The NBA’s owners locked out the players in 2011, forcing a work stoppage while a new collective bargaining agreement was negotiated.
And Kobe Bryant believes it was all done in an effort to prevent the Lakers from continuing their dynasty-building ways.
While there were legitimate system issues that needed to be sorted out, this was always about money more than anything else. The owners ended up with a much more favorable distribution of basketball-related income, and an agreement was reached as a result.
The idea that achieving some mythical level of competitive balance played as important a role as the finances did is simply inaccurate, but Bryant uses the league’s veto of the Chris Paul trade to L.A. to make the case otherwise.
The Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this year, and it seems unlikely that they will challenge for a title next year. So if titles are your only goal, why even play these last two seasons?
I know what Mitch [Kupchak, the Lakers GM] tells me. I know what Jim and Jeanie [Buss, the team owners] tell me. I know that they are hell-bent about having a championship caliber team next season, as am I.
But how could that possibly be done? Doesn’t the league’s financial system dictate certain limitations?
Well, okay: Look at the  lockout. That lockout was made to restrict the Lakers.It was. I don’t care what any other owner says. It was designed to restrict the Lakers and our marketability.
The Lakers specifically, or teams like the Lakers?
There is only one team like the Lakers. Everything that was done with that lockout was to restrict the Lakers’ ability to get players and to create a sense of parity, for the San Antonios of the world and the Sacramentos of the world. But a funny thing happened, coming out of that lockout: Even with those restrictions, the Lakers pulled off a trade [for Chris Paul] that immediately set us up for a championship, a run of championships later, and which saved money. Now, the NBA vetoed that trade. But the Lakers pulled that sh-t off, and no one would have thought it was even possible. The trade got vetoed, because they’d just staged the whole lockout to restrict the Lakers. Mitch got penalized for being smart. But if we could do that…
The Lakers are an example of a big-market team playing in a city with great weather, not to mention the entertainment industry being headquartered there, with all of the additional perks that may bring. Add all of that to the franchise’s consistent tradition of winning, and it remains the premier free agent destination, despite what we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons.
The Chris Paul trade veto was about ownership reclaiming power from the players overall, and was not Lakers-specific. It’s one thing for players to leave a franchise once they reach free agency, because by that time, they’ve earned the right. The way things are set up, a team can hold a player’s rights for their first six or seven NBA seasons.
But if an unhappy star tries to force his way out of a bad situation to get to a better one in a more desirable market, that’s when the owners largely snap — like Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert did at the time the agreement to send Paul to the Lakers was reached.