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Did the NBA Lockout Actually Make This Season Better?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  NBA Commissioner David Stern (R) and Former Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Billy Hunter speak to members of the press to announce a tentative labor agreement to end the 149-day lockout on November 26, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Roy BurtonContributor IMay 28, 2012

With record ratings and exciting matchups virtually every night, it's fair to ask: Did the lockout actually make the 2011-12 NBA season better?

The answer is no, but reaching that conclusion isn't as obvious as you may think.

There was a lot to like about the condensed, 66-game schedule. Playoff races in both conferences came down to the final night of the season, and television ratings were at record levels.

The excitement surrounding the NBA this year didn't go unnoticed in the league office. Three weeks ago, commissioner David Stern even stated that he would "raise the issue" of making a shorter season permanent, but realized that the new collective bargaining agreement would likely prevent any such change.

Not surprisingly, the primary obstacle to compressing the TV schedule is money—specifically, the fact that everyone would get less of it if there are fewer games that are scheduled each year.

Players received roughly 80 percent of their contracted salaries this season, since 16 games were cut from the normal 82-game slate. Fewer games also meant less revenue for team owners, arena operators, sponsors and television networks.

Money aside, there is little chance that the National Basketball Players Association would agree to a shorter schedule due to the rash of injuries this year. While it's difficult to draw a direct correlation, it appears as though the lockout and the compressed schedule resulted in a greater-than-average number of games missed by the league's superstars this season.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls is examined after suffering an injury against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 28, 2012 in C
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

"I think some part of it is luck and some part of it is lack of preparedness by our players before the season began," said Stern earlier this month. "It's a combination of things."

What is clear is that the quality of the product took a noticeable hit this season. NBA teams averaged 96.3 points per game, a decrease of more than three points per game from 2010-11. Field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages were all distinctly lower as well: the by-product of playing so many games in such a limited amount of time.

Those declines can also be chalked up to the lack of a full training camp as well as the insane spate of back-to-backs that teams had to slog through this season.

Fortunately, it's something that we won't have to worry about again for quite some time. The new CBA guarantees labor peace for at least the next five seasons. However, if either the owners or the players opt-out of the deal in 2017, don't be surprised if the NBA attempts to make a shorter season a permanent fixture.

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