NBA: You’re not the NFL, get this thing done
By Paul Newberry
The NBA is plunging into the dog days of summer with amazingly nothing happening.
Well, unless you enjoy barristers debating the finer points of labor law as much as you do Blake Griffin throwing down another outrageous dunk. In that case, this could be the season for you, basketballís version of ěStern & Order.î
Coming off perhaps its most intriguing, thrilling, satisfying year since Michael Jordan was getting ready to retire a second time, the NBA seems perfectly willing to throw it all away.
Fortunately for owners and players, few people seem to be noticing at the moment. All anyone cares about is their precious NFL solved its labor impasse in time for a slightly delayed start to training camp, salvaging every game except for one measly exhibition.
Throw in the baseball pennant races and start of college football, and itís no knock on the NBA to say that it would be a mere afterthought at this point even if the players and owners were being all warm and fuzzy with each other. Theyíre not, of course, but itís nothing more than background noise in the current sporting environment.
Well, theyíre on the clock.
Christmas is the key.
John Q. Public will start to awaken from his football stupor on Dec. 25, when the NBA season really begins for most folks. Now, the schedule optimistically put out by the league a while back shows LeBron Jamesí Miami Heat are supposed to meet Dirk Nowitzki and the champion Dallas Mavericks that day in a rematch of the NBA Finals, with the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers vs. Derrick Roseís Bulls on the undercard.
Everyone better make sure the league is up and running at full speed by that day, as if nothing happened. They can only hope most people arenít noticing all the ugliness thatís going on now.
But, if the NBA is still mired in shutdown mode and all its big stars are collecting a check overseas, the fans are gonna get mad.
Really, really mad.
The kind of mad that wonít be washed away if the two sides are gushing over a settlement in, say, mid-January, then rushing to play an abbreviated regular season that might not be much longer than the real cash cow, the playoffs. Or, heaven forbid, this thing drags on so long that an entire season is lost.
What a shame that would be, given the headlines of this most recent season. Miami assembling its Big Three. The playoffs turning into an exhilarating ride filled with upsets. A heavily watched finals that resulted in a satisfying result for everyone outside of South Beach.
ěIt seems like every year weíre breaking new records for ratings,î Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith said shortly after the playoffs ended for his team. ěWhen you look back on the success, it really wouldnít make any sense.î
No sense, indeed.
Sadly, thereís little reason for optimism. The owners locked out the players when the collective bargaining agreement expired on July 1, claiming they need major changes (can you say hard salary cap?).
ěFor the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith,î said Adam Silver, the NBAís deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, in his best legalese.
Countered Billy Hunter, executive director of the players union, sounding very much like Silver: ěWe urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized.î
Of course, most of this is just legal mumbo-jumbo, of little interest to the average fan.
So, a word of warning to the hoops crowd:
Youíre not the NFL.
Get this thing settled before Santa delivers a nasty lump of coal.