The owners aren’t really cutting off their noses to spite their faces. It’s more of a self-provided lobotomy just to show the brain who’s boss. There are quite a few owners who have designated plans on a championship. And failing that, several of them are in pivotal moments for their franchise. A few wrong moves and they’re headed back to the trash heap of the NBA. The owners can do what they can to guarantee profitability, but even if they do, having a team in the dumpster is a pretty surefire way to keep from making a significant profit.
Take, oh, for example, the Orlando Magic.
Should the Magic lose the entire 2011-2012 season, it would be bad. And yeah, most of it is about it being Dwight Howard’s final year, leaving them without a way to convince him to stay through adding weaponry in free agency or trade. But it’s actually worse than that, as the Orlando Sentinel points out:
The Magic have about $53 million already committed to the payroll for the 2012-13 season, and that’s not including Ryan Anderson’s qualifying offer or Daniel Orton’s team option. So, with no cap room and no desirable trade assets, the Magic couldn’t bring in a superstar through free agency. And because of the extended lockout, they wouldn’t be able to improve the roster around Howard before he became a free agent.
If Howard left, the Magic would still have almost no cap room and no way to really improve. A couple of 30+ wing players, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas, would be collecting more than half the team’s payroll.
That last bit is the scariest part. Having a team with a massive payroll and no prospects for winning due to losing the franchise players is the nightmare scenario. It’s one thing to be bad, every team goes through that kind of period. But having a massive payroll loaded with high-salary, long-term contracts for aging players?
That’s apocalyptic, set-you-back-ten-years type stuff. The Magic have put all their chips behind building around Dwight Howard. You know, the kind of treatment stars always say they want. The decisions of a collection of hard-line owners elsewhere could end up deciding if the investment made by the city on that beautiful new arena turns out to be worth it.