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Players understand a lockout will kill league’s momentum

Jun 18, 2011, 9:04 PM EDT

Dallas Mavericks Victory Parade Getty Images

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

  1. pukpokito - Jun 18, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Walton, Kareem,Allen were right. We as fans will not understand. I live paycheck to paycheck.skipped a few meals just to be able to pay for a ticket see the Celtics play the clippers HERE IN LA and as a birthday gift to myself. Saved up for it. I I was able to do that with these hard economic times. I am sure there are plenty of us with stories of our own as fans.With that, you know you have something going with the fans. Get this done. The training camp should start on time.the season must start on time.My Celtics lost. But I watched the playoffs until it ended last week.

  2. biggieb19 - Jun 18, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    i think this lockout would be wrong. stadiums that dont get alot of fans would bring less from the bad momemtum and all these teams ready to look good next season might change now

  3. mistercharitystripe34 - Jun 18, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    It would really suck for the NBA to miss games. I love the league and I’m loving the amount of talent that it has on display these last 3-4 years. The momentum is excellent, and it would be a shame to destroy it. The positive that I’m noticing is that both sides in the NBA aren’t jockeying for an infantile fight for the media, they’re being quiet and negotiating. Unlike the NFL, no one is mouthing off and using the media to try and create their case with vitriol (at least so far). I’m just hoping a resolution can be found (in both the NFL and NBA) so I won’t miss the hilarious trade machine.

  4. Justin - Jun 19, 2011 at 12:10 AM

    I understand that the owners are trying to protect them from themselves. But as a fan, if my GM makes a bad decision I don’t want to know my team is gonna be buried and out of the playoffs for 5 straight years.

    I am not completely sold on guaranteed contracts either. Unless those players can guarantee fans will go to games so my team can keep making money and keep bringing in talent. If 22 teams really did lose money it isn’t like any players were giving any back to the owners for sympathy.

  5. thetooloftools - Jun 19, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    James and Bosh killed the players leverage by walking on MAX deals and forcing their teams to do sign and trades. The owners now KNOW for 100% sure that the players are over paid if they are willing to take less money “to play together with their buddies”. This is a business and teams cannot let valuable assets just walk out the door after years of paying huge money out.
    I’m with the owners on this deal.

  6. tashkalucy - Jun 19, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Private sector salaries and benefits have flatlined since the early 1990′s. Givebacks are a way of life if one wants to keep their job.

    But the NBA players need raises with a salary of at least $10-20 a year to survive, and they need to play with their friends in (ESPN recognized) glamour cities. Meanwhile ticket prices (along with parking and food) make it unaffordable for a middle class family to attend a game unless they give up a vacation (which costs the same money).

    The rating for The Finals this year was no higher than those for the Celtics-Lakers a few years ago. Don’t tell me abut the momentum. And if the economy ever turns people will go back to work and turn off he NBA soap opera in the wintertime (few even pay any attention to it until after the Super Bowl).

    As for me, the fact tat the Lebron James WWFesque circus is needed to spur interest in the NBA shows that David Stern knows it is a 3rd rate league. The way Stern administers the bylaws is as inconsistent as the way his refs call games (Note the say that you need a star to win in the NBA….of course, most games are within 5 points, and the stars get the calls which easily surpass the margin needed for victory.) And getting back to the price of a game — this season showed again that the regular season doesn’t count for much — and the players don’t even play hard the majority of games (as NBA play-by-play men that have been doing games for more than 10 years will tell you).

    The NBA is Kim Kardascian. When you scratch the surface even a little bit, it’s all cosmetic and no substenance…..just bloated with a lot of pr and make-up.

    The NBA is entertainment and is to a professional sports what TV reality shows are to reality.

  7. silk32 - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    This “lock out” will probably happen. The two sides are too far apart on high level issues. The fans should just be resigned to that fact.

  8. dysraw1 - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Imagine next season on opening day every arena in every city empty.just like the government, we the people have got to seize control.

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