Who really won the NBA lockout?

January 15, 2012

Would Harrison Barnes have been one-and-done?

As the final fourteen seconds ticked down in Donald L. Tucker Collessium in Talahasee Florida, on Saturday afternoon, UNC star Harrison Barnes walked with most of his team to the locker room.  He may have thought ‘I could be losing in the NBA right now.’  He’s right, of course; he could be losing in the NBA.  If he had declared for the draft and left North Carolina after last season, Barnes would likely have been a top three picks, perhaps going 2nd to the Timberwolves, who need a player like Barnes more than another power forward, which is who they got in Derrick Williams.  If that had happened, the Seminoles would still have beaten the Tar Heels.  We wouldn’t all have been as amazed though.  It would have been our loss.

As it turned out, Barnes and a slew of other NBA prospects returned to college for another season rather than enter the draft, get picked in the lottery, and risk what turned into a messy ‘labour’ dispute which ate one fifth of the season.  That gave us the best hoops moment of the weekend, pros included.  It gave us Barnes and his Heels being topped by 1 by #1 Kentucky, who’s Sophomore Terrence Jones went 14 and 7.  In a normal NBA offseason, he too is likely drafted, and currently toiling for a big league lottery team.  He was there though, contributing to a classic.  A week later Jones had four points and six turnovers in another thriller; this time a one point loss at Indiana.

The NCAA hoops fan is the clear winner of the NBA lockout.  This early list of contenders for Player of the Year includes only two players who would likely have gone in the lottery, and therefore would just as likely have gone professional before this season, if it were a normal one.  However,that’s assuming that Jeremy Lamb was always coming back.  Jared Sullinger is first on the list, and his intentions always seemed to be to return to Ohio State, but players have often reversed enthusiastic public positions to become lottery picks; especially number one, which Sullinger could have been.

In the top ten picks of last year’s NBA draft, there were a combined 12 years of NCAA experience, and 1/3 of them belonged to #10 pick Jimmer Freddette.  This year projections have the top ten leaving with about 18 years of experience.  That 50% increase is likely to hold, or even increase slightly when the season is complete and draft intentions are declared.   In short, a handful of top players remained in the NCAA for a year longer than they normally would have.  Will this extra year at the college level help those players develop?  Perhaps.  Already this fortunate fallout of the NBA lockout has contributed to an entertaining year, which promises to finish with a tournament which will be exciting as it always is.  This year though, it will have a little more star power.


Where Nothing Happens

October 15, 2011

The above applies not to basketball as a whole, or even pro hoops, but rather the NBA.  That there is professional basketball that this does not apply to would have seemed, to many NBA fans not so long ago, a contradiction with the last statement.  Now we know better.  Sportsvssports will be proud to issue links to vendors who sell Besiktas jerseys if Kevin Durant joins DWill there.  Check out this list!  While things are happening in non-North American pro leagues, things are happening in the ‘labour dispute,’ or at least, the same thing is happening in it.

A lot of players have signed to play in Europe, China, or the Middle East.  There are pro leagues elsewhere, but NBA players, some of them significant, have been signed to teams in the traditional basketball countries of the Old World, plus apparently Denver Nuggets want to play in China.  I started making an ‘all-overseas’ team, but it really looks like two teams.  By my count there are currently 22 NBA players who have guaranteed rotation spots and name recognition who have bolted for ‘foreign’ squads, and almost as many who are close to inking deals.  Since there are only about 300 rotation players, who correspond almost exactly with the players who are known to fans*, this means there could easily be 13% or more of the league’s players who matter on overseas rosters by the time the first regular season game is actually missed.

This is very different from the last ‘labour stoppage,’ and sets up some interesting scenarios, including the only way sportsvssports sees the players getting anything out of the owners (here we go yo).  That best case scenario for the players involves a lot of them playing elsewhere, which the players union does not and cannot officially encourage.  If Durant signs with Besiktas, they will most certainly turn around and offer ESPN and/or competitors broadcast rights to the highest profile pro basketball games in the world. A network with the freedom to do so will jump all over it, and Euroleague basketball will ultimately end up on North American screens.  If this results in a big enough revenue jump to cause an ‘arms race’ in the European leagues, then the players may find themselves with the bargaining chip they needed all along: a paying alternative.

This is where I started ripping apart Chris Sheridan, before I realized that the first set of predictions on this blog was an unmitigated disaster, in which I pointed out even at the time that one of those predictions was completely obvious.  That’s the only one I got right.  The salient point is that no-one knows when it ends, right now.  Not Bill Walton (that grin is not because he knows something, it’s because he knows nothing), not Sheridan, and certainly not Hunter, Stern, or the rest of the nitwits at the bargaining table.  If they’re 3% off, which seems to be the case, then they are also $123 million apart for each year of the deal.  This is actually an overestimate, as basketball revenues will drop significantly as a result of this nonsense.  Also, there’s the minor detail of every other clause in the entire CBA, on which there is literally no indication that any binding agreements have been reached.  Gitmek Besiktas Gitmek!

*The exceptions are guys like Adam Morrison and Jimmer Freddette, who are not rotation players but live on in reputation as such because of ignorance.

Good News/ Bad news Pt. 2: How Caron Butler saved the big leagues. (assists: M. Recchi, T. Thomas) 6:14

June 23, 2011

Big league team owners are people too.  They are wealthy people, who have business empires to run and pensions to fund, but people none the less.  They are also competitive, although they are not necessarily sportsmen.  Therefore, they are prone to making the decision to take their ball and go home, if they feel slighted.  And that is how Caron Butler saved the big leagues.  Still not clear?

