Holy 1990's NBA anyone!
With yesterday's long-rumored trade finally going down, the balance of power has officially shifted to the East. Consider that while most free agents—Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash—re-signed with their original teams, those that left—Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo, Williams and soon Chris Paul—all wound up in the Eastern Conference.
As a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, let me say this: I am not sad to see the Denver Nuggets get worse, nor am I fretting over the impending loss and perceived ineptitude that the Utah Jazz will find themselves in next year if we don't have a lockout.
I think there will be a lockout next year, guaranteed.
No way will they get a deal done by the June 30, 2011 deadline. Although the NFL will have a lockout too, the only difference is, I highly doubt any games will be lost. If they are, it will be two to four at the most with training camps and OTA's being cut short, etc. Besides the 100 percent certainty of a lockout, I'd personally put the chances at an entire season lost at 95 percent. To see my reasoning behind this, check out a recent article that highlights all the problems the league has to fix and just how far apart they are in doing so:
NBA Must Lockout and Not Come Back Until They've Reached NFL-Like Parity. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/566304-nba-must-lockout-and-not-come-back-until-theyve-reached-nba-like-parity
In the 1990s when I started to really watch basketball, the power teams were the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Los Angeles Lakers. Now, everything remains the same except the Seattle Sonics, who remain powerful but have relocated to Oklahoma City under the guise of the Thunder.
Amidst everything that has happened with Miami's "Big Three", Boston's Big Four or New York's recent move is the fact that this is all occuring within the same conference. Don't these athetes understand that they are going to have to go through each other and beat up on each other just to emerge from the East, let alone win the NBA Finals?
As a fan of a Western Conference club, I couldn't be happier. After years of seeing the East send multiple teams to the playoffs with sub-.500 records (this year is no exception see Philadelphia and Indiana currently seeded) while Western teams don't have a shot without at least 49 wins, this will be a welcome surprise.
In 1996, the Timberwolves first trip to the postseason, they were the eighth seed with a 40-42 record. How I long for those days to return. Why? Because my team is one of the worst in the league, and actually getting to the postseason is going to be like winning the first round of the NBA playoffs. Watching select games on TV proves that the base has abandoned the team; they don't even sell the upper deck anymore as its cloaked in black lighting visible on live tv.
Consider what is going on in the East:
1. Chicago Bulls: Noah, Rose, Boozer
2. Miami Heat: LeBron, Wade, Bosh
3. Celtics: Garnett, Rondo, Pierce, Allen
4. New York: Carmelo, Stoudemir, Paul
5. Orlando: Hedo, Howard, Nelson (to some extent)
6. New Jersey: Lopez, Williams
If you don't have at least two big players, you're done. It's for this reason alone the Hawks can't be taken seriously. Sure, they'll win their usual 50 games, but in the end they'll be lucky if they make the second round.
Now that Deron Williams has been traded to the Nets, Chris Paul will be the third guy headed to New York at the first chance he gets. However, the Nets aren't going to stop there.
Williams is going to need at least one other star to go with him and Lopez as it takes three to do anything in this league now. Who is that going to be? Gallinari doesn't cut it in my eyes, as he's actually a fourth option similar to Boston's Big Four".
Mike Greenberg, on yesterday's Mike and Mike, told his co-host Mike Golic that because of Howard's aspirations to get into movies and craving for the limelight, he'd "bet him anything he wants that Howard will go to the Lakers."
While I've heard this possibility before, as a pseudo Magic fan (since my Wolves never make the playoffs and we have to adopt a team that does until then) it would be devastating to think that Shaq II could happen again, involving the very same two franchises. One would be rejuvinated and the other nearly destroyed within 15 years of each other.
We all know David Stern has his favorite franchises and Lord knows the Lakers and their Hollywood crowd won't be allowed to fail as most clubs would, the Penguin-look-alike (think Batman) will probably facilitate a trade, ala Jerry West and Pau Gasol's screwjob from Memphis a few years ago.
This is exactly this reason why the league must—and will—lockout come next summer. I could care less when we see the product again; in fact, the later the better. I want the NBA to fail, at least in its current form. You know the saying "In order for things to get better, they are first going to have to get worse?" Well, I give you the lockout.
A lockout is necessary because, as of right now, its not fair. There is no parity, and the same damn six markets keep rotating championships every few years (look it up last 31 years: San Antonio 4, Los Angeles Lakers 10, Detroit Pistons 3, Chicago Bulls 6, Houston Rockets 2, Boston Celtics 4)
This isn't just a my-team-has-no-chance sour grapes article; in fact, these "Super Teams" are cool for the short term. The fact that my team isn't one of them is irrelevant.
For the short term suddenly I care about New York again, remember when I was growing up they were good. I can't wait to see which order these teams knock each other off and who's left standing. The problem is long term, however. It's a terrible, terrible thing because you are going to have 20-22 irrelevant markets.
As much of a jerk as LeBron is, when he and his lackies teamed up on South Beach in addition to Stoudemire going to New York or the Twins (Allen and Pierce) re-signing in Boston, I was captivated by the "Summer of 2010" as the greatest class ever because I wanted to see where everyone ended up. I wanted a shift in the balance of power, and I got it. I paid more attention to the NBA offseason and this season as a result.
But also, as someone who has been to several NBA games this year in different cities and states, I've seen what the market can do for a big team or a small team and the empty arenas that can result. Unless one of these marquee teams is in your town, a normal midweek game draws maybe 1/2 to 1/3 its capacity. Its just killing, and I mean killing, these small markets.
I've never seen anything like it. If that doesn't wake Stern up nothing will. Sure, he's happy now and his ratings will reflect that, but get back to me in November when they still aren't playing.
Who's going to get the last laugh on this whole thing? Stern's arrogance and backwardness on a "star driven league" versus the team concept of other sports is precisely what is going to kill it. Unless, that is, changes are made with the new CBA. If you think a simple "franchise tag" is going to solve it, think again.
Maybe when Stern sees all the money that is lost he will change his method of thinking? It's the only way Stern and this "Me-First" generation of athletes led by LeBron and his cohorts are going to learn.
What about contraction? More on that in part II of my next article.
Information from Mike and Mike in the Morning and ESPN.com directly contributed to the content of this article.