August 8, 2011

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NBA Lockout Far Different Than NFL Version

By: Anson Whaley

When it comes to lockouts in professional sports ending a season, my stance is generally that things will sort themselves out before a season is lost. Obviously that’s not always the case as the 2005 NHL work stoppage proved, but the recent NFL lockout was the perfect example that the opportunity exists for logic and common sense to win out. In short, the players need the money and owners of profitable teams don’t want to lose cash flow or goodwill they’ve spent years building up with communities. Sports, in essence, are one of the most important things to a city. Even when things may not be going well economically, residents can look forward to the fact that they have a team they can support.

An NFL lockout was averted at the last minute and not only will there be a NFL season in 2011, it will be a complete one save for the annual preseason NFL Hall of Fame game. Unfortunately for NBA fans, though, the NBA lockout may have a far different outcome since the players and owners have legitimate reasons for not rushing into a deal.

The biggest reason that NBA players will be able to afford to hold out for a better deal is because of the number of professional leagues overseas. Unlike the NFL where few viable professional leagues exist, basketball has become a global sport and there are numerous options available in Europe to NBA stars. The most important aspect of all of this is that players can not only make money, but good money. Some teams may even pay additional expenses such as apartment rentals.

Some lower-level players are already signing contracts overseas and even some of the league’s biggest stars such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Howard are said to be giving the option significant consideration. Most players would not dream of risking the ability to play in the NBA in the event there is a season, so over the next few weeks, you can expect to see more and more players sign overseas deals with clauses allowing them to return to their respective NBA clubs once the lockout ends. Under that scenario, the players can earn money but still return to the NBA once the opportunity exists. In addition, those taking advantage of that situation will also be in far better physical shape than athletes sitting at home busy filling out their NFL fantasy football rosters and will have the opportunity to face some quality competition. Players will not only benefit financially by playing overseas, but they should also perform better once the season starts.

Will these players get a chance for another NBA Title?

In addition, the owners also have an incentive to wait until a better situation comes along. In the midst of the NBA season last year, the league claimed that 22 of its 30 teams were losing money. That’s a far different situation than the NFL, which is an enormous moneymaker. At this point, many NBA teams may be better off waiting until they can be more profitable. As much fun as it might sound to hold the keys to an NBA franchise, owners are ultimately in business to make money. For teams losing money, the prospect of not playing a season may not sound all that frightening. 

A factor that both sides will take into consideration is that the season is far longer than that of the NFL. With the playoffs, an NBA season can last about eight months. Add in training camp and the NBA offseason for teams that advance deep into the postseason is an extremely short break compared to their NFL counterparts. Some NBA players would welcome more time off and as the owners know from the lockout in 1998-99, a season can still be played even if it doesn’t start until later in the year. Both sides can do their best to negotiate a fair deal and still make some money by salvaging part of the season.

Unlike the NFL, NBA fans may unfortunately be in for a lockout that wipes out part or all of the season if negotiations don’t pick up.

July 7, 2011

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NBA Lockout Lowdown

By: Rick Jarrell

This remainder of the summer will not be kind to NBA and NFL sports fans. Instead of words like “free agency” and “training camp” being tossed around to arouse our appetites, we hear “lockout” and “if and when the season starts.” It’s tough on us fans and doesn’t seem fair – without us, the players and owners would be out of work anyways, right? But sports are not just a hobby, but a business. So what do the players and owners disagree on that allowed the collective bargaining agreement to expire last week? Here’s a few of the key topics.

Hard Cap vs. Soft Cap

The most previous CBA had a soft cap, meaning teams could go over the salary cap but pay a luxury tax as a penalty. This created more revenue coming back from the teams to the leagues, but also hurts competitive balance. Small market teams, like Oklahoma City, find it hard to compete with big market teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers, even with revenue sharing.

The owners are pushing for a hard cap, partly to foster higher competitive balance, but also to prevent teams from over spending beyond their financial abilities. The question many have in mind is how teams that are well over the former salary cap, like the Lakers and Orlando Magic, will be affected by a hard cap.

The League is Losing Money

Despite the NBA being at arguably it’s height of popularity, the league claims they lost $340 million for the 2009-2010 season. The players, however, maintain the number is well below that. There’s no way for the public to know for sure what the true losses are, and a decent amount of people don’t care, but it seems certain that the league is incurring losses either way.

One of the methods to fix this issue – which is most likely the biggest issue – is lowering the revenue share between the owners and players. But the players believe they deserve an increase in revenue share, and as the most charismatic and personable players in professional sports, I can’t blame them. The NBA’s adoption of new media, i.e. social media and online videos, is far and above the NFL and MLB, largely due to the player’s willingness to buy in.

Guaranteed Contracts

Under the former CBA, the majority of player contracts were guaranteed. All-Stars, role players, rookies, veterans, other than a few exceptions (like 10-day contract), would either live out the remainder of their contract or be bought out by the team. This created an interested dynamic unseen in other sports, where at the end of their contract, players would become more valuable. Not because of their skills on the court, but for their expiring contract. Teams would use it to free up cap space or just save money.

I won’t pretend to know what happens here, but a nice compromise would be a hybrid guaranteed contract, where the first half of a contract is ensured, with an option to renegotiate once it becomes unguaranteed. But I have no idea where this issue would stand, but it seems like an opportunity to save money for the owners.

No matter what the result is, I hope it comes soon. It’s early on, and there’s no need to worry unless this fiasco goes on into September, but there is a possibility we lose part of the season. It happened a decade ago, and even though I was in my sub teenage years, I remember it well. It felt like the league would never come to an agreement. The most recent professional lockout, in the NHL, was even worse, to the point people were proposing a new league formation. This idea scares me more than any non-lethal event should. I just want to watch basketball. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin need to be on my television every night. Even no LeBron to see makes me sad.

Just get a deal done guys – for the fans, the kids, whoever. Let’s just ball.