NBA Lockout: Looks Like We’re in for the Long Haul.

Player's Union Chief Billy Hunter and President Derek Fisher address the media in front of a group of NBA team player representatives.

It has begun. Yesterday was the first day of the year’s second major professional sports lockout. This time it was in the NBA. As there finally seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the NFL, the NBA seems to be mired in a lockout that could certainly threaten next season and perhaps beyond. According to multiple reports, the players and owners alike have been expecting and bracing for this lockout for the last two to three years. Players were warned to be smart with their money and save in preparation for a work stoppage. Owners were steadfast in causing this lockout on the grounds that 22 of the 30 NBA franchises lost money last season even though the overall popularity of the league seemed on the rise. The playoff ratings indicated that the NBA is holding onto diehard fans while attracting a strong base of casual fans. However, this lockout could not be avoided.

Union Chief Billy Hunter and Union President Derek Fisher, along with player representatives from each franchise, have been in negotiations with Commissioner David Stern and the league since the end of the Finals and a deal has yet to be reached. This lockout was indeed inevitable and now it is official. This is certainly not the same as the NFL lockout. Negotiations are expected to continue soon and many feel that this lockout was a necessary step to ensure that both sides would have to get something done. Even though negotiations will continue, both sides do not seem anywhere near a resolution.

David Stern and the league were unable to avoid this inevitable lockout.

The sticking point for the NBA owners is a hard salary cap. The owners want there to be a set salary number that they are not allowed under any circumstance to exceed. Even though this would hurt the dominance of franchises who love to overspend on their players like the Mavericks, the Lakers, and the Heat, it will also raise the competitiveness of franchises with less money thus making the entire league more competitive. Essentially the owners want the league to step in and save them from themselves and the league itself wants to ensure competitiveness to keep the fan base engaged and interested in the product on the court. The owners are also not thrilled with the guaranteed contracts that NBA players enjoy.

The Union is not willing to budge on much of any of the benefits they have negotiated for in the past. The players do not want a hard cap because they want to allow for teams to overspend for their talents if they want to. They are also standing very strong for their guaranteed contracts. NBA players have the highest average salary of the four professional sports at $5 mil annually and they do not want that to change.  One of the most interesting aspects of the argument over a hard cap is what it would mean for the newly assembled Miami Heat and their big three. Let’s say the NBA imposes a hard cap of $50 million. The big three alone are due to earn nearly $48 million in the next year of their contracts combined. How will the Heat hold on to the big three of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh and still have enough money to fill out the roster if there is a hard cap?

Miami's Big Three could be threatened by the league's proposal of hard salary cap.

The players have been warned but not every player is capable of going a year without a paycheck and owners and the league know this. Players who receive very high compensation will be fine and will most likely continue to receive money from endorsement deals but rookies who have yet to sign contracts and younger players who have not had a chance to save very much money will indeed suffer and will have to be smart during this period of time because many experts forecast that this will indeed go into the season and it looks likely that many games will be lost if not the whole season.

Although this is a clear advantage for the owners, they have their weaknesses as well. A number of owners also own the arena in which their teams play and without basketball those arenas will be empty and thus suffer greatly in the fall. Some would say to just book other events in the arenas which is an option but you have to leave the arena vacant because you never know when the lockout will come to a close. There are also reports that some NBA players, led by Kobe Bryant, are ready to send a message to their bosses by going over to China over the summer to take part in some exhibition games. This would be a way to make money and send a message to the owners that they do not need their franchises to get compensated for their talents.

During the lockout the NBA is being stern (No pun intended) about contact with the players and organizational members. The NBA is prepared to hand down $1 million fines for any contact between coaches, GM’s, organizational members and the players. Sixers head coach Doug Collins embarked on a country-wide trip over the last week to visit with members of his roster to give them workout plans and to make sure that they were in the right mindset to tackle this offseason without his guidance. The league has also decided to crack down on social media. They will allow teams and players to follow one another on Twitter but they are prohibited from mentioning one another in tweets or from messaging one another. Similar rules apply to Facebook and text messaging. If contact needs to be made between players and members of the franchise that is strictly on a personal basis, it is allowed if league permission is first obtained.

Doug Collins will not be able to instruct his young core on how to improve during this lockout.


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