Prolonged Lockout Not All Bad for New Orleans

Published: July 21, 2011

I want a prolonged NBA Lockout.  Yes, it’s blasphemous, but it’s true.

I have been an NBA fan for as long as I can remember.  I was enraptured by the Magic-Bird-Jordan years and never let go.  I’ve also been a “fan” of New Orleans since I moved here at age 3.  When the Minnesota Timberwolves almost moved to New Orleans in 1994, I bought every trading card they had ever had and preserved them right next to my Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card.  I watch, read, play with the Trade Machine and check the NBA rumors every morning.  It’s a great game.

We just had one of the greatest and most competitive seasons of NBA basketball ever.  One of the greatest playoffs ever.  But my proposition still stands: a long lockout may be the only way to save basketball in New Orleans.  My schoolin’ is in the Law, and I know when the fight is over large sums of money, sometimes people have to be saved from themselves.

In the NFL Lockout, I was on the side of the players.  The NFL players needed better benefits; their contracts weren’t as guaranteed, as NBA contracts are.  The NFL was making ungodly amounts of money, and players weren’t necessarily sharing in the money they were helping earn. 

With the NBA lockout, I am with the owners.  The league isn’t making money.  Too many teams (including our own) are in the red.  Too many players are getting paid too much money.

My favorite Sportswriter, Bill Simmons of, recently wrote that he can solve the NBA Lockout.  In the piece, he discusses how ridiculously overpaid some players like Rashard Lewis (Washington), Emeka Oakfor (NOLA) and Baron Davis (Cleveland) are overpaid.  Do you remember when Stephon Marbury made $21 million dollars from the Knicks to ride the bench? I do. It’s sad.

The league has to be saved from itself.  The owners have to be saved from themselves.  Or else, we won’t see small-market basketball like the New Orleans Hornets.  For every Chris Paul who deserves his max $14 million there is a Mo Williams at $9.3 million, or a Corey Maggette at $10.2 million.  Last year we saw Milwaukee give Drew Gooden, who hasn’t been good since 2006, a 4-year deal at $6.2 million.  John Salmons, Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon, Al Jefferson, need I go on?

We need revenue sharing in the NBA, and fast.  We need shorter contracts in the NBA, and an actual salary cap, and we need them fast.  The players have been used to the $20 million-sit-on-the-bench season for stars past their prime.  Everything has to change if small-market basketball is going to make it.  LA and New York don’t have to win games to make money.  We do, or the costs have to go down.

The NBA in New Orleans needs a cortizone shot if we are going to save this team and save our stars from bolting.  If we can get the team in the black, we can attract a buyer.  If we can’t get a good Collective Bargaining Agreement which favors small markets by the opening of the season, there will be heartbreak, but not heartburn.  If the season is delayed to say, 60 games only, or even 50, remember that New Orleans could be a team that benefits.  We are a solid, fundamental basketball team that wins in streaks.  The team has veterans and leaders like Chris Paul that can make things happen when they see an opening (see Lakers, Los Angeles).  The longer it takes for an NBA season to start, the less the distraction of the NFL season becomes (and the home crowds will be bigger, we hope).  If we keep David West, he will have longer to rehab his knee (reports have him coming back perhaps as early as November now).

But most importantly, we can’t let the contract-status-quo continue. Let’s keep the games competitive and the teams solvent.  Even if it takes a lockout—the game needs to change.

In 2004, the NHL locked out its players for a full year.  That league had similar problems with overpaid players, it had no salary cap and small-markets were hemorrhaging money.  Although the NBA isn’t exactly analogous, and it took 5 years for the competition to rise to a high level again, the NHL is no longer losing money like it used to. 

Basketball is much more popular in this country than hockey.  Maybe we don’t have to lose an entire season like the NHL in 2004-2005, maybe we can save the 2011-2012 NBA season.  But more than a basketball season has to be saved here.  Everyone—the players, the owners, the high school kids who dream of playing on the big stage—must be saved from themselves.  Then, we can save the Hornets.


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