LA Lakers: 5 Ways the NBA Lockout Will Affect the Lakers

Howard Ruben@howardrubenContributor IJuly 12, 2011

LA Lakers: 5 Ways the NBA Lockout Will Affect the Lakers

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    There’s really nothing good about the current NBA lockout.  Unless, of course, you happen to think a bunch of “suits” in a room talking about how many millions of dollars they stand to lose if players don’t give back what the owners gave them in the first place is your idea of a good time.

    And if you’re a Los Angeles Lakers fan, you have to wonder just how a protracted stalemate by the two sides will affect the team and its core players.

    The basic story line is this:  Commissioner David Stern, considered to be one of the best negotiators in all of sports, is apparently steadfast in his decision to not give an inch and will only consider a deal with the players if they agree to reduce the amount of money they receive from the league as part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement.

    Stern and the league claim that 22 of 30 teams lost money last year, which doesn’t say much for a professional sports organization that enjoyed its best television ratings in years and unprecedented popularity both at home and abroad.

    The bottom line is that the bottom line stinks.  The league made a bad deal for itself in the last CBA which turned out to be a sweetheart one for the players, who just want to continue the good thing they have.    This standoff is starting to resemble the inane inaction going on in Washington, DC as the White House and Congress attempt to get a budget deal done before the government implodes in August.

    In the meantime the Lakers, like other NBA teams, have big issues to address.  Like how to stay focused, in shape and committed to next season when you don’t really know if there will be a next season. 

    Let’s take a look at how this shutdown will affect the likes of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and that new guy, Meta World Peace.

5. Age Is Always a Factor

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    Derek Fisher is starting to look better in a suit than he does suiting up for the Lakers.  The veteran point guard will be 37 on Aug. 9, and a prolonged lockout could adversely affect his potential to perform well once the season resumes for the team.

    Los Angeles is not a young team, but it's not ready for its AARP cards just yet either. 

    Aside from Fisher, who's been slowing down for a few years but still brings tenacity and leadership every night to the club, Bryant (33), Gasol (31), Odom (32), World Peace (32) and Steve Blake (31) are all banged up from the rigors of a long career in the league.

    If the season is shortened to, let’s say, 50 games, this may be a blessing for an older team like the Lakers.  It gives them more time to rest and rehab from the previous campaign and, theoretically, gives them more energy for making another run at a world title.

4. Chemistry and a Coach

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    You have to feel for Mike Brown.  The new guy in town had enough time for a Mocha Latte and a few text messages to Kobe before the lockout hit and he was forced into a holding pattern with his players.

    If nothing else, Brown needs time with his new team.  His introduction to the Lakers was the NBA equivalent of speed dating—three minutes with each guy and then it was time to move on to the next.

    If the lockout continues deep into the fall, this work stoppage could have its biggest impact on the Lakers head coach.  Being an effective NBA coach today means getting along with and the most out of your players, much of that coming about if there’s good chemistry.

    Kobe Bryant did not seem publicly pleased with Brown’s hiring over longtime assistant Brian Shaw, and so the conventional thought was that the two of them would need time to get to know and respect each other’s positions both on and off the court. 

    All that’s on hold for now.

3. Bringing in New Talent

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    During a lockout, all you can do about trade talk is to talk some more.  Whatever heat was turned up in the past month is now a very cool soup of nothing.

    The Lakers had been exploring all sorts of moves that could help them at the suspect positions—point guard, outside shooter, backup center.  Prior to the lockout, the scalding rumors of new talent coming to L.A. included the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Raymond Felton, Andre Iguodala and a rock star to be named later.

    Now, the talk in Los Angeles about the weather and massive freeway closings (Carmagedon coming this weekend to an off ramp near you) is what’s “trending” on the internet, while any talk of NBA trades to bring new talent to the Lakers is just so much wishful thinking. 

    Until this mess is resolved, new talent for the Lakers is hiring ESPN sports jock John Ireland as the team's radio play by play guy.

2. The Owners and the Players: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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    One side is going to come out on the short end of this proverbial stick and so, either way, there is bound to be some residual anger.

    The owners want the players to give back a large share of money they otherwise were getting in the just expired Collective Bargaining Agreement.   

    When you are an elite NBA player making millions of dollars a year and your career lasts an average of less than four years, giving back anything is especially difficult. 

    But the owners say it’s purely about finances and that 22 of 30 teams lost money last season, which is unacceptable if the league wants to remain a viable product.

    Lakers owner Jerry Buss is considered one of the most generous owners in league history.  He’s an owner who has gone the extra mile and spent the extra dollar to either keep players in town or bring them to L.A. from somewhere else.  The players love him.  

    Given his druthers, Buss would probably vote to keep the soft cap and the status quo from the old CBA because his franchise is one of the eight that made money.  After signing a 20-year, $3 billion exclusive television deal with Time Warner Cable, his pockets could be lined with about $150 million in additional revenue each year, further cementing this franchise as the Yankees of the NBA.

    The problem with a new deal that the league wants is there would be a hard salary cap, preventing teams like the Lakers from signing whomever they wanted.  That alone could sour the warm and fuzzy feeling the owners have had with most of the Lakers players for many years.

1. Kobe Bryant Could Go Play in Turkey

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    Most so called experts don’t think there will be a mass exodus of players to other leagues around the world if the lockout lingers.  Still, there already have been a few stars, Deron Williams among them, who’ve announced their intention to play in Europe for as long as the league sits idle.

    Williams plans to play in Turkey for Besiktas, and it’s no secret he’d love to play alongside Kobe Bryant.  The Black Mamba grew up in Italy and is very comfortable in that part of the world.  Plus, he’s a spokesman for Turkish Airlines, the same company that’s financially tethered to the franchise in question.

    Would it be good or bad for the Lakers if Kobe went to play in Turkey for a couple of months?  Personally, I’d be worried if I owned the Lakers and would not publicly endorse it.  For all their generosity, the Buss family is on the hooks to Bryant for $83 million over the next three seasons and wants to protect its investment.

    Kobe Bryant will be 33 when the season (hopefully) starts in the fall.  More than anything, he needs time to rest his league weary knees and get himself into the best possible shape he can for the NBA season.  Heading off to Europe for a couple of months would not be a good decision and he may not even entertain it.

    Yet, I bet he’s listening and watching.  As we all arefor the league to gets its collective act together and not destroy the goose that laid the golden egg.