Sunday, November 27, 2011

Six NBA War Is Over Takeaways

Lost in the general goodwill or outright apathy greeting the news that the NBA will save its season via a last-minute agreement, the following points...

1) Note that nothing happened before the players went to court.

This isn't being said loudly enough, really -- but once the owners were faced with the first hint of player leverage (in that damages are trebled in a federal court, and that they could have clearly lost that decision), the deal got done. And even if they had found a court to their liking, they would have been out serious coin for all of the myriad lawsuits that their actions over the past six months might have inspired. You know, relatively simple matters of antitrust, collusion, unfair bargaining, etc., etc.

A more cynical mind might even want to consider their speed to settlement a wee bit suspicious. Almost as if they were, you know, quite aware of how badly legal discovery or any other matter might have looked. (Oh, and the fact that the players did not go to this card back in June, rather than now? That's either terribly naive or tremendously insightful, given that they wound up getting more than was being bandied around.)

2) To all of the corporate geishas who were ready to tell the players that they would never recover in salary what they were giving up... well, the graves are filled with Pinkertons and hired goons and spin doctors, just are they also filled with the righteous. The latter group might, one hopes, sleep better at night, live longer lives, raise better children and have, on the whole, a better time of it in the next world. But such thoughts are what the rest of us, the ones that aren't bought, tell ourselves. You all just go back to your masters now, content that the public won't remember who was toeing the puppet line back when things were bad.

Oh, and David Stern? You can go away now. With a quickness, please.

3) The public, for the most part, still does not care, and still believes that both sides are equally guilty.

Well, on the first part, the great mass of the sporting public has not given a damn about the NBA for a very long time. Why? I don't know, because I like the NBA and do not quite get why the college game is beloved while the pro game is reviled. It's the same game, except that in one, the payments are out in the open, the three point line isn't a joke, everyone is athletic enough to play defense, and the players aren't adolescents. But I'm not convincing anyone with this line of reasoning, so. Shrug.

As for the second part, if you don't want to ascribe the majority of blame to the people that enforced the work stoppage, we're just not going to agree on most things. Like, say, the color of the sky in your world, or why NBA franchises continue to sell for a profit despite all of the doom, doom, doom that the league has been pitching for years.

4) If the players have any sense of collective memory over this, and they probably do not, the Charlotte Bobcats are going to suffer. Big time.

Michael Jordan's actions in this standoff weren't just bad; they were outlandishly bad. For the living legend to come out so fast and so over the top for the hard line faction, on top of the fact that Charlotte isn't exactly the place where guys want to play in the first place... well, let's put it this way. Guys should be more willing, much more willing, to become Clippers than Bobcats right now. And maybe even T-Wolves. I didn't particularly believe that the NBA had to contract before the lockout, but I certainly do now.

5) As always, the idea of winners and losers in the immediate aftermath is more than a little repugnant.

Let's not put too fine a point on this: the first two months of the season actually do have meaning. It is rare that a team rises from nothing to contend in the second half and playoffs without showing something. Basketball at the highest team level requires time together, requires cohesion that can only be achieved through long practice hours and game after game. Year after year we see teams add talent in the off-season and falter at the start (witness last year's Heat, for one), simply because nine out of ten teams require time to jell.

6) This will matter. Just as the NFL lockout did.

What we've done this year isn't just to throw 16 games out that no one will ever miss. We've also gone without player movement for five months, which means that crazed moves and flurries of signings will all happen in the next 2-3 weeks. That's going to make for a lot of blogger fodder and writing about how awesome it is (you know, just like the NFL lockout end) to have all of this GM / fantasy nerdasms all at once. Well, think back to the start of the NFL year. Did any of that make for better ball? Of course not.

So what we're going to see is a few teams -- mostly the ones that made minimal changes, or went deep into the playoffs and benefited from more time off -- racing out to the lead. Then, in the second half, we'll see teams that made deals start to gain their footing, but probably without the games required to get into the playoff race, or achieve a good seed. Maybe, if we are very lucky, cohesive ball will happen by April and May, and the playoffs will seem as good as ever.

Don't get me wrong; I'm pleased to have ball again, pleased to have something to write about, pleased to be making immediate and frantic moves to get my fantasy basketball league up and moving. (Might be a space open there, by the way. Ping me if you want into a live draft, keeper league, auction, eight categories, up to 12 teams where we're just trying to get the 12th guy in, now in it's tenth year of operation. I geek hard.) And I know that history will little note and not long remember the five months when it seemed like the NBA owners were willing to utterly destroy the league for no reason other than some owners make more money than others.

But that's not what today is about. Today is about puppies and kittens and repairing the damage and sitting at the table and smiling at each other.

Not about the Asterisk Year (ah, Phil Jackson, we miss you already) that's about to come. (What, you thought this was all going to end happy?)


snd_dsgnr said...

Granted I only really follow the NBA once the later rounds of the playoffs get going, but I actually think it would be kind of a cool tradition if the NBA trimmed the season permanently to 66 games and had it's start on Christmas day. That would be a neat tradition IMO.

Oh and incidentally, I would guess that part of the reason you're never going to see eye to eye with people that prefer college ball is that you grew up in the vicinity of a big city that had 4 pro teams and almost no chance of ever losing one. I was actually pretty into the NBA before the Hornets left, after that I just never had the same level of interest again.

NBA people talk about how it's impressive that a small market team like San Antonio can compete and win titles. Well San Antonio has 1.3 million people. College ball give people from Chapel Hill, NC or Lexington, KY or Lawrence, KS a chance to root for a local team that can routinely compete with teams from Los Angeles or New York or Chicago. College football has its national epicenter in the likes of Alabama and Louisiana and northern Florida. There's something special about that if you actually grew up in those places.

DMtShooter said...

Starting on Xmas isn't the issue. 66 games in less than 4 months is; we're going to see an inordinate amount of dead on their feet teams, especially on clubs that aren't known for their conditioning. But what the hey, people like playoffs, just cut to the chase.

Understood in re a team leaving town. My eternal pipe dream is for EPL style leagues, but instead, we tie it to education. Tradition, I suppose.

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