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.
Coming up with a list of people who have lost out because of the NBA lockout is easy. As of last night (when the Thunder were supposed to open the season versus the Los Angeles Lakers), the players are missing out on paychecks. The owners are losing out on revenues. Businesses surrounding the team arenas are missing the foot traffic brought about by home games. Fans are not getting the world class entertainment they crave. Most importantly, rank and file employees of the teams are losing their menial-wage jobs while the billionaires argue with their millionaire employees over how much money each side is entitled to receive.
Only one man has taken the debacle and thrived on the stalemate: Kevin Durant.
For a man whose life time earnings are probably going to be reduced by about 15% as a result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that will come from this lockout, Durant has still managed to make the most of the situation. While the owners have fertilized the situation with financial statements bordering on fradulent and the Player’s Association pretended that a 20% cut in their pay was akin to slavery, the Thunder star has stayed above the fray.
Early in the Summer, he joined in a virtual nationwide street ball tour, dominating playground basketball leagues from L.A., to D.C., to NY. Then he started doing exhibition games with other NBA players–normally for charity–where he outplayed LeBron James. (And James’ effort generally has a reverse correlation to the stakes involved, so he was at his best.) All the goodwill generated from KD playing for free earned him enough favors to organize what will be the closest the 405 ever comes to hosting an All Star game.
Now basketball with nothing at stake is apparently starting to bore him. Monday night on Twitter, Durant made what everyone expected to be a joke about wanting to join a flag football league. Everyone either laughed at, or ignored, the plea except for a Sigma Nu member at OSU who jokingly offered the NBA superstar a roster spot at his team’s intramural game.
A few hours later, Durant pulled his minivan into the parking lot of the Snake House in Stillwater.
The rest can be seen in the embedded YouTube clip above, but in summary, it was only a step above a real version of this promotional photo he did for Nike:
With the boredom kicking in, we came up with a few other things Durant could do to occupy his time until the NBA powers-that-be come to their senses.
Go Door-to-Door in Oklahoma City and sign one thing at every house
I imagine this would turn into a pied piper sort of situation where the first kid shooting baskets on the driveway who sees him walk up to the door follows him to the next house. By the time KD gets a couple of streets down, he has enough children following him that it blocks off May Avenue. At minimum, the publicity stunt raises his Q-score. Also very likely, it makes a bunch of people who aren’t in the cockiest fraternity at OSU happy.
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