The lockout: It seems to be the theme of the sports world this year. I have no doubt that like the NFL, the NBA owners and players will resolve their issues and bring a conclusion to this nonsense, it's just going to take a little more work.
Once the hardwood re-opens, how do we stop this from happening again?
The answer: Contraction.
It is time for the NBA to trim some fat. The league was at its greatest in the 1980s, when it was comprised of only 23 teams. Each team had at least one All-Star caliber player on its roster, creating a better overall product for the casual fan.
Now, in its current state, the league is comprised of 30 teams, and some teams struggle to find that star or leader. If one of these teams is lucky enough to find that special somebody, who knows how long they will get to keep them before they become thirsty for greener pastures.
I’m not saying to get rid of the seven franchises that have joined the league since 1988—the Timberwolves, Heat, Hornets, Magic, Raptors, Grizzlies, and Bobcats—many of these teams have had success and managed to build a decent fan base.
But, the NBA does need to drop at least four teams—two from each conference.
Out of the current 30 franchises, there are only 17 teams that have won NBA championships since the league’s inception in 1946. They are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Portland, Golden State, Los Angeles (Lakers), Oklahoma City/Seattle and Sacramento/Rochester.
These franchises are all safe from contraction, since they have the hardware to prove their relevance.
Out of the remaining 17 franchises, six have reached the NBA Finals. They are New Jersey, Indiana, Orlando, Utah, Cleveland and Phoenix. These teams have at least been serious contenders for Mr. O’Brien’s shiny hunk of metal, so they are safe too. That leaves seven teams eligible for contraction.
My formula allows for three teams to be saved—the Memphis Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets.
Minneapolis was one of the first cities to have an NBA franchise, and even though that team eventually became the Los Angeles Lakers, I still give the T-Wolves a pass for nostalgia’s sake. They have a young team, with Kevin Love leading the way, and let’s face it, we all want to see how this Ricky Rubio thing plays out.
Memphis is also a fairly young franchise, but it has promising core of players to build on, like Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Denver’s rich NBA history keeps them safe despite losing all-world forward Carmelo Anthony. They were ABA finalists before the coming to the NBA in the merger of 1976, and they have also produced three basketball hall of famers—Alex English, Dan Issel and David Thompson.
Both the Grizzlies and the Nuggets own the rare accomplishment of beating No. 1 seeds as No. 8 seeds in the NBA Playoffs, an occurrence that has only happened a total of four times in league history.
And now, it's time to say goodbye to all my Eastern Conference friends.
Toronto Raptors: Why is there a need for just one team in Canada? David Stern just needs to admit that his Canadian experiment didn’t work out as planned. The Grizzlies smartened up and moved to Memphis, and look at them now, not on my list for contraction.
The Raptors have become both a stepping stone for young drafted talent to gain a name and quickly move on—like Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh—and a graveyard for older players way past their primes—like Hakeem Olajuwon, Muggsy Bogues, Charles Oakley and Kevin Willis.
If they continue to function as a NBA franchise, they will always be muddled in mediocrity and never scratch the surface of being a top tier team.
Charlotte Bobcats: Alright NBA, good job, you let Michael Jordan become an owner but now, take it away from him. He hasn’t done much with the opportunity besides garner more media attention for the scrimmages he participates in during team practice than for the actual Bobcat games.
Let’s be honest, it’s a Tuesday night and there’s a Duke game, a UNC game and a Bobcats game on all at the same time, which one are you watching as a Charlotteer? No matter how your answer is formulated, the Bobcats are your third option.
Since their re-creation in 2004, the Bobcats have not managed to develop a solidified star, besides the already established Gerald Wallace, who has already moved on to perennial playoff team, the Portland Trail Blazers. Let me break that down for you all, their biggest star went to Portland to be a role player.
Bottom line, nobody would care or notice if the Charlotte Bobcats just up and disappeared. It didn’t work for the Hornets, why would it work now?
Who the West should lose:
New Orleans Hornets: Charlotte to New Orleans, has anything really changed? No.
Sure, with Chris Paul running the point, they have been a consistent playoff team, but that's with Paul running the point. When he was hurt for most of the 2009-10 season, they weren’t that good and failed to make the playoffs. Now that Paul is almost guaranteed to leave after next season, this team is likely to be out of any playoff discussion until they are able to snag another Top 5 lottery pick that will shine and leave them after five years.
Contract them, New Orleans was doing just fine with just the Saints.
Los Angeles Clippers: Does Donald Sterling even care anymore? Did he ever? The Clippers need to go. They have been the continual laughing stock of the league since they moved to L.A. from San Diego in 1984, messing up lottery picks, like Bo Kimble, Michael Olowokandi and Darius Miles.
I know what you’re thinking, “but wait, they just got Blake Griffin, they’re on the rise.” But stop, go back and read the section about Chris Paul and the Hornets.
Newsflash: Blake Griffin is not staying past his rookie contract. The only way the Clippers can begin to compete with the Lakers for the hearts of Los Angeles is to have Donald Sterling sell the team to a competent owner.
I’m sure I speak for most NBA fans when I say, “Clippers, be gone.”
There you have it folks, just one of my many suggestions to help fix the NBA. Too many teams, too few talented players.
Did you see this past year’s eastern conference All-Star team roster? It was represented by five teams. A change is needed.