[The deflated NBA - Lowell School basketball court, N.W. Washington, D.C. - photo: K. Weidie]
What does the latest lockout news, the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, mean for player development, fan loyalty, media coverage, and if a season will be played at all? The collective knowledge of TAI contributors — Rashad Mobley, John Converse Townsend, Beckley Mason, Adam McGinnis, and myself – weigh in, on the scale of 1-5.
1) Scale 1-5: How much does the lockout set player development/rebuilding back for the Wizards — 5 being a huge setback; 1 being no big deal?
Mobley: The reality is that the Wizards would have been in rebuilding mode even without the lockout. What it has done is give franchise-player John Wall, an extended summer to flex the new found confidence in his game, and ideally that will be contagious. Ideally. 1.
Townsend: The Wizards have a lot riding on the development of the last two draft classes. Rookies Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack would greatly benefit from a full NBA offseason, allowing them to hit the ground running come game day; however, other players have signed deals overseas and continue to mature in professional settings. Setback? Maybe. Idle? More likely. 3.
Mason: Individual skill development work is much more productive in the off-season, if the player has a worthwhile trainer. It doesn’t help a team adding some important rookies, though. 2.
McGinnis: The Wizards desperately need to get back together as a team, figure out which players are going to be building blocks, who needs to be shipped out of town, and whether Flip Saunders is the man to lead the franchise back to competitiveness. 4.
Weidie: As more games are cancelled, with training camp, etc. already delayed, we might find NBA players losing motivation after what might have been a summer of more dedicated workouts than ever — especially considering the Wizards crew. The out-reach that Flip Saunders and staff did last summer in traveling to player home-bases for training has now gotten lost on most. I think it was more valuable than people realize. 4.
2) Scale 1-5: How much do you think the lockout, the two cancelled weeks of the season (and likely more) in the least, will turn off the NBA’s fan-base — 5 being worse than the ’94-95 baseball strike; 1 being fans will come back in same hoards no matter what?
Mobley: I think some fans will go the jilted lover route and claim to shun the NBA forever. But eventually the allure of an abbreviated season, a lightning fast free agency period, and the possibility that their favorite team has an outside shot at a playoff berth, will draw most of the fans back. 2.
Townsend: The lockout will continue to disaffect basketball fans. Merchandise sales, NBA League Pass subscriptions and season ticket renewals are guaranteed to take a dive — I expect to see half-empty stadiums when the lockout comes to an end. That said, people need their hoops fix, and there is no game better than the NBA. Fans will come back slowly, just not with open arms (or wallets). 3½.
Mason: 1 if it only lasts two weeks. If it lasts until December, after the baseball playoffs and during the (relative) doldrums of the NFL season, people will be annoyed. But if they come back and the product is strong–especially in terms of a compelling playoffs, I don’t see the repercussions being too terrible–maybe a 3.
McGinnis: NBA owners are playing with fire that people are just going to jump back at spending $100 dollar seats and $9 beers while the country’s economy continues its deep slog. The League is risking TV ratings and corporate ad dollars, too. 3 and rising.
Weidie: You got your basketball junkies who will watch the sport and the best pro league in the world no matter what. Then you have the general fans that the league is always trying to attract for advertisers. I think since their interest is general in the first place, once the league returns they won’t be able to avert their eyes, assuming the NBA continues putting out a good product. With all the budding stars, I don’t see why not. 1.
3) Scale 1-5: How much stock do you put in media reports surrounding labor negotiations — 5 being that the connected mainstream guys can be highly trusted, it’s just what they are covering is erratic; 1 being how can you take any stock when it seems most sources are probably fueled by rhetoric and politicking that’s convenient to them?
Mobley: The beauty of all sports–not just the NBA and this lockout–is that we not only have our go-to websites, but we have our trusted go-to people within those sites. Not to be a company guy or anything, but TrueHoop has done an excellent job of providing fair and balanced analysis of this lockout, not just straight reporting. David Aldridge and Ken Berger have, too. 4.
Townsend: I’ve been following the media reports for updates on the labor negotiations, but not fiending for the latest headlines from the scene. I’ll take my lockout news with a spoonful of sugar and an entire jar of salt. 4.
Mason: The media that can get access must name everyone anonymously, and often does so without parsing the spin for us. I’ve been disappointed by coverage that seems uninterested in getting to the bottom of whether the NBA is actually losing money, and have let both sides simply use the vague goal of “as much money as possible” as their motivations. 4, but that’s just because we have no other choice.
McGinnis: Like any negotiations with two sides trying to win the public spin war, it really is difficult to sift through the public statements and reports, especially with David Stern running things and Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski going off on his usual slanted jihads. 2.
Weidie: I’ve been trying to stay removed from reporting on lockout negotiations, mainly because I don’t trust any sources, nor any side (players, owners and agents). I understand that understanding the economics helps with team analysis, but let me know when the CBA is set. I can stand without all of the B.S., especially when the few stories I do read irk me. 1.
4) Scale 1-5: How confident are you that any sort of season will be played in 2011-12 — 5 being that a realization by both sides of their absurd stupidity (and money losses) will relent to compromise very soon; 1 being highly unlikely that any season will be played?
Mobley: The players will tire of the touring the country to play free exhibitions, and the owners will notice how college football, the NFL and college basketball are seemingly replacing the NBA, and there will be professional basketball played by January at the latest. 5.
Townsend: I’m not optimistic about a 2011-2012 season; recent reports indicate that both the owners and the players have dug their trenches. The Players Association is empathetic to the needs of future generations of NBA athletes and claims it’s prepared to hunker down for a long, cold winter. The owners, on the other hand, are glancing longingly in the mirror thinking, “Hey, this lockout looks pretty good on me.” 2.
Mason: I put the start of the season somewhere around the middle of December. 5.
McGinnis: From the outset, I was convinced that there was likely not going to be a season. Stern and the owners seemed content on holding out until they busted the union while the NBAPA naively thought there was some middle ground to be found with an opposing side out to destroy them. The ominous sign to me was when the NBA sued a bunch of players, including the Jimmer, to get a favorable court in the future. 1.
Weidie: I’m inclined not the believe threats, such as Ben Gordon claiming the lockout could last up to two years. The eight-percent that the NBPA has been saving for players won’t suffice when considering all the other entities they must support. This, however, isn’t to say both sides aren’t capable of digging in their heels. Thus, I’m thinking there will be basketball in February after the Super Bowl. 3.
Let Me Ride!
[bus dock, Silver Spring, MD - photo: K. Weidie]