NBA Lockout: Top 5 Reasons Fans Will Not Forgive Those Involved
The arguments have been beaten to death.
The owners need a harder cap and a higher percentage of basketball-related income in order to make a profit, and the players do not want to have their earnings and movement severely limited.
Add in the splits between small-market and big-market owners, as well as the differences between All-Stars and mid-level exception guys, and the situation becomes more complex.
Then consider the influence of the agents working behind the scenes and the contentious nature of the negotiations becomes understandable.
In such a heated battle, both sides have attempted to gain support from the public through the media. But neither side has fully realized that NBA fans see all the squabbling as millionaires and billionaires trying to divide billions of dollars in revenue. Fans of the league have no sympathy and cannot identify with either side, and just want to see the players play basketball.
Here are the top five reasons fans will come to loathe the major players who have let the lockout proceedings devolve to this point.
5. Postponing Blake Griffin's New Youtube Highlight Reel
By this time last year, Blake Griffin already had several jaw-dropping dunks that made people get out of their seat, scream and then call all of their friends to tell them to turn on the Clippers game.
In fact, Griffin's remarkable athleticism and fearless attacks on helpless post-defenders made him the first player in franchise history who caused people to call their friends and tell them to turn on a Clippers game ever.
The reigning Rookie of the Year averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, and had a double-double in 27 straight games. He established himself as a premier low-post scorer, rebounder and the centerpiece of a young and exciting Clipper team.
Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are big, athletic and physical, and they feed off each other's energy and enthusiasm. Throw in the back-court trio of Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe and Mo Williams, and Los Angeles has another team that can make a run deep into the postseason at some point.
But Griffin's stats and his overall success are not the reasons he has endeared himself to fans everywhere. His ability to attack the rim combines grace and violence in a way that NBA enthusiasts have not seen before. Griffin's dunking ability is something entirely new, and it is the reason the Clippers' television ratings jumped 65 percent from 2009 to 2010.
He is a human highlight reel, and the only thing that has been able to stand between Griffin and the rim without ending up on a poster is the lockout.
4. Keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando for Another Year
Dwight Howard is one of a kind in the NBA right now, and every team wants him.
The league's premier center refused to sign a contract extension with Orlando, which sent every major media outlet into a speculative frenzy over where he would end up. Even his hometown newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, created an interactive feature on their website that allows readers to see Howard in different uniforms.
Very little has not been said about Howard's future, but if he follows the trend of other elite players around the league and decides to leave Orlando to play in a big market, the Magic will have no shortage of trade offers. They have an opportunity to collect young talent while also unloading terrible contracts (Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu).
Here are a few ESPN NBA Trade Machine-approved scenarios the Magic could consider:
- Los Angeles Lakers receive Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas; Orlando receives Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom.
- New York receives Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas; Orlando receives Amar'e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups.
- Chicago receives Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu; Orlando receives Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer.
- Dallas receives Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas; Orlando receives Tyson Chandler (sign-and-trade), Jason Terry, Caron Butler.
- Los Angeles Clippers receive Dwight Howard; Orlando receives Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan (sign-and-trade), Chris Kaman.
Every conversation about Howard leaving Orlando is entirely based on speculation and not hard evidence. However, the Lakers have a history of stealing the league's best center from a small-market team (Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Shaquille O'Neal) and can arguably offer the best deal.
Once basketball is finally ready to resume, there will be a storm of player movement with Howard at the center of attention.
Delaying Kevin Durant's Third Consecutive Scoring Title
How do you guard a guy who is 6'10" with a deadly pull-up jump shot?
No one at Rucker Park or across the NBA has been able to answer that question.
Kevin Durant has two NBA scoring titles on his resume, and he just recently turned 23. Durant became the youngest-ever scoring champion at the end of the 2009-2010 season, averaging 30.1 points at just 21 years and 197 days old.
Even more impressive than his size, coordination and athleticism are his work ethic and leadership. When asked about becoming the youngest player to win a scoring title, he simply responded, "It feels a lot better to get 50 wins."
