As expected, neither side of the NBA’s power structure, the acts or the management could come to an agreement yesterday and they became the second major pro sport to “lockout” its talent. With that said, the issues that are separating the NBA are much more radical than the one’s facing the NFL. The NBA has essentially become the most segregated (financial) league in the game, even with a salary cap in place. And whenever dollars being discussed, sense goes out the window, and pushing every single issue as far as it can be shoved in order for every side to have their grievances aired is the order of the day….or month….or year.
Essentially the NBA has closed ranks on everything around it and won’t even be beginning discussions for weeks. When they do start they will be essentially be wiping the structure of the League clean and reformatting it. This could, and will, take a long time to sort out, and an abbreviated season is guaranteed. Even when they locked out for lesser issues in 1998-99 they still only played 50 games and by many accounts this one will be much tougher to sort out.
So what if it’s off the board completely? David Stern is going to be highest paid custodian in America trying to clean up the mess his league is headed into. No NBA for the next 12 months…what issues on the court get altered? How do some careers take the fall with lost time on the court…but increased age picked up in the process? Does the very direction of the League itself get altered due to what is decided in the indefinite amount of meetings that are on deck? While it’s too early to say how exactly it shakes loose, here are 10 issues and scenarios that could come to play out if the NBA debates win out over the game itself.
10. Big men rest big injuries for longer: Greg Oden and Yao Ming have been two of the biggest shadows looming over the NBA for the last few years, but haven’t given anything back at all. Combined they have played a total of 91 minutes across 5 games last year (belonging to Yao). However, height is the one thing you don’t give up on (unless it’s Eddy Curry), so both of these former #1 overall picks still have some value (and apparently its $8.8 million for Oden already). Both are due to see freedom of the restricted variety soon, and with some extra time to heal up they could manage to glue their potential back together.
9. Study Abroad: Could there be more instances of Josh Childress-like moves across seas from free agent NBAers? It’s not completely likely due to the fact that it all could get resolved sometime mid contract for anybody that goes across seas, but it wouldn’t be completely unlikely to see a few guys in need of a payday head across the pond.
8. The Raptors get their guy earlier: The Raptors draft Jonas Valanciunas with the intent on waiting for him to fulfill his contract in Lithuania and join them in 2012. Well now with the NBA potentially not even starting up until 2012 itself, he could have been the steal of the Draft as he could be right on time showing up now. This could be a stroke of drafting genius, as landing a 7 footer with athleticism and the ability to stop the ball at the rim is always a benefit in today’s NBA where that is becoming more and more rare.
7. The end of the Tim Duncan: If somehow a shortened season happens, then forget all of this about him. He’ll be ready to go next year and in a leading fashion unlike he has served in the last few years most likely, due to not having to save himself for as many games. However, if this lasts over a full season, then what’s left of Timmy could be lost in time, as he definitely has a very short leash left in his reserves.
6. Boost to the College Game…at the right time: Basketball fans are going to get hungry for the game. And while there are some hardcore NBA fans who could care less about the college game at all, by the time February comes around and there is no All-Star game, they thirst for some kind of basketball will be overwhelming, and the turn will go back to the college courts. With more talent returning to school this season than in any other recent season (largely because this now real lockout was looming), the college game should be better than it has been in many years.
5. Double the kids: Speaking of the youth, there could be a double dose of that hitting the league at once if this lasts into next summer. Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis or Perry Jones could be joining Kyrie Irving as a double debuting #1 pick next year. Take the NHL for example: when their season was missed in 2004-05 they had a totally open Lottery with position based on most frequent times choosing #1 and Playoff appearances over the last three years. This would be really bad for the Cavs, but could spell money for the Clippers, Wizards and Timberwolves of the world. At any rate, that could raise the comp for Rookie of the Year to an epic level…whenever it may be competed for.
4. Kobe’s run up the record books: He reaching rarefied air in the NBA record books, but he’s also 14 years in and at over 48,000 minutes played at the demanding guard position. So while time isn’t over yet, it’s definitely nowhere near endless anymore. He just had plasma therapy done on his knee and it is the third procedure within the last year to ease what has become a constant issue for him. #24 would be best served by not having any of his time wasted away from being on the court. Plus, he’ll be charged with rallying what will be a much different Laker club around himself, and having the certainty of when he’ll need to take to that task would definitely help.
3. The balance of power in the East: The East will look really different in one way or another when this is all resolved, and either way it won’t end up like it was projected to before the books were opened and revised. The Knicks attempt at following the Heat’s talent stocking model will probably be capped (no pun intended) at Carmelo and Amare. The Heat themselves may even have to drop one of their marquee names (bye Bosh). The Celtics will feel the burn of the sands of time more than any other club that isn’t based out of San Antonio. They were biding their time already with the Big Three, and they are the only contender in the division that is pushing for the title with a completely past their prime core. Either way, the future is looking good for teams that are already set.
2. The Biggest Olympics since ’92: If no basketball happens until the Olympic tip-off in July 2012, it will be the most anticipated moment in U.S. basketball in a long time. It will be a matter of national pride on the biggest stage and the return of NBA ballers of the highest caliber. It won’t be Jordan, Magic and Bird linking up for the first time and they definitely won’t be destroying the opponents 40 points, but it will definitely be Heaven on Basketball Earth to say the least.
1. What really changes what would have been: The communist v. proletariat way the NBA was headed in is over. This could lead to a lot of “What if” scenarios along those lines to not happen, simply because how funds (and how much will be available) is simply an unknown. One thing that is for certain is the majority of NBA owners are going to do everything in their power to spread money out more even to ensure they don’t continue to lose on their investment (only seven teams made money a year ago). Also, the small market owners are going to see to it that it’s much, much harder for their franchise saviors to jump ship to more attractive teams and larger markets.
The value of the dollar is going to be reshaped tremendously, and will likely favor keeping teams intact. So Dwight Howard to LA could get considerably tougher without the Lakers moving out nearly everything. The Knicks extra piece may not be Chris Paul or Deron Williams, and speaking of Williams, this could mean a definite stay in Jersey. Looking ahead at other guys not on contenders that could be looking to jump into future mixes such as Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, it won’t be as easy to go from the cellar to the penthouse, and a promotion up the ladder of success may stop with the Orlandos, Indianas and Houstons of the world.
Overall, the times are changing, both the past is very subject to the future.