We all remember the NBA lockout that existed, right? Of course we do, the thing to ponder and that will grow more baffling as this summer of free agency continues is whether the owners and general managers remember it.
After the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA title, the offseason began and so did tension-filled negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners wanted to be saved from themselves, they didn’t want big market teams to have the advantage of taking away great players from smaller teams and they were tired of guys being overpaid to be mediocre, inconsistent and not have any wins to show for it.
It’s why Joe Johnson’s contract is seen as an albatross, it’s why Rashard Lewis’ contract will never make sense considering he was just the third-best player on the Magic team that gave him that $124 million and why we now have an amnesty clause (where a team can wipe off a player’s salary from their payroll for salary cap flexibility). So with all the craziness of free agency this year, what did the NBA lockout solve?
The greatest example of the little that the NBA lockout solved is the Dwight Howard saga. Howard is the third big name All-Star (after Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul) to essentially force his way out of town in order to play in a better market with better teams. Small market owners were adamant about not coming up with restrictions on player movement that made it easier for them to hold onto their players without fearing they would fly the coup. Kevin Durant is staying in Oklahoma City long-term, Tim Duncan has played in San Antonio without the help of big names coming to town and Kevin Love is now signed with Minnesota for at least the next three years. It’s possible to keep a big name in a small market, it’s just difficult to keep a big name in a town with small minded owners, no matter the market.
Let’s look at the Dwight Howard situation that has him being traded sooner rather than later. There are differing ideas on how the Magic managed to get to this point with their franchise player but if you, like I, want to hold Dwight accountable for his mismanaging of this situation then it’s also fair to point to the front office for all of their mistakes during Dwight’s tenure.
Signing Rashard Lewis to a $124 million deal, trading Marcin Gortat for Jason Richardson (one has emerged as an All-Star caliber player and the other one on the downside of his career, guess who is who), bringing back Hedo Turkoglu with a salary that caused him to leave the team in the first place, taking on Gilbert Arenas’ contract only to cut him months later and mismanaging the entire team when you have the best center in the NBA.
Joe Johnson was vastly overpaid for his services but he’s still a six-time All-Star who is also the third best shooting guard in the NBA. Joe was overpaid, but what else have the Hawks done aside from overpay, overvalue and underachieve?
The same questions can be asked toward the Wizards for trading a great expiring deal (Lewis’ $24 million) for two ugly long-term deals (nearly $42 million between Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza for the next two years), the Warriors for using their amnesty clause on an expiring contract (Charlie Bell for $4 million) instead of an ugly deal (Andries Biedrins for $18 million over two years), and the Clippers for giving Jamal Crawford $25 million after having the second-worst field goal percentage in the NBA.
The NBA lockout didn’t do anything but give the bad owners ten more years to be what they are, bad at their jobs. The lockout was supposed to not only find a medium for the basketball related income split, it was supposed to stop big names from leaving their teams on a whim and stop small names from being overpaid as they strung their teams’ salary cap. All we’re seeing is that front offices aren’t learning their lesson.
Dwight Howard would love to play in Brooklyn and just might get his wish, but would be he pushing this hard had the Magic actually built a better team around him? Sure, they won 50 games year in and year out, they made the NBA Finals in 2009 and the team is one of the best in the East but that’s not only BECAUSE of Dwight, it’s in SPITE of poor management.
LeBron James’ choice to leave the Cavaliers wasn’t simply based on going to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on South Beach, it was also based on Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert thinking Mo Williams being the second-best guy on a team you have title hopes for is acceptable. Wally Sczerbiak, Shaquille O’Neal at age 38, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace way after his prime and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, those were the best players Cleveland supplied LeBron.
For years, people criticized Kevin Garnett for being entirely too loyal to the Minnesota Timberwolves and their annual first round exits until Garnett had enough and finally wanted to win. Now, Kevin Love has taken his place as the face of the franchise and has recently said if he is to stay in Minnesota that the team has to get better now.
The ugly truth is that great players will find a way to play with great players, they’ll find their ways out of bad situations and bad players get paid handsomely to not play the same way.
The system may not be perfect, but how perfect and accountable have the owners been? They want to be saved from themselves when they don’t even know how to save money, drama and their markets from losing big names.
As much as we want to harp on the cases of the athlete for wanting to have their own way, it’s not as if the owners have shown that the lockout has taught them a valuable lesson. Think smarter, not harder, guys.