Roundtable: Will A Lockout Change The NBA?

NBA David Stern Billy Hunter


As the playoffs continue on, regardless of the record TV ratings, it’s becoming more and more obvious that there will be an NBA lockout. With that in mind, the Crossover Chronicles staff sounded off on whether or not a lockout will change the NBA.

My take

If a lockout happens, and it seems like that’s where things are going, it’ll be a big loss and major change for everyone involved. Fans lose, owners lose out without a product to sell and players lose out.

Just like D-League and WNBA players play overseas during the offseason, don’t be surprised if NBA players head that way themselves.

If a third-tier forward like Josh Childress was able to go and make more than his NBA contract and get his car, house and food paid for all the while being treated like a king for a measly 13 points per game, Europe will definitely be attractive to some players.

At what point does that become a threat to the NBA?

I’ve heard from a few college players before who’s plans are to jump to another continent as soon as they graduate to earn lucrative contracts playing overseas. The D-league, which will still play during a lockout, might as well be paying with monopoly money. They only pay a max of $25,000 per year and the D-League is already hurting because some of the best non-NBA talent isn’t in the states.

Sure, the NBA is “the best league”, and while I doubt things will be impacted that much because of one lockout, with owners trying to make massive cuts, could those lucrative salaries become too good to turn away from? Hopefully we won’t have to find that out any time soon.

Jeff Garcia

Yes. While many will point to the players and how they may be affected, and leave to play overseas, mainly the NBA fans might feel slighted in all this CBA mess.

The NBA is experiencing highs in TV ratings, attendance, but yet the lockout will stunt this momentum whenever it ends. It will take a lot from the NBA to regain the trust of the fan.

Also, perhaps the players who do