Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why I Don't Have A Problem With the NBA Lockout

By Charlie Scaturro

If you've been following along with the content here on Send It In Jerome, you know that I enjoy watching and writing about the NBA. 

But with the recent news that the league has locked out its players, a move which will most likely lead to a long and bitter work stoppage, the fears of NBA fans all over the country have been realized.  And even though this far from surprising development may leave me with less to write about and less basketball to watch (two of the more mundane consequences among the wide ranging affects that an NBA work stoppage will cause), I find myself content with the drama that's beginning to unfold between the players association and the owners.

As of Friday, July 1st, all NBA business transactions have come to a complete halt, the league has stripped it's official website of all images of current players, and most important for the average sports fan, it appears that the he (or she) will be dragged through the mud while an ugly standoff between the players and the owners who sign their checks begins to take shape.

Thus far, the players association, the owners, and David Stern have made little progress and many (including myself) have been preparing for a serious standoff long before the lockout deadline officially came and went without a new agreement in place.

With the NBA having just enjoyed one of its most exciting seasons in quite some time, it's hard to argue that what figures to transpire over the coming weeks and months will be anything but bad for the game.  The thought of David Stern, who is apparently "resigned to the potential damage it (a lockout) could cause," presiding over fruitless months of arguing between the owners, the players association, and their lawyers, is enough to make anyone who even remotely cares about the game sick to their stomach. 

As someone who loves the NBA,  the fact that this extended bickering figures to wipe out some, if not all, of the upcoming season isn't my first choice, but I still don't have a problem with the lockout.  This is because it's become clear to me that the system is broken and if it takes a lengthy lockout to fix professional basketball in America, then so be it.

After years of hearing about how the NBA is losing hundreds of millions of dollars, witnessing the trade deadline turn into a game of "how can we unload/acquire expiring contracts to our benefit," and watching as general managers around the league offer ridiculous contracts to players who have no business making half as much as they're signing for, a lockout of this magnitude has been brewing for some time. This current lockout, which could easily cause the NBA to miss regular season games, isn't ideal but at this point, it seems like a necessary evil for the NBA to fix the problems that have plagued the league for some time.

Whether it's the issue of a hard salary cap, the owners wanting to even out the revenue split, or the players insistence that guaranteed contracts remain the norm in the NBA, it certainly seems like both sides are very far apart from reaching a place where they will be able to solve these differences.   

Apparently, whether or not the owners are actually losing money is up for debate, but what's not up for debate is that a system which allows Jeff Foster to make $6.6 million dollars just doesn't seem financially sustainable even for a league which is as popular and vast as the NBA. 

I don't think it's a stretch to say that both the players and the owners are, in part, responsible for the NBA's financial issues and it appears that both sides will be cut down to size by a lockout. 

The players will almost certainly take a pay cut, which regardless of how big or small, will show them that times of economic downturn hurt everyone- including those who stand 6'9'' and can palm a basketball like most people palm an orange.

In all likelihood, the majority of these pay cuts will affect the NBA's middle class which will still allow stars like LeBron James and Dwight Howard, who drive a majority of the revenue and interest in the game to make their money, but should stop role players from making upwards of $8 or $9 million dollars a year.  Obviously, the players who will be taking this pay cut will be fighting along with the union to prevent this from becoming a reality, but it's not the end of the world if a team's fourth and fifth starters have to take a pay cut so the NBA as a whole can function in a way which is sustainable.

These middle-of-the-road players will still make more money than 99 percent of people in the world and they will still live exceedingly comfortable lives, even if they will have to make a few concessions.

The owners will, in turn, become more hated by the general public than they already are, and they will also (hopefully) have to take on more responsibility for their actions, even if said action is offering Darko Milicic a four-year $20 million dollar contract.  I can understand that the owners have been put in a tough situation by the current system which guarantees a player every penny they sign for, regardless of how they perform.

At the same time, these owners need to get smarter about the contracts they're offering to players who aren't stars and realize that it might not be a good idea to sign a bench payer to a $30 million dollar deal.

As bad as things have already gotten, it's almost certain that they will have to get worse before the players association and the owners soften and come to a compromise.  The current system is beyond dysfunctional and if you love the NBA, or really the game of basketball, you have every right to be disappointed that things seem to be heading in the wrong direction, but at the same time, we should realize that a bitter work stoppage is the only way to make things right.

Unfortunately, such is the cold reality of a world in which Jeff Foster makes $6.6 million dollars, as owners around the league wonder why their teams are losing money.

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