Please do not argue with the Sports Editor. That’s like taking the side of millionaire players or billionaire owners. It just does not make any sense. Illustration by David G. Brown
Jermaine O’Neal was one of the best players in the NBA in 2003 with the Indiana Pacers. He was rewarded with a seven year, $126 million guaranteed contract. But during the 2008-09 season in Toranto and Miami, he only averaged 13.5 points per game while earning $21.3 million. Contracts like that are ruining the league. Photo by Jeff Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
So who should you be rooting for in the NBA lockout? Million dollar players, or billion dollar owners? The answer is pretty simple… neither! Root for what is in your best interest as a fan, meaning competitive balance, which can be achieved through revenue sharing and non-guaranteed contracts.
As much as we all love basketball, lets be real, most of the NBA is unwatchable. Does anybody really want to tune in and watch the Houston Rockets play the Washington Wizards? Ah, no, not really.
Unless you’re a fan of either of those teams, why would anybody watch those two teams play each other?
Match up about 75 percent of the league against each other and no thanks, I’m not watching, and looking at the ratings, not very many people are watching either. Outside of the marquee teams, who is watching this league?
The NBA is a league of haves and have-nots. Being a Lakers fan is awesome, because they have the money to spend, and they will go over the soft cap to build a winner. And it helps that free agents would love to play for the 16-time NBA champions.
But the Wizards? Ah, yeah, sorry, but you have no chance. Not because of poor scouting. Not because of poor management, but because of a system the rewards the haves, and pretty much kills the have-nots.
The NBA owners and players need to look at the perfect model. That would be the NFL. Think about it, put the Houston Texans on TV against the Washington Redskins and the ratings will go through the roof. Why? Because the NFL has parity, which the NBA needs some of.
Back in the mid 1990s, when the term parity was first thrown around in the NFL, fans hated the idea. But seeing what parity, which has been brought about by revenue sharing, no guaranteed contacts, and a hard salary cap, has done for the NFL, parity is like the best thing ever. Every team has a chance.
Have a bunch of football players who are taking up a large portion of the salary cap without producing much? No problem. If a player doesn’t play up to his paycheck, he’s cut.
In the NBA, if a team has too many non-performing players, they are pretty much stuck with them because the contracts are guaranteed. But in the NFL, when a team is doing bad, no problem, just hit that reset button by releasing the bad players and start all over. That is one way that a NFL team can go from bad to good in a hurry.
Because of parity every team in the NFL can be competitive, which draws interest to the league as a whole. Just about every game is competitive. Every game is exciting. And if you’re a fan of a team in a small market, no problem. The Green Bay Packers have just as much chance as the Dallas Cowboys. What chance do the Milwaukee Bucks have?
The NFL’s model forces teams to have great management, where in the NBA, the top free agents will go to the most attractive cities. When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all decided to form a “dream team,” they certainly did not do it in Cleveland or Toronto. Who would want to live in either of those cities when they can live in South Beach?
Some people will point out that small market teams do have a chance in the NBA, and they will use the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder as prime examples. But in reality, those teams did not get their key players through great management.
The Spurs were able to get Tim Duncan, one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the NBA, because they had a rash of injuries in 1996. They were a yearly playoff team that could not get over the hump before then. When David Robinson missed the bulk of the 1996 season, and they had key injuries all over their roster, they were horrible, which put them in a position to win the lottery and draft Duncan.
What seemed to be a misfortune for the Spurs ended up being the greatest thing that could happen to them because they landed Duncan, who was the focal point of four NBA titles.
As for the Thunder, they were fortunate not to win the draft lottery in 2007. Had they won the first pick, there is no question that they would have drafted Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant, and they would still be a horrible team while the Portland Trailblazers would be a contender.
With the model that the NBA has now, the only chance that most teams have is to be horrible for a year, and then get lucky with the draft lottery. It worked for the Spurs and Thunder.
The NBA players do not want a hard cap, because it would limit the amount that they can make, and they certainly do not want to get rid of guaranteed contracts. Imagine what the Lakers could get if they did not have to play Luke Walton $5.6 million. Maybe they could finally fix their point guard problem.
Imagine what the Clippers could get if they were not stuck paying Chris Kaman $12.2 million. They could get an All Star player, or fill a number of holes on their roster, and be a real contender.
How many NBA players have been getting over on the system because their contract is guaranteed?
Tracy McGrady for one. He made $20.3 million in 2009-10 while averaging 9.4 points per game in only 24 games of action. The season before he played in only six games, averaging 3.2 points.
How about point guard Stephon Marbury? He was earning $20 million a season, while two-time MVP Steve Nash made $12.2 million in 2009-10.
Center Jermaine O’Neal made $21.3 million in a season while doing a whole lot of nothing in Toronto.
It is easy to see why so many teams are losing money. They are maxed out financially while they cannot put a good product on the court that people would actually want to go out and see or watch on television.
Most of the teams in the NBA are straddled with horrible contracts that they cannot get rid of. The only thing that they can do is trade their players with bad contracts to other teams for their players with bad contracts.
The players accepting a system without guaranteed contracts and a hard salary cap would make the league much better. And the owners of franchises that are making a lot of money need to share it with franchises that are losing money to a much higher degree.
It is pointless for a few franchises on the top to make a boatload of money while the franchises on the bottom are going broke. The NFL figured that out, and everybody is making money. With a competitive league across the board there is great interest, which means huge television ratings, which means a whole lot of money for everybody.
The NBA system is broken, and it does not look like it will be fixed any time soon. In the meantime, just enjoy watching the NFL, which is much better anyway.
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