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NBA Lockout: 10 Consequences of an Extended Work Stoppage

Robert KleemanSenior Analyst IJuly 29, 2011

NBA Lockout: 10 Consequences of an Extended Work Stoppage

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    The NFL’s labor parties averted a doomsday scenario by concluding Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations just before the scheduled start of training camps. That lockout’s lone casualty, the Hall of Fame exhibition in Canton, should not matter to anyone outside of the area.

    I tried to compile a list of items, events and people more stolid and useless than the annual Ohio joust. Kim Kardashian’s embarrassing single “Jam,” Final Destination 5 and those plastic singing fishes came to mind.

    Point being, the league’s work stoppage did not cause any irreparable damage. Roger Goodell escaped unscathed. Few will remember that fans booed him at the 2011 draft two years from now.

    My reaction when I hear others rejoice that “football is back:” where did it go?

    Barring a miracle save, the NBA stands to lose a lot in its CBA dispute. Basketball will leave for at least a month or two. I can almost guarantee missed games without boasting marvelous inside connections or exclusive access to the boardroom.

    Even Beavis and Butthead would say, “Uh, this sucks.” Prepare for a contentious clash as gruesome as a Susan Boyle sex tape and as unforgiving as Clint Eastwood in kill mode.

    Lakers owner Jerry Buss forked up $112 million for a team that bowed in the second round.

    For those living under city-block-size boulders, a band of distraught, mostly small-market owners wishes the system prohibited Mr. Buss from embarrassing them so. Despite the drivel peddled to you that the chiefs want a new deal that allows all 30 franchises to compete for a championship (thanks for that priceless quote, Adam Silver), understand that many of these supposed revolutionaries are just tired of looking like cheapskates.

    The much bandied about hard cap, would lessen the gulf between the highest and lowest spenders. The NBA’s biggest problem, in this writer’s mind, is that both of those organizations operate in California. It doesn’t help that the Lakers and Sacramento Kings also boast the most and least lucrative local television deals.

    Do not put any stock in the slated Monday meeting. The players and owners will negotiate with urgency and purpose when the lockout begins to injure the bottom line.

    Only when those checkbooks become susceptible to a Tonya Harding-esque beating will either side rush back to the bargaining table.

    This cockamamie rumpus forced already substantial personnel cuts and threatens to swallow much more than just the careers of team employees and scouts. Thank David Stern for his staggering sanctimoniousness in this opaque cataclysm.

    “[The 1999 lockout] provided an instructive lesson,” he said at his All-Star weekend news conference.

    It wasn’t instructive enough. The two sides sit in the same catastrophic position 13 years later, with no resolution in sight.

    The obvious question here—whether any work-related dispute is ever worth such carnage—is a topic for another column. What matters now is that owners want the players to solve the league’s financial crisis by giving back salary privileges decades in the making, and the players think the owners can accomplish most of their objectives with robust revenue sharing.

    Until one labor party moves closer to the other or makes a significant concession, expect darkness to shroud the NBA.

    If labor Armageddon forces the cancellation of the entire 2011-2012 campaign, Stern might rue the casualties 10 years from now. Some pundits might argue the sport had just recovered from its last infuriating quarrel when this one began.

    Every die-hard hoops fan should hope for that unlikely revelation. Can we survive an entire fall with college pigskin, heaping helpings of Peyton Manning and no professional ballers on the hardwood? Please excuse me while I suppress the vomit approaching my esophagus.

    Here are 10 consequences of an extended layoff and a terminated season. Some qualify as positive developments, while others will stain the product for years.

NBA Copies the NHL

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    The hoops bosses also in charge of hockey franchises salivate at the mere thought of implementing a CBA that mimics the NHL. The set 2011-2012 hard cap: $64 million.

    The league’s revamped CBA eliminated the exceptions so prevalent in the NBA’s system and further eroded the spending advantage the bigger market clubs had enjoyed.

    Ted Leonsis owns both the Washington Wizards and Capitals. You may remember this oops comment from last fall. The NBA levied a $100,000 penalty for his unwanted remarks. He also said in May 2010, that the NHL was superior because its governing document protected “owners from taking stupid pills.”

