NBA Free Agency 2010: Why The Beginning Shows a 2011 Strike Is Imminent

Benjie KleinCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2010

WASHINGTON - MARCH 31:  Dominique Wilkins #21 of the Orlando Magic shoots a jump shot over Juwan Howard #5 of the Washington Wizards during the game at MCI Center on March 31, 1999 in Washington, D.C.  The Wizards won 84-73.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Twas a strange year. 

Keith Van Horn scored over 20 PPG, Karl Malone won the MVP, and Chris Webber and Antonio McDyess still had knees. 

And who can forget, Dominique Wilkins playing for the Orlando Magic.

The year, 1999, and the NBA was attempting to recover from a lockout that almost took away an entire season.

It also may have taken the best player in NBA history. Imagine if Michael Jordan didn't have an extra four months to decide on his second official retirement.

Let's get a quick history lesson in first, and compare it to today.

Start with 1989, almost 10 years before the strike would officially hit the NBA.

Jon Koncak coming off a solid 4.7 PPG and 6.1 RPG at age 25, signs a six-year-deal worth $13 million. Today, that's chump change even for a player with those numbers. But back then it was more than Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan were making. 

Flash ahead now, the NBA labor disputes are getting even more heated.

Both sides keep colliding with mini-lockouts that quickly dissipate. 

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Then, Jim McIlvaine appeared in 1996. Coming off a staggering 2.3 PPG and 2.9 RPG season, he received $35 million over seven years. The franchise imploded, Shawn Kemp had even more children, and the NBA inched closer to a lockout.

Soon after, Juwan Howard got the first $100 million contract, two years after his rookie year, and the league went to hell.

But at least they brought in the rookie salary scale.

Enough about the past, today we look to the future.

Fans are worried about the NFL strike, but what will happen when two sports go missing in 2011? 

The NBA is in trouble, never more obvious than July 1, 2010. The hype for greatest free agency class ever is over and the destruction of a league is just beginning.

First, Rudy Gay goes max. 

Then, it becomes a great day for players named Johnson. Amir Johnson signed a five-year $34 million deal. And yes, for those wondering, that is one dollar for every foul he commits. 

And finally, the best deal for a Johnson. Joe Johnson agreed to a six-year $119 million contract. And I would too.

But, he will join the list of reasons why the salary cap and contract system never worked, even post-1999 lockout. Players like Rashard Lewis (six year, $110M), Gilbert Arenas (six year, $111M), or even Andrei Kirilenko (6 year, $86M) are just some examples in the beginning of why the max-salary rule never worked. And Johnson is a new member.

The players figured out how to continue taking advantage of a weak system.

And that's why too, the owners cannot be forgotten. They're the ones who want a hard salary cap. They want shorter deals, less max money, but here they are offering ungodly amounts. 

A soft-salary cap didn't work. And never will in any sport. 

It's time to cut off the head and build a new creature. Both players and owners are at fault. Both are greedy and both have a lot of egotistical ignorance. Too stupid to see that in the end, they're really just killing themselves.

There will be no re-upping the agreement this time around. It's going to be ugly and no better way to start than laughable contracts in the last free agent period in the soft-cap era. 

Owners want a bigger cut and to pay players less. The players don't believe the league should pay less and want more themselves.

Next summer, players will realize they're about to have no income. A lot of players will be tempted to go to Europe next summer, and owners will have empty stadiums. 

The 2011-12 season will mark the first full season missed in NBA history. 

It's a scary, but very real thought. Maybe the college game will flourish again.

And then, maybe one day, we can look at a player, look at the contract and tell ourselves, "now that makes sense."