There is no question that the players were desperate to play, nor that David Stern and company were just as desperate to preserve their Christmas Day showcase triple-header. But there was one much more basic reason why all the posturing and the threats ceased and a deal was finally reached.
The dismantling of the players' union simply paved the way for numerous lawsuits that would have challenged and most likely eliminated the NBA’s anti-trust status. (Although why this tactic wasn’t used in July remains a mystery.)
In any case, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement virtually assures the franchise owners of the guaranteed annual profits that they have always sought. (I wonder how many of us 99-percenters have guaranteed profits.)
Another basic truth is that the new deal calls for the players to save the owners from their own self-inflicted disasters, that is, all of the ill-advised ultra-high salaries that were routinely paid to overrated players. However, once the frenzy to sign free agents is underway, look for teams to offer another round of bloated contracts to the same type of fair-to-middling players.
The result will be that most teams will sport three or four All-Star caliber players with humongous contracts, along with a dozen or so low-priced mediocrities. This will mean more playing time for the stars (as the owners insist on getting their money’s worth), an increased likelihood of injuries to the league’s best performers, as well as a greatly decreased level of play from the second-stringers.
But the 66-game schedule is actually a blessing. The games-per-week ratio will not be significantly more than the norm. And, theoretically at least, there will be fewer ho-hum games in the home stretch.
Also, since the marathon 82-game schedule gives the good teams more of an opportunity to play to their strengths and the bad teams more chances to demonstrate their weaknesses, the contracted schedule will provide more surprises in the eventual playoff seeds.
Look back to the last lockout season in 1998-99, when the so-so Knicks (27-23 in the regular season) advanced to the championship round.
If the unlocking of the new NBA season has brought smiles to millions of hoop-o-maniacs – including yours truly – there is one ominous danger sign: The fact that the training camps will convene for only a single week. This will inevitably lead to several unfortunate outcomes:
- Inadequate physical conditioning will produce an inordinate number of injuries. The length of teams’ benches will therefore become increasingly important as the season progresses.
- While the unusual number of injuries will be a boon to the top D-League players, the resulting quality of NBA competition will suffer another series of hits.
- Moreover, teamwork will be disjointed and overall play will be sloppy for at least a month. Look for young teams and teams with new coaches to resort to more isolation-heavy offenses than they will later on.
Even so, there is joy throughout Sports America! So let the games begin.