It’s the one question I’ve been asked by seemingly every radio show host, every friend in the last few weeks — how can the NBA go on a lockout now?
Television ratings are up — this was the most watched finals since Shaq and Kobe were teammates — and that reflects an increased interest around the nation. Whether it is young stars like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose, the trio in Miami, the resurgent Knicks or the old guard Lakers and Celtics, people are excited about the NBA right now.
A lockout that costs games will kill that momentum. Stop it dead. It will look like rich and greedy owners and greedy players fighting over how to divide up your money. Because, it is.
And people on both sides of the negotiating table know that. The players get it, look what Luke Walton said to the Associated Press.
“The idea of the lockout and losing fans is probably the scariest thing of all,” the eight-year veteran said. “Even moreso than missing games or losing out on your salary for however long you lose those games, it’s losing the fan support because it’s at an all-time high right now.”
“The popularity is at the top,” he said. “It’s high, and the ratings were record-breaking the last few years, and from the fans’ perspective, the owners make a ton of money and are very wealthy, and the players make a ton of money and are very wealthy, so its kind of hard for them to sympathize with either side when these guys are hard-working people trying to make it and they’re spending their hard-earned money on tickets and merchandise and all that stuff.”
He wasn’t alone.
The Grizzlies’ Tony Allen also was taking part in the coaching program, and while he said a work stoppage would “put a needle in the balloon” of momentum, he sees a rather simple solution.
Financial restraint by management.
“If you’re a GM, you’ve got to be smarter with your money,” he said, echoing a thought career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar voiced Friday. “If you don’t want to give a guy $197 million and you believe he’s only worth 60 percent of that, sign him for just 60 percent of it.”
There is real validity to that argument – the things the owners are asking for in a new CBA are in many ways to protect themselves from themselves. But right now the players get 57 percent of the money teams bring in by contract, and that is a healthy cut. There can be some giveback there, and on lengths of deals. There needs to be compromise on both sides.
The lockout in July will be bad publicity, but it is basically inevitable. What really matters is next October — if games are cancelled, if the season doesn’t start until December or January, the momentum bubble will burst. And it will take the league years to get it back