The good news is that the numbers are in, and people love their pro sports on tv!  Wait; is that good news?  The ratings for the NBA finals are up.  Way up.  The same for the NHL.  The numbers can be sliced and diced any which way, but it is good for both the NHL and NBA that two larger markets long absent from the finals had teams competing in the last game (though some more than others), and compelling storylines abound in both cases, keeping the teams on front pages, putting ‘Burrows’ and ‘Barea’ on lips that had never known them before.  At the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements of both leagues, the pie to be divvied up is growing, so perhaps both sides in both negotiations will be in a mood more conducive to deals than they would otherwise be.  Each sport also has had a potentially disturbing trend rising, both having ramifications on the relationship between salary-cap and financial regulations in general, and the ability of teams to compete.

In the NHL, contracts with bizarre lengths of duration have been proliferating, and Roberto Luongo’s is a prime example.  The slap on the wrists of the New Jersey Devils for this goes part of the way towards addressing this silly trend, but the total collapse under pressure of a trio of stars, one of whom possesses this team-finance-strangling deals, will do even more.  It will hold forth the Boston model of building patiently through the draft and US College signings and annually fleecing the Toronto Maple Leafs, rather than just throwing the most money at the biggest names.  In the NBA, a trio of players tried to decide the trophy by collaborating.  They failed, and now the clock is on Chris Bosh’s knees and ankles.  If they had won, it would not only have signaled the possible beginning of a dynasty, but also virtually guaranteed the construction of at least one or two more ‘superfriends’ teams, all in ‘major markets’ where the promise of the most sponsorship money is found.  Remembering that the Knicks and Lakers, the Mavs and Bulls were already not going to be the ‘hard line’ teams in the CBA negotiation, teams like Utah and Portland would be faced with an easier decision to cancel games if they felt their chances of winning the title had been foreclosed on already.  This may seem unrealistically petty, until you consider that the average playoff series nets each team several million in revenue, while most of their costs remain fixed.  NBA teams that don’t get out of the first round must have unusual circumstances to turn a profit each year.

Why does it matter that the Heat lost?  Because the NBA’s middle markets were on the brink of joining the smallest markets in an epic fit of whining, as they became all too painfully aware that their chances of winning it all had been reduced to nil for the foreseeable future.  But the Heat didn’t win, and as his team won Caron Butler in a suite was the most cut-too fan of all.  He’s also a two-time all star, younger than a couple of the lynchpins, and relatively capable of defending Dwayne Wade or LeBron James.  More so than say Jason Terry, or Dirk.

So there Caron Butler will be, next year, for 82 games, the third or fourth leader on the defending champions: preserver of labour peace.  Instead of heading into the offseason and labour negotiations filled with bitterness and acrimony, NBA and NHL ‘communities’ will move forward with more positive questions in mind:  Can Dallas repeat with a healthy Butler?  How many games does Rask start in net for Boston next year?  Is Mark Recchi a hall of famer?  We love the big leagues.

Labourious Indeed

December 19, 2010

The NBA will suffer a ‘work stoppage’ next season.  Don’t take my word for it.  Take Billy Hunter’s; he’s head of the player’s union:  “I’d be 99 percent sure as of today there will be a lockout.” That’s what he told the NY Times, and confirms the odds I’d been offering bets at (and still am; takers email me).

Not only that, but there are indications that this ‘labour dispute’ could screw NBA fans out of some of the 82 game regular season, and possibly jeopardize the whole year.  At the same time, it provides an unusual window into cartel economics, and potential insight into the economy and world at large.  These are subjects for another day, however.  Today we examine the unfortunate portents.

The NBA played a 50 game season in ’98-99 due to this same nonsense, and as usual history rhymes.  The most striking similarity is not one of simple facts and figures, but the ominous and unmistakable presence of stupidity.  In 1998, the big league basketball had ‘labour’ negotiations in which the owner’s primary stated goal was to decrease the amount of basketball-related income going to player salaries, which was 57%.  On April 1st of 1998, the NBPA offered the league a deal which included clauses for slowing down the increase in the salary cap if player salaries exceeded 63% of basketball revenues.   If I may translate the players union’s offer:  ‘We recognize your emergency, and have suggestions for dealing with them, should they get much, much worse.’  The owners, for their part, may or may not have staged walking out of a meeting in disgust (see Karl Malone quote below the poll).

This time around, we have the owners coming out with their numbers, which say they are losing money, and the NBPA response is that they don’t believe the numbers.  That’s right; they implied fraud on the part of the owners.  The owners appear not to know why salaries have continued to increase.  By the way:  57% again.

The main issues are the hardness of the cap, and the owner’s desire to institute what I’ll call the ‘Sean Kemp rule,’ wherein if you sign a 50 million dollar contract, and actually spend the whole thing on donuts, the team gets to take back half.  How they expect to collect is uncertain, but I’m looking forward to some mighty hefty bags of day-olds, sometime in the distant future, when the NBA has a new collective bargaining agreement.


Hilarious quotes and ‘The moral of the story’


“An incomprehensible and unconscionable dispute between rival gangs of millionaires.”

Tony Kornheiser

“between tall millionaires and short millionaires.”

Karl Malone

“like a 4-year-old saying I don’t want to play anymore and I’m going home,”

The moral of the story is: Everyone close your web browser, open something work related, and go ask your boss for a raise.  Hey!  You never know.  Then come back, reopen your web-browser, and go here for more information.