Will 2011-12 NBA season start on time, if at all?


Sports aficionados who enjoy the seasonal changes that athletics usher in have just endured a long and protracted NFL lockout, and now it’s the NBA’s turn.
    Its 66th NBA season is contingent upon the adoption of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the owners of all 30 NBA teams and the NBA’s players. The previous CBA expired in July, and lockout is assured.
    I hope the NBA owners and the NBPA (National  Basketball Players Association) were watching what happened with the NFL’s CBA. But I think the issues are even bigger with the NBA players.
    There are some truths that exist and do not exist in the NFL. First, NFL players wear helmets, are far away from the crowd and have 22 players on the field at the same time. I feel that even though the NFL, like the NBA, has a majority of African-American players, most NFL fans have gotten to the point where the jersey is the main rooting point.
    Sure, there are the exceptions like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ray Lewis who are recognized by most NFL fans. But I cannot tell who most of the players are without a number on their back.
    Now in the NBA, the games are contested in intimate arenas where the players do not wear helmets (maybe face masks to protect broken noses or jaws) and there are only ten athletes on the court. That means the fans can really see and know the players’ faces.
    Also the NBA is more about the players and not the number on their back. Unfortunately, I believe many in the media and talk radio will not have any sympathy for tall, African-American millionaires. A protracted debate will lead to retorts like, “They make enough money and they are greedy.” Driven by the media, the public will be less tolerant of the NBA players.That is why the NBA does not need a mean-spirited, public spat.
    “It’s unfortunate because we have great momentum right now,” said Kevin Garnett. “I think the league is, as far as anticipation and the leading stories and the careers that you can follow, you know, Dirk (Nowitzki) finally winning, I mean there’s multiple stories that are intriguing right now. It’s just unfortunate that we’re all going through this right now to sort of slow that down.”
    It appears from the outside looking in that both sides are entrenched. In a recent showing of solidarity, over 60 players gathered at a press conference, where NBPA union president and Laker Derek Fisher said tplayers won’t accept a bad deal to avert a work stoppage. “We’d love to avoid a lockout,” he told reporters, “but we’re unified in the sense of not afraid if that’s what we’re faced with.”
    The owners want a “flex” salary cap, but the players still consider their proposal a hard cap. It’s similar to the NHL’s salary cap system, which NBPA executive director Billy Hunter called “the worst deal in all of professional sports.”
    Hunter said the NBA owners want to break the union like the NHL owners did. “The owners want to impose the same kind of damage on us, break the spirit, will and resolve of the NBA players in order to achieve what they want.”
    The players say their proposal called for them to give back $500 million in salary over five years by reducing their share of guaranteed revenues from 57 percent to 54.3 percent.
    The owners have projected $300 million in losses this season and claim 22 of its 30 teams will lose money. Players point to record TV ratings and increases in merchandise and ticket sales and wonder where all the money has gone.
    Will the NBA season start on time on Nov. 1? I sure hope so.
     Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII.


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