players want smaller, less significant, changes. The road ahead will be filled with bumps, arguments, and — if a lockout happens — tears, at least from me.
When I think about the possible lockout, I have only one positive thought:
I hear Shane Falco is one hell of a point guard.