    The longer this thing drags on, the more likely hard-liners Robert Sarver, Leonsis, Wyc Grousbeck and Stan Kroenke get the salary structure they crave.

    That means saying goodbye to the NBA’s middle class, an uproarious prospect for supporting cast members in every market. Keep in mind that Chris Paul is the lone All-Star serving on the union’s board. The rest are role players sure to get screwed by such a system.

Increased Outrage and Another Fan Exodus

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    If you thought ’99 was dreadful, wait until the 2011 squabble between billionaires and millionaires endangers the sacred Christmas Day slate.

    If the former lockout spurred disillusionment, unrest and abandonment, how will casual supporters respond to a salary dispute just after a double-dip recession?

    Some will leave again and never look back. Stern should not worry about a drastic TV ratings dip or an alarming decrease in season-ticket sales once the sides hammer out an agreement. He should, however, expect this public tussle to sting.

    Those who spent Thursday nights religiously watching Derrick Rose’s awesome athletic feats on TNT will continue to do so. The infrequent consumers are the ones likeliest to bolt, and that segment of a team and league’s overall patronage still matters.

Devastating Employment Cutbacks

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    Dwight Howard will survive the work stoppage. The guy who sells popcorn at Staples Center, the humble ticket taker at Madison Square Garden, that sweet Charlotte Bobcats sales representative and numerous video coordinators might not.

    Many of the staff members who make up the fabric of the in-game experience may get the heave-ho. Many already have.

    Withstanding the gale-force winds of a labor disagreement becomes much easier with millions and billions in the bank. Howard has enough money to buy luxury sports cars for everyone in his family.

    The hired hands manning concession stands, merchandise booths and phone lines must often scrape together enough to take the family to Applebee’s.

Tim Duncan, Other Hall of Famers Call it Quits

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    In championing and leading the movement for change, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt may cost his franchise its last chance at a championship with Tim Duncan.

    The 35-year-old, future Hall of Famer still has many gifts, but time isn’t one. His contract expires in 2012 and he may decide his decorated career should do the same. A shortened season might afford him the legs and the exuberance necessary to reach the NBA’s peak a fifth time.

    A solid-to-great showing may convince him to play another two years. A cancelled season, though, portends retirement on the worst terms.

    Can his body clock survive an entire year with no organized basketball? Doubtful.

    This lockout places the careers of so many beloved veterans in jeopardy. Those who cherished the exploits and faculties of Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Marcus Camby, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady should prepare for their unceremonious exits.

    A few of those ultra-familiar faces will return, no matter what happens. Many of them cannot manage the crippling effects of a lengthy layoff.

Rookies Lose a Year

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    The Las Vegas Summer League presents newcomers the exhilarating chance to dunk on Nik Caner-Medley and Mamadou N’Diaye. Fans waste valuable capital watching unseasoned rookies and fringe rotation players scrimmage for a few hours. No one cares who wins and by how much.

    A 5-0 Vegas record—or a similar mark in the Orlando-based version of the showcase—means nothing in October.

    Yet, the quashing of this year’s event highlighted what it can provide for participants and talent evaluators.

    George Hill used Vegas two summers ago to earn Gregg Popovich’s full confidence as Tony Parker’s understudy. He learned to use his abilities as an undersized combo guard to become a floor general. Popovich dubbed Hill his “favorite player,” and the sophomore finished second in the Most Improved Player race the next spring.

    The Spurs signed undaunted sharpshooter Gary Neal to a guaranteed deal after watching him scorch the nets on the UNLV campus. He rewarded that leap of faith with a stellar freshman season.

    When the team’s brass dealt Hill for the rights to Kawhi Leonard on draft night, Neal suddenly became a necessary backup for Parker, as well as a spot-up marksman. He could have used the practice the exhibition provides.  Leonard, for that matter, needs every opportunity to work with the coaches and training staff he can get.

    Coaches cannot contact players, or even mention their names in interviews, during this work stoppage. Given the high volume of raw prospects in this uncertain draft, a lost year for any standout is a big deal.

