This can’t be what David Stern signed up for.
NBA commissioner? He’s more like Big 12 commissioner.
The Lakers, Knicks, Heat? Those are his versions of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, teams that want to play big, spend big.
The difference is this isn’t the BCS, and his teams can’t leave for places where the big boys play and pay.
Instead, they’re stuck in the equivalent of a place where the Iowa States, Baylors and Kansas States somehow are calling the shots.
This is where the NBA lockout has delivered Stern.
The problem is he can’t sort his teams into FBS and FCS designations, where those willing to play at a higher level are granted such freedom, while others are allowed to play according to their means.
It has become almost a daily image, that of NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver standing next to Stern and chiming in about creating an equitable system where all 30 teams can contend for a championship.
Yet for all the places this rollercoaster ride of lockout negotiations has taken us, leveling the economic playing field still won’t draw high-profile players away from Los Angeles and Chicago to Sacramento and Indiana. A hard cap won’t provide Minnesota or Milwaukee in dead of winter the warmth of Phoenix or Houston. An onerous luxury tax won’t alleviate the state tax burden in Cleveland and Detroit the way the no-tax burden make Orlando and Miami more attractive.
And beyond all of that, the hardest of salary caps won’t offset incompetent management.
But what will strengthen the sport is eliminating the weakest links, reducing, by simple math, the number of owners who simply have no place in this forum in the first place.
Yes, the contraction reaction.
Currently, not only is the league operating the Hornets, but it is spearheading the Kings’ search for a new arena. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan is earning more from everything non-Bobcats. And the Timberwolves have managed to make themselves matter less than Minnesota’s WNBA franchise.
But it’s not the cities or the franchises as much as the number of teams and the number of owners. Certainly, just a few years ago, plenty of claims could have been made against Miami as a viable NBA market.
No, it’s that amid the bickering from the league’s lesser half of owners, that they can’t make any money, the reality is that in this economy David Stern seemingly can’t find 30 owners willing and able to successfully operate NBA franchises.
But he might be able to identify 28 or 26.
Remove the incompetent, regardless of city, and there might be a workable consensus. And no lockout. Then, relocate, if needed. Even Major League Baseball was able to pull that off with their Montreal-Miami-Washington ownership-switch dynamic.
Right now the NBA is not 30-strong.
And right now, that appears to be the league’s greatest weakness.