Durant has shown remarkable poise and maturity early in his career, and will continue to protect his reign as the league's premier scorer. As he continues to assert himself as the leader of a talented Oklahoma City team, he will become more efficient and deadlier in crunch time.
It is difficult to know how high his ceilings as a player and as a teammate truly are. His individual accolades will continue to accumulate, and he has the ability to join Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki as the only active players in the 50-40-90 club (field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage).
Durant took his team to the Western Conference Finals last season, and the Thunder will be a playoff fixture and championship contenders as long as he is in town.
The only people capable of holding Durant back are those involved in letting the CBA negotiations implode.
Taking Away a Precious Season from the League's Old Guard
The NBA is at a crossroads of eras with the old group of superstars passing the torch to the younger stars. Last season's NBA Finals was the first championship series without Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan since Michael Jordan retired in 1998.
But the league's "Old Guard" is not fading quietly.
Dirk Nowitzki had a transcendent season that resulted in his first championship. Bryant gave everything he had to the Lakers, sometimes trying a little too hard. Duncan's Spurs were 25-4 before Christmas and were the league's best team in the first half of the season.
And Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce maintained the Celtics' reputation as championship contenders.
But with all these players well into their 30s, time is continually taking its toll. All of these future Hall of Famers have a limited window of greatness that is rapidly getting smaller.
Nowitzki took his career and legacy to a higher level during the 2011 postseason. More so than any other NBA player, he is unstoppable in one-on-one situations. His presence on the offensive end of the floor opened up huge spaces for the Mavericks' shooters, and Dallas averaged more made three-pointers per game (9.6) than any other team throughout the playoffs.
Dirk dismantled and dethroned the Lakers before dismissing a good Oklahoma City team to win the Western Conference. Once in the Finals he exploited every area of the floor that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could not cover. He put his team on his shoulders, and he played within the offense while allowing it to revolve around him.
However, Dirk is the only player on his team who can consistently create his own shot, and his shoulders may not be able to bare such a heavy load for much longer.
Bryant has been able to transform his game and still remain one the NBA's elite players. But with the inexplicable disappearance of Pau Gasol in the playoffs, Bryant showed he needs a reliable low-post presence on offense to hang with the better teams in the West.
Duncan's nimble footwork and veteran savvy seem to make his game ageless, but the miles that the Spurs logged during the regular season were evident during their first-round exit against Memphis.
Garnett and Pierce, along with Ray Allen, proved they still were All-Star-caliber players, and their attitude and leadership kept the Celtics and their fans believing they were championship contenders. But that team lost the chip on its shoulder when it traded away Kendrick Perkins, and Boston took a backseat to Chicago and Miami in the East.
All of these NBA greats have more to give to the fans, but everyone will have to wait a while to see how much they have left.
Shortening LeBron James' and Dwyane Wade's Time Together in Miami
The two players who are partially responsible for the giant schism between the owners and the players are also the top reason why NBA fans will be longing for basketball throughout the cancelled 2011-2012 season.
From a small-market owner's perspective, "The Decision" was a turning point in the power balance between management and players. There are only nine or 10 top-tier players in the NBA at any given point, and winning a championship without one of these players is nearly impossible. If all of these elite players refuse to sign with teams in smaller markets and are concentrated on big-market teams, then owners in places like Charlotte, Milwaukee and Sacramento are left between a rock and a bankruptcy claim.
From a basketball fan's perspective, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing together was something that could only happen in a video game before the summer of 2010. They are arguably the league's two best players, and they are capable of making plays on the court that have never been seen before. James and Wade, along with Chris Bosh, were the NBA's biggest storyline since Michael Jordan's second retirement.
Critics questioned if James and Wade could coexist given their similar playing styles. A trip to the Finals silenced some, but not all of the doubters. Questions still remain over whether James or Wade takes the last shot in a pressure situation and how the two can work together to create a healthy team dynamic.
Wade and James are still learning to play with one another, and the Heat are still trying to put together a better supporting cast for the Big Three. Miami will continue to get better as a team, which is a scary reality for the rest of the league.
The Heat have the ability to put together a historic season sometime in the near future, but that will have to wait until the owners and players can put the fans above their differences and get the players back on the court.