Dwight Howard Stays in Orlando

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    Some pundits view a demolished season as the Orlando Magic’s worst nightmare. There goes the chance to appease Howard one more time before he tests free agency, right?

    Perhaps the skeptics do not understand the nature of the brouhaha. Miami Heat boss Micky Arison’s genius president convinced LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to congregate in South Beach. Pat Riley sold the trio on his trademark championship-winning vision.

    Carmelo Anthony then created a nauseating scene for Denver coach George Karl and the Nuggets front office by asking for a trade to New York. After months of rhetoric and botched deals, ‘Melo got his wish.

    He had leverage. So did the cap-space flaunting Knicks.

    The premier franchises chasing Howard’s services next summer might forfeit the influence they have now in a reshaped CBA.

    Sarver and other disgruntled owners hope to make it harder for All-Stars to run off with their buddies. The longer this lockout lasts (as I said above), the likelier a new deal offers that protection.

    The Lakers do not have any cap room in 2012. The Knicks may not have enough. L.A. GM Mitch Kupchak has already committed more than $60 million to four players in 2012-2013. How is he also supposed to afford Howard?

    Contrary to popular fan belief, Kupchak cannot force Orlando GM Otis Smith to take Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom in a blockbuster trade. Howard cannot sign with a team that doesn’t have the resources to sign him.

    The few teams with serious financial breathing room need a few years to become half as good as the Magic was last year.

    Howard leaving is not a slam-dunk. I would argue the opposite.

Chris Paul Doesn’t Stay in New Orleans; Neither Do Hornets

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    I still love the idea of an NBA squad in New Orleans. Uncle Sam does not. The guy with the American flag hat overrules me.

    As long as the league owns and operates the Hornets, GM Dell Demps cannot justify taking on more salary. Spending to upgrade talent is the only way to pacify Paul and affect the win column.

    A dearth of fortune-.500 companies in the Big Easy, the Saints’ foothold and footprint and the absence of willing or capable buyers make relocation or disbanding inevitable.

    Paul won’t stick around to see how this slovenly film ends.

Ditto for Sacramento Kings

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    A lockout might not affect the California capital’s chances of keeping its lone pro outfit at all—but it does not help, either.

    Somehow, someway, Mayor Kevin Johnson must deliver on his promise to secure funding for a new arena. The Maloof brothers have tried for years and failed.

    Power Balance Pavilion hemorrhages money, is regarded by most experts as a dump and does not offer the amenities that define the NBA’s newer buildings. Orlando’s state-of-the-art, lavish downtown building will help in the quest to retain Howard.

    As discussed above, the Kings boast the league’s least lucrative TV deal. A shoddy on-court product means diminished fan support; at least as far as ticket sales go. The recession’s merciless pounding of Sacramento commerce adds another mammoth wrinkle and hurdle.

    The Maloofs did not uproot the franchise because Anaheim fudged on its part of the deal. The decision was a one-year respite, but it did nothing to change the team’s long-term prospects.

    A tremendous market stands to lose its romantic partner, even if owners and players strike an accord.

Mark Cuban, Others Lose a Convenience

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    Holt does not appreciate Cuban’s ability to profit even after he pays $20 million in luxury taxes and his team exits in the first round.

    The advantage that allowed the Mavs’ outspoken owner to finally win the big one was his pried-open wallet. If he traded for an expensive player and it didn’t work, he could always rely on spending later to get someone else.

    When the Spurs swung and missed on Richard Jefferson, they struck out and faced immediate financial repercussions.

    Buss and Cuban must adhere to the salary cap, but each has been creative in adding contracts that fit within the soft rules.

    This explains how the Lakers acquired a $112 million, legal payroll when the cap was $56-$58 million.

    That enviable ability figures to bite the dust.

No More Middle Class

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    The mid-level exception allows veterans stuck between star status and end-of-the-bench servitude to make an average salary.

    In a hard cap, that goes bye-bye. Players will have to surrender a lot of money to make the system work. You didn’t really think that dough was coming from Kobe Bryant’s pocket, did you?

    In the new NBA, a few will make a lot, and a lot will make a lot less. Whether that adversely affects the product’s quality remains unknown.

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