When the NBA locked out its players before the 1998-99 season, the players let themselves go worse than Jessica Simpson after she divorced that dude from that boy band. Without access to team facilities and trainers, many players were in no condition to play any basketball when the labor issues were finally ironed out. So, since the current NBA season will be starting two months late and training camps will be abbrieviated, this was certainly a concern for every team’s coach.
Oklahoma City’s players gave Coach Scott Brooks nothing to worry about. In addition to the players who stayed in shape by playing with European teams (Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Byron Mullens), workout warriors (Russell Westbrook and Ibaka again), and Kevin Durant who played wherever there happened to be a basketball, there were some surprises.
Do you recognize that guy? I’ll give you a hint. It’s that doughy guy who intimidated the crap out of Nene in the first round of the playoffs last year. You know him…the center who generally showed up to play offense with the team right around the time the ball started going the other direction.
That’s Kendrick Perkins looking like 50 Cent when he took that movie role where he was a cancer patient.
When the news of the formerly overweight big man showing up to camp as a svelte looking modern center that can run the floor, I was not surprised. Thanks to Royce over at Daily Thunder, a workout video of Perkins behaving like the anti-Shaq became viral. That workout video showed that not only had Perk lost his baby fat, but he had started to sculpt himself and improved his flexibility so as to move better.
Not everyone is happy with the new Perk, though. John Rohde of The Oklahoman cautioned:
I understand the concern. After the trade last season, Perkins instilled a toughness in the team. Opposing teams thought twice about attacking the rim when a hard foul from the Thunder goliath was waiting for them. Now that he is, according to his own reports, 32 pounds lighter, perhaps his presence will not be as frightening.
After the least damaging “nuclear winter” ever, there will be a–short–NBA season. Since June, the only question being asked by most Thunder fans was some variation of “are they going to play this season?” After the situation was amicably resolved at the point of no hope, the conversation has shifted to how the new dawn of the league will affect Oklahoma City.
Okay, that isn’t really happening, but it should. I’ll start out with the good news:
Money, Money, Money
One of the primary objectives of ownership in the collective bargaining negotiations was to create a system that invited league parity. In layman terms, they want everyone to have an equal opportunity to win the NBA Championship. This has not been the case over the past…history of the league. Unless Michael Jordan was playing the the Bulls, either the Celtics or Lakers have won just about every year.
The way to achieve parity apparently comes down to making the individual ownership groups more profitable. And since most of the money earned by the league goes to Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, and New York, the way to make the smaller market teams have better looking financial statements is to make the big markets share.
As one of the smallest cities with a team, the Thunder are going to be the recipient of that sweet shared revenue. Theoretically, that means they can take the infused money, increase team payroll, and start being a player in free agency.
Don’t count on it. Thunder ownership is rooted in the kind of fiscal responsibility that, if the other 29 teams practiced, would have helped to avoid labor disruption in the first place. What it will mean, however, is that when the current roster becomes more expensive, the Thunder can hopefully use those extra checks from the Knicks and Bulls to keep Serge Ibaka and James Harden from jumping to richer teams. Speaking of which…
The BCS is the 1%.
After throttling the #10 ranked team in the country, all of the Big 12 region and a good portion of the rest of the U.S. felt Oklahoma State should get a shot at undefeated Louisiana State for the national title. That is not going to happen. Instead, there will be a re-match of the season’s most exciting game where the Alabama Crimson Tide lost a thrilling 9-6 battle at home to LSU.
The arguments for Alabama getting the nod over Oklahoma State are numerous. Their one loss was against a team that remains undefeated, and they would have beaten LSU if their kicker and offense didn’t suck. Also, Alabama has the greatest defense in the history of defense. Their defense is so good that only two teams with an offense rated in the top-85 of BCS schools even scheduled a game against the Tide this year. Alabama plays in the SEC–the world’s best conference–a conference so strong that a full schedule against those schools netted the Tide the nation’s 42 strongest strength of schedule. They beat three–THREE!–teams that won more games than they lost on the season.
Of course only one argument matters: Alabama is Alabama.
On Monday, after months of negotiations, the NBA Players Association decided that they were no longer interested in being a trade union. Billy Hunter, the head of the NBPA, announced that the union would be disclaiming interest in representing the players in collective bargaining and that the league’s players would file litigation claiming unfair labor practices.
That’s a lot of big words and mumbo-jumbo, so as someone who spends way too much time following what is going on, I thought I would help our readers get a better understanding of what is happening. These are the questions I see most often (along with some questions that I should hear more).
This means the season is over, doesn’t it?
The short answer is “yes.”
At the heart of the NBA Lockout is a fundamental inability for billionaire owners and millionaire basketball players to determine how much each side deserves. Some beat writers insist that the “only” thing standing in the way of a deal being reached is for the two sides to figure out how to split a $4 billion dollar pie. It’s like this should be as easy as figuring how to distribute the expense of a dinner check.
It’s $4 billion.
After the owner’s locked out the players during the Summer of 1998, the two sides agreed that the players would be guaranteed 57% of income derived from basketball activities. At the time, that signified significant concessions from the Player’s Union that were supposed to make the league franchises profitable. A dozen years later, during a period where municipalities bought franchises arenas and growth in league revenue exploded (even during a recession), the owners insist that the Union needs to cut their share of revenue by 20% so the league will not lose $300 million per year.
If not, the owners insist they instead will choose to forfeit every cent of revenue for as long as it takes to break the Union. That is unless the Union actually breaks, in which case they will take the players to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to force them into collectively bargaining.
This situation comes to a head today.
After months of negotiations that have shown promise before suddenly falling apart, Commissioner David Stern put the league’s “final offer” on paper. The offer says that in return for taking a 12% cut in pay and system changes that definitively favor the owners, the players will get to receive the money promised to them in the contracts that the owners signed. Seriously, ownership views that as a major concession.
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