My love for NBA basketball goes back 32 years, along with with my love for the Los Angeles Lakers. I watched it flourish from the drug infested rep it had during the 70s, through the resurgence with the help of Magic, Larry, and Isaiah; the glory years of Jordan, Hakeem, and finally Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and D-Wade. The current NBA has plenty of stars to peek the interest of old and new fans. As bad as “The Decision” was for LeBron and The Heat, the NBA had its peak year of interest, and then like a hammer, the owners imposed another lockout!
This was the first blow to my love for the NBA game. Not that the owners wanted more cheddar; that’s just the American way. But the way they went about it, with their various threats to cancel the season. After a blockbuster year for everyone, they acted with an arrogance that clearly showed many owners cared nothing about the fans that pushed their popularity to where it is, so that their revenue could be as substantial as it’s been.
I had it in my mind not to care whether the season was cancelled or not. I felt that for the sake of labor, the players should get a fair deal that reflected the value they bring to the franchises. If the owners wanted to bluff or cancel the season, then let them. And then see if the game ends up like the NHL.
With Christmas and it’s primetime schedule looming, the players and the owners were able to get a deal done and cram a 66 game season in just a few short months. Initially the stain of the lockout was still in my mind. I knew it would take me a little while at least to become interested in the league again. I was more excited to continue watching NFL football and college hoops.
Once the deal was agreed upon and the moving and shaking began where clubs and players would be changing places, the buzz peeked my interest a bit more. Chris Paul to the Lakers? Tyson Chandler to the Knicks; Pau Gasol to the Rockets, Lamar Odom to the Hornets, damn! Talk about blowing up some teams! I knew the Lakers needed to make some changes but Odom and Gasol? That sounds drastic! (Unless they were going to gun for Dwight Howard but still that was no sure thing!)
I said to myself, Del Demps (the GM for New Orleans) is no joke! He’s sitting with a team that is owned by the league and where no one seems to want to go, and yet he just set himself up to have a strong team for this season with Odom, (the reigning sixth man of the year), Luis Scola (a double-double man), and guard Kevin Martin! This core gives a potential owner a very competitive team to begin with. The Rockets having Gasol would make them instant playoff contenders since Yao Ming retired. And as I said about my Lakers, it helped our backcourt tremendously but left our front line very light with a heavy load being put on Andrew Bynum’s knees.
Ok, maybe I do want to watch on Christmas. But then at the behest of so called small market owners like Dan Gilbert,
The Grinch David Stern killed the deal! WTF???
It seems that though Demps was told by the league that he had the freedom to make deals as any other GM would, The Angel of Stern at the behest of Gilbert and the likes decided that Chris Paul going to the Lakers under any circumstances was bad for the league. Part of the owners lockout strategy was to restrict star players from choosing their own destinies. The problem is that they can’t stop free agency. If a player is in the final year of his contract and is not going to stay with the team he’s on, he’s going to have a certain amount of power in choosing his trade destination if he doesn’t agree to re-sign with his new team. That is just the nature of the beast. Most players in any of the major sports have but one chance in their careers to have serious influence on where they go and how much they can make.
Stern said that the deal was not good enough for the Hornets and that his decision to block a great trade didn’t have anything to do with other owners. He also thinks Jerry Sandusky only likes to ‘horse around’ with young boys. But I digress! Phil Jackson the former Laker coach brought the Paul issue up a year ago with the league owning the Hornets which is a clear conflict of interest. He was fined by the league for predicting the cluster f#@! that eventually panned out.
Fast forward a few days later with trade proposals flying like bullets and players being amnestied left and right, the Lakers gave away Lamar Odom to the World Champion Mavericks for a 40oz. Neither Stern, Gilbert or any other small market owners said a word about that. Instead of Demps doing the negotiations going forward, Stern took over negotiations from New York rendering the Hornets GM a GM with no clothes. Oh and this just in: Paul goes to the Clippers instead; the team with historically racist owner the the league has never addressed. That makes a lot of sense!
I’m just disgusted with the NBA right now. And I’m honestly not sure if there will be any coming back from it. This is NOT about the Lakers not getting CP3 either. Since Jerry Buss turned the team over to his son, the way they have treated many of their loyal personnel like Brian Shaw for instance has shown a total lack of class. Likewise, not even telling Lamar Odom, a man who has taken a lesser playing role and less money for years as a sign of loyalty that the team was seeking to trade him is reprehensible. That is a side issue that calls into question my respect for the Laker organization.
What is bothersome is that in addition to the lockout, the league’s manipulation of team business is a huge turn off. I would much rather take my team to task for the way they manage, the way they play, Mike Brown’s coaching, etc. My team has been my team for over 30 years and we haven’t won the championship every year. I’m good with that. The issue is credibility! I want to have the belief at least that the product that is NBA basketball is a legitimate institution. Where if each team plays by the rules established that they can make or break their own clubs, their own seasons, and that I as a fan can watch the games and root from a fan’s perspective.
At best Christmas morning anticipation of the NBA should feel as if I am waking up to love I’ve known most of my life. Now it feels like a dirty whore being shoved down my throat dressed with promos of players just recently cursed by owners. Where owners who have less skill and attract-ability can dictate to other teams what they can and cannot do. Perhaps Stern will make Kim Kardashian an ESPN sideline reporter next. It seems the league has not been less out of touch with reality. I am a very educated fan and I won’t be given anything and told to deal with it.
Perhaps it seems I’m taking this all too personally. But I doubt it. Even if we the normal fan cannot pay for NBA salaries, the fan base is the foundation that drives the revenues. The time and dedication given by the average Joe in caring about what happens to his/her team gives the league the core value that the dollars and cents can be worth investing in. Stern and the likes, have polluted that image. Now it seems the games are played in boardrooms through conference calls to New York.
I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out for me as a fan. Right now, it’s looking like the NFL will be the television featured in my house on Christmas Day. And for that, I’m sorry.
*****If you examine Gilbert’s letter closely, he details how the initial trade may benefit the Lakers as they were to get Paul, while clearing salary from their books. And by doing so make themselves eligible later for even more attractive free agents. Under the rules mind you that the owners just agreed to. What he didn’t say which is apparent, is that he (Gilbert) was not smart enough to do the same. And that no attractive free agent will ever want to play for his team because of his ineptness not to mention the way he showed his ass after LeBron left. What he was essentially saying is, “Thanks to me the Cavaliers ARE the Washington Generals. Since I don’t have managerial smarts or the ability to make my team attractive so stars will want to play in Cleveland, let’s focus on making teams like the Lakers suffer so that my idiocy is not so apparent.” I mean, what has he done to date thus far to improve his own situation?