NBA Lockout and Lost Games: Stern Warning, We've Been Here Before

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IISeptember 24, 2011

NBA Commissioner David Stern has much to worry about.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has much to worry about.Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

On Friday, September 23, 2011, the National Basketball Association announced the cancellation of several league activities, as reported by the Associated Press.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, speaking on behalf of commissioner David Stern, made the announcement this morning: “We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time and need to cancel the first week of preseason games.” 

This announcement ensures no games will be played until October 16 at the earliest—and more palpably puts that dreaded message out there that the lockout is real and more games may be lost.

Though both the owners (NBA) and players (NBPA) have repeatedly assured fans of their collective hope that the regular season will begin as scheduled on November 1, this sentiment appears to be just about the only thing the two sides agree upon. 

However, with players such as Leandro Barbosa, Ty Lawson, J.R. Smith, Deron Williams and approximately 50 others opting to take their talents overseas, one can only wonder whether some fans might elect to follow the KK Union Olimpija, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Flamengo instead of the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, even if the NBA does tip off in November. 

The NBA sensed the gravity of this labor rift earlier this summer and so did the NBPA. 

The players' union encouraged its members to find work overseas and the NBA accordingly authorized its players to play overseas, turning a blind eye to corresponding players’ NBA contracts. Sensing a potential increase in fans, ratings and revenue, FIBA enthusiastically agreed. 

Lakers SG Kobe Bryant recently received a $6.7-million offer from Italy's Virtus Bolonga. Jordan Farmar has already signed up to play with Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Lakers SG Kobe Bryant recently received a $6.7-million offer from Italy's Virtus Bolonga. Jordan Farmar has already signed up to play with Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

With players signing deals with teams overseas, playing in pro-am and other alternative domestic based leagues in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, players are certainly prepared for an extended period without the NBA. 

In other words, the lockout contingency plan of the players' union is simply to play elsewhere. 

While FIBA and the other alternative leagues gushed with excitement, the NBA whimpered and slumped. Preparing for a prolonged loss of revenue, the NBA laid off about 11 percent of its workforce on July 15. 

The NBA has been here before. 

In owners-players negotiation history, deals are reached comparatively quickly when core disagreements arise from non-monetary policies. 

In 2005, the sides averted a lockout and reached a deal. That year’s primary issues included the implementation of a rookie age limit, limiting the maximum duration of long-term contracts and toughening the league’s drug-testing program. 

In 1998, a lockout resulted in the loss of over 500 pre- and regular-season games, not to mention significant drops in revenue, attendance and TV ratings. That season’s primary issues included changing the league’s salary cap, placing a ceiling on individual player salaries and raising the league’s minimum salary. 

In 1996, a three-hour lockout resulted in absolutely no work stoppage and several much-ado-about-nothing news stories. That year’s dispute was over profit sharing. 

In 1995, the first lockout in NBA history concerned the controversial imposition of a luxury tax. The lockout ended three months after it began, with the addition of a re-opener clause in lieu of a luxury tax. That clause paved the way for the 204-day 1998 lockout when owners elected to revisit the issues of compensation and players' salaries. 

The 2011 lockout stems from a disagreement pertaining to a proposed 40 percent reduction in players' salaries and a proposed new, hard salary cap. 

Though the 2011 negotiation figures made public indicate both sides are willing to budge—albeit minimally—the 2011 dispute appears to stem from significant differences in monetary policy. 

Unfortunately for the NBA and its fans, the availability of alternative leagues—not to mention the union’s unequivocal encouragement for its players to play elsewhere—might just provide the clues necessary to deem the upcoming season a lost cause. 

Today’s announced cancellation of 43 preseason games only serves to put yet another nail in the 2011-12 NBA season’s proverbial coffin.


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