Winderman: How July 8, 2010, helped lead us to lockout

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We’re sure this is not the final time we’ll be going through this exercise in coming weeks, or even (hopefully not) coming months, the a-year-ago game.

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the much-hyped 2010 NBA free-agency signing period.

July 8, 2010 was, without question, a seismic moment. Amare Stoudemire signed with the Knicks. Carlos Boozer signed with the Bulls. Paul Pierce re-upped with the Celtics.

But July 8, 2010 also was, in hindsight, somewhat of a preview of why we are where we stand today, in the midst of a lockout.

It was the day the Nets signed Travis Outlaw to a five-year contract.

The day the Bucks gave five years to Drew Gooden.

When the Suns extended a four-year deal to Hakim Warrick.

It also was the day Milwaukee extended a five-year deal to John Salmons accompanied with so much regret that Salmons now can be found in Sacramento.

But more than any of such small-time foolishness was this:

July 8, 2010 was the day the Atlanta Hawks inked Joe Johnson to the largest contract of any that would be extended during the uber-hyped 2010 free-agency period.

Six years, $123 million.

$14 million more than LeBron James would agree to two days later.

$16 million more than Dwyane Wade would get to return to the Heat.

Joe Johnson.

As ownership would say amid the start to this lockout: Asked and answered.

A year later, the debate in Atlanta is the worst contract ever extended by the Hawks, a question of whether it rivals the one offered to Jon Koncak in 1989, certainly not in overall scale, but in terms of return on payout, relative to the times.

It arguably is Example A at the negotiating table of what can’t happen again, a star holding a franchise hostage because of lack of a replacement option or replacement means.

Mind you, Joe Johnson is what he is, a player talented enough to drive the Hawks into the second round of playoffs, a consistent scoring threat alongside the inconsistency that is Josh Smith.

But the problem with having a maximum salary as part of a collective-bargaining agreement is that it becomes the starting point, teams forced to negotiate down from that level. Some players, such as Stoudemire and Boozer, get it, that they simply are not in max-out stages of their careers, due to age, injury or productivity.

If the NBA does find a way out of this darkness, it needs to find a way to sort out this high end of its salary equation, before the next Joe Johnson steps up to the table.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.