TWB Staff Offseason Roundtable

As the lockout continues, we decided to get the TWolves Blog staff together to answer five key questions on everyone’s mind this offseason.

Please click “Read More” below, for the TWolves’s Staff answers to such things as, “Will the NBA lose part/all of the 2011-12 season due to the lockout”, “Who’s at fault”, “How this will affect basketball in Minnesota”, “What the TWB Staff members will be doing during the lockout”, and much more!

1.) Will the NBA lose part of the 2011-12 season due to the lockout?

Mike Reynolds: I sure hope not. It seems that while the two sides are at a wider gap now vs. 1999, discussions are occurring at a more rapid pace, which is encouraging. Currently it is just a PR battle, mostly occurring on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, imagine going back to 1999 and telling yourself that the next lockout PR game will be played on something called ‘Twitter’ in which people can post things called ‘Tweets’ that have a 140 character limit.  We live in an odd world. Anyways, I would have a hard time believing the entire season is lost. Calling it today, I say we lose some games but not to the extent of 1999. We live in a much faster-paced world than the horse and buggy days of ye olde ’99.

College Wolf: Almost undoubtedly.  In fact, I’d bet good money on it.  And I wouldn’t even be surprised if they lost the entire season.  The situation is just so incredibly bleak and dire.  Unlike the NFL, which is just arguing over how to split gobs and gobs of money, the NBA is (allegedly) losing money.  So you know there’s a real problem if (allegedly) 22 out of 30 teams are better off financially by NOT playing the games.  In this day and age of the instantaneous news cycle, we are hearing more than ever before about how the negotiations have been proceeding.  And unfortunately for the fans, it’s been much worse and more contentious than labor negotiations of the past.  Quite frankly, at this point I don’t see how we can’t lose part (or all) of the season.  The chasm between the two sides is just too gigantic, and no one is willing to concede to the other.

Jon Schweppe: I really don’t think so. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but it just seems like the league has too much to lose from a shortened/lost season. The owners are taking an irrational hard line hoping the players will cave, but the players are generally much better prepared for this than they were in 1998. I also don’t think the owners are winning in the court of public opinion, either, since they refuse to open their books yet insist on saying their numbers are irrefutable. Ultimately I expect there to be some major compromise on the owners side with the players giving up a bit more money, and we’ll start the season on time.

Tim F: Kevin Durant recently said ‘we won’t give in’. I believe both sides have a similar stance on the issue. Obviously one would need to be in the conversations between the players association and the owners, but if I had to make a guess, I would say no. Both sides at this point seem to insistent on remaining immovable objects with their demands. I don’t see this becoming anything similar to what happened to the NHL a few years back, but I do see this going a ways into the season. It all depends on who bites first.

2.) Is a particular side (owners or players) at fault?

Mike Reynolds: I understand both sides, but I have to go with the owners at about 80/20. The traditional reason is “the owners are greedy” or my personal favorite: “owners make more money than 99.9% of the world so they should be happy even though many have lost 30-40% of their net worth in the recession” blah blah. Look, you can’t fault a man for wanting to protect his business and just expect him to fold and accept massive financial losses on assets. That is traditional common man thinking and drives me insane. Under this logic, I shouldn’t even be upset at my 401k performance, because, well “I’m lucky to have one?” Ok. So while I think this POV is very flawed, I cannot argue with the fact that owners put themselves in this situation. How many previous CBA’s have lead us in this direction, and have been approved as such? How many outrageous contracts have been handed out to easily D-League substitutable players? Certainly the agents are at play, too, in all of this, but the owners put themselves here bar none. 

On the other hand, the players deserve some blame, too. It’s much easier to blame a wrinkly old dude in an office, vs. your favorite NBA player, for being greedy. But anyone saying the players don’t exhibit equal or worse “greed” characteristics is lying to themselves. Please don’t feel sorry for these people.

College Wolf: Clearly it’s the fault of the greedy, money-grubbing owners. Why should the players have to save the owners from themselves? And why should fans have to suffer because the owners are locking out the players so that they can make even more profit for themselves? Yeah, during the negotiations I think it’s fair to say that the players could give on a few issues (which I’m sure they will as the lockout drags on)… but concessions like a 33% reduction in payroll across the board?!? Implementing a hard salary cap after years of teams having payrolls far over the luxury tax level?!? That’s just absurd, and the owners aren’t bending.

Even worse, are any NBA teams even losing money? And that’s not the first, or only, article that I’ve seen crying foul on David $tern’s contentions that “the NBA lost $370 million” dollars last season.  So did they lose money, or didn’t they?  I have a sneaky suspicion that there is A LOT of shady accounting going in the NBA (and in all honesty, probably with a lot of professional sports teams.)

The players just want to maintain the status quo. Can you blame them for that? They aren’t asking for anything here. They just want to play the games. It’s the owners trying to make an absurd cash grab to set themselves up for the next decade.  Shame on them.

Jon Schweppe: I’m not the biggest union defender in the world, especially when we’re talking about players making multi-million dollar salaries, but in this case I believe the blame lies entirely with the owners. The players have demonstrated a willingness to give up a substantial amount of money, which is impressive given the lack of transparency owners have shown with their financial information. The owners have made no concessions, and that’s frustrating. 

I also understand the players’ lack of willingness to give up guaranteed contracts. I think guaranteed contracts (or at least semi-guaranteed contracts) are critical for the health of the sport. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see players sitting out with a sprained pinky because they’re worried about aggravating an injury and losing out on their salary because of it.

If the season doesn’t start on time, it’s because of the owners’ insatiable lust for more money. The players are completely in the right on this issue.

Tim F: The players’ association. Everyone who follows the NBA knows it isn’t anywhere near a place where they could consider giving the players more money per year. The players’ association does not seem to understand that. While it shouldn’t be about money, at the end of the day it always will be. I do feel for the owners in the sense that they know business. More so than most, if not all of the players. They understand when the league as a whole is having success financially, and it’s for the best if salaries get changed accordingly in favor of the future success of the NBA.

3.) How will the lockout affect the NBA’s new momentum gained over the past season?

Mike Reynolds: I’m decidedly not going melodramatic (we should create a new word for ‘melodramatic’ as it pertains to the lockout…maybe ‘Wojnarowski-ing or Woj-ing” ) on this one. I’m not sure it will have long term impact. It’s not like people will abandon the sport completely as long as something interesting is on. There will be a major portion of bandwagon-nation that will have no idea a lockout even went on. Then when the Finals are on they will tune in with the rest of us who just spent a football/basketball-less winter taking up such hobbies as woodcarving or synchronized swimming (seriously, what the hell are we going to DO in Minneapolis? Need to move, stat). For example, take hockey, rivaling only baseball (would rather watch paint dry…never understood why people enjoy watching grown men stand in place for 4 1/2 hours) as the worst sport to watch. I think I found out for the first time on ESPN the other day that the NHL locked out for a full season in 2004-2005. I had no idea. And I am a sports junkie from Minnesota. Neither would a chunk of the population if the NBA were done. These are the people who watch the playoffs/finals or mindlessly tag along to a game or two for work. And as if NBA fans are going to turn their back on the league because of this? Maybe a few zealot-super-liberal-protestor-hipster types who haven’t been shagged in 5 years. But egads, the fans will be starving for basketball when it comes back. Give the season a few months and the lockout will be quickly forgotten, just like the Bin Laden assassination (See!?!? When was the last time you thought about that? A month?)

However, short term, I think the CBA itself will affect some momentum. Teams will be cost cutting after having no income for a period of time. A new salary structure will be in place. I think you will see a lot of player movement just like in 1999. It will be an interesting landscape. You could see less star power, the superteam concept being shortlived, some notable players heading overseas, etc. A lot could happen to affect the landscape from a league/business perspective.

College Wolf: It will demolish all the goodwill gained by the NBA over the past season, and really, the past decade.  The NBA was at it’s most popular levels since the LAST lockout over a decade ago.  And now this?  One thing that a non-NFL professional lockout shows: The fans will move on.  For every game missed, it will exponentially damage the popularity of the league, and/or the goodwill they have been accumulating.  This is possibly the WORST time for the NBA to be in a lockout, especially considering the NFL is doing the same.  Do you think anyone will care if they miss a T-Wolves-Bobcats game in November?  Hell no they won’t.  If anything, it’s a time when the NBA could have GAINED even more fans/popularity during this seasonal professional sports down time (and due to the NFL lockout.)  A huge opportunity squandered.

Jon Schweppe: If we don’t lose games, it won’t have an effect. If we lose games, I think casual fans will migrate to other sports options like hockey, at least temporarily. I do think that it’s a good thing that public opinion seems to be siding with the players — if the players were seen as being greedy, we would see many casual fans turned off to the sport.

A shortened season will probably see lower ratings and less interest, but I do believe the product is strong enough that the NBA will recover from the lockout almost entirely by the 2012-13 season. Good days definitely lie ahead.

Tim F: No, that isn’t something that worries me. I mentioned the NHL season cancellation earlier. It seems to have gained popularity since that period. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was directly related to the cancellation, but it didn’t seem to lose too much popularity. The people who love basketball and the NBA will watch it no matter when it starts, in fact they’ll probably gain excitement with all the waiting (see: Ricky Rubio). As for the casual fans, it might take a little while, but with teams like the Heat, there will still be casual fans.

4.) Will any of this affect basketball in Minnesota over the long term?

Mike Reynolds: Probably short term, but I’m not blaming the lockout for fan apathy. This was a fan-base recently energized by a flurry of positive events over the past month and now it’s all gone to shit. It sucks. But you have to remember the Rubio riff-raff all started in mid-June, and the season normally starts at the very end of October. That would have been months from now, so it’s not like the fans were riding some huge tidal wave of energy heading straight into a new season. The new season would have been 4 months from now, long enough for the ‘Rubio arrival’ excitement to rationally dissipate, and for a series of questionable Kahn moves to splatter feces on the mometum. Still it is disappointing for our city, having one less entertainment option for the winter, which has been especially brutal of late. 

However, this energy can all be reestablished if Kahn makes a trade for a vet before the season starts. But since Kahn can’t make any trades for established NBA players, I somehow doubt that happens. Had there not been a lockout I do think that any energy surrounding the team this year would have been shortlived anyways. The team as it stands, while improved, is still a top 24-28 team. Once we went on our annual December nosedive fan interest would have gone with it anyways. While we have a lot of young talent, we are not a team built to win in really any capacity whatsoever under any time frame unless miracles happen. This is the real problem here. If there were a lockout and we made a series of moves to create a 40-50 win team afterward, the lockout would be quickly forgotten. The whole “NBA fans would be bitter” take just isn’t really true when you consider that most NBA fans aren’t diehard like you or I, or just have better hobbies/activities that garner their attention. Wise ones, these people are.

College Wolf: Yes, considering this was supposed to be the year of Rubio, Derrick Williams, and the rise of the young T-Wolves.  Casual fans were finally getting excited again… after two of the worst seasons in NBA history, and doubts about Ricky Rubio ever playing for this team.  And then we landed the #2 pick in the draft AND signed Ricky!  If the season doesn’t start because the owners and players are still haggling over money come January when they would have to cancel the entire NBA season; Minnesota fans will move on very quickly.  Especially considering the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is already over-saturated with professional (and other) sports options the way it is.  No one will probably even notice when the Wolves move to Las Vegas and become the Las Vegas Lobos.

Jon Schweppe: This is where it gets tricky. The new collective bargaining agreement needs to help small market teams more than it does now. Minneapolis/St. Paul is a very competitive sports market (FOUR TEAMS!) and the T-Wolves are definitely coming in fourth right now in terms of popularity and excitement. I don’t think the lockout itself will hurt basketball in Minnesota, but a CBA that doesn’t help small market teams could definitely increase the likelihood of the T-Wolves being moved or contracted. Let’s hope that’s a topic we never have to discuss.

Tim F: This team is too young for it to make a big impact on their future. As far as fan support, it was pretty iffy to begin with. This will be an interesting test for the Wolves marketing team. They will have an undetermined amount of time to convince Minnesota fans that Ricky Rubio is worth waiting longer for, and that him combined with Derrick Williams, and the other folks already there has a future of assets worth waiting for.

5.) If we lose the NBA next season, what are you going to do instead?

Mike Reynolds: Don’t even want to think about that. I would be devastated (since this is definitely all about me). Gophers?

College Wolf: Probably shave my back hair more than once per month.  Just joking… maybe.

Jon Schweppe: I sure as hell won’t watch hockey. I’ll probably just play NBA 2K12. Oh, and if Rubio isn’t rated above a 70, I’m going to be devastated!

Tim F: College basketball. Lots of potential NBA prospects from last year decided to stay. That with guys like Michael Gilchrist, Austin Rivers and James McAdoo will make next year a very interesting one. I’ll be doing that, along with the wonderful world of college, I guess.

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TWolves Blog Staff

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