Steve T. Gorches: NBA needs to fix its broken system
By Steve T. Gorches firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3141 November 3, 2011 11:22PM
Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune Post-Tribune sports writer Steve Gorches
Updated: December 6, 2011 8:21AM
This past Tuesday was supposed to be the start of the NBA season.
The Bulls and reigning Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose were going to be the guests of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks with a ring ceremony tossed into the mix.
I’m betting the Bulls would have won. Remember how the 1990s Bulls would struggle in ring ceremony games? They lost to the Miami Heat by 24 points in the 1994 home opener after completing their first three-peat. Of course, that was without Michael Jordan as he started his first temporary retirement.
Come to think of it, Jordan was Brett Favre before Brett Favre with a pair of retirements and subsequent returns years before Favre began his yearly wafflefests after the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons ... but I digress.
The Bulls’ home opener was set to be Saturday against Atlanta.
Alas, those games have been lost thanks to a lockout that has lasted 120 days with no end in sight.
Last Saturday was going to be our annual pick-how-many-games-you-think-the-Bulls-are-going-to-win discussion since there has always been a handful of NBA fans in the office — I was about 10 wins short last season when the Bulls had a league-best 62 wins.
But those picks are on hold.
As is anything else that has to do with the NBA. And you know what? I’m OK with it.
I love the NBA.
Not just the Bulls. I could watch a random late night west-coast game on TNT any night of the week — come on, who doesn’t enjoy watching the Phoenix Suns rack up points against the L.A. Clippers and Kia-jumping dunk champion Blake Griffin?
So you’d think I would be going through withdrawals right now, jonesing for some above-the-rim real basketball and hearing Comcast Sportsnet analyst Stacey King yell, “Too big, too strong, too fast, too good” when Rose makes another un-Bull-lievable play.
Not so much.
It’s not because I’ve grown weary of listening to labor talk and banter back and forth between billionaires who claim they’re losing too much money and millionaires who are part of a league with easily the highest average salary among its players ($5.5 million).
We disrespected sports fans just went through labor pains with the NFL lockout over the summer.
But the NBA issues are so much different than the NFL. Football has become the most popular sport in this country by far and because of that popularity, the NFL is a money-making machine. Its lockout was all about dividing the more than $9 billion in television revenues, and some minor issues.
The NBA is broken — the owners know that and the players are naive in not believing it.
Why should they, with their inflated contracts for every player on the spectrum — rookies make too much, stars make too much, veterans on their last legs make too much. No other league has something called a “mid-level exemption” in its salary cap mainly used for older players who can barely play 20 minutes a game.
For once, I can’t disagree with the owners. The system doesn’t work financially and provides no competitive balance
The big sticking point that has caused the cancellation of the first month of the season — it’s weird to go to the Bulls website and see the first game listed as a home contest against Houston on Dec. 3 — is the percentage of revenue each side thinks it deserves.
The union has drawn a line in the sand at 52.5 percent, which it says is a big sacrifice since it had been getting 57 percent. The owners have drawn a line in the sand at 50 percent.
Eight teams in the league made a profit last year — a combined $150 million — while the other 22 franchises lost money — a combined $450 million.
The other day one of the numerous complaints from the union was that the 2.5 percent represents an extra $300 million in the owners’ pockets. As the son of a former math teacher, it’s not hard for me to figure out that the difference between $450 million lost and $150 million made is $300 million. How can anyone blame businessmen from trying to offset losses?
Other issues in the bargaining seem to be easily resolved, though as an intelligent fan, I would have a hard time accepting the NBA without a hard salary cap — it’s worked in the NFL for years and it now works in the NHL after it lost a whole season seven years ago because the system was broken.
My biggest problem has been mentioned before — too many teams have no shot at winning a title when the season starts. Baseball fans like to bring up that point about their sport, but it’s not true with franchises such as the Florida (now named Miami) Marlins, San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox winning the World Series and the Texas Rangers contending the last two years.
And everyone knows that’s the NFL mantra — on any given Sunday any team can win any game and small market teams (i.e. the Green Bay Packers and Colts) have just as much of a shot to win as New York.
Why can’t the NBA be the same? Why can’t the Sacramento Kings or Charlotte Hornets compete? Because greedy players won’t go to those cities at free agent time. Instead, they take their talents to South Beach instead of staying in places like Cleveland.
Let me reiterate a point I made last season — only nine different teams have won NBA title over the last 31 seasons, and that’s up from eight in 30 years after Dallas won its first title. Four teams in that time frame — Bulls, Lakers, Spurs and Celtics — have combined for 24 titles. Contrastly, in the decade of 1970s there were eight title winners, and that doesn’t even count ABA winners in the Pacers, Utah Stars and Kentucky Colonels before the league merged.
In the same time frame, there have been 19 World Series champs, 15 Super Bowl champs and 15 Stanley Cup champs, including eight different hockey winners in the last eight seasons.
Forget all the monetary bickering. Fix the system. Otherwise, I’ll be just fine if the season is completely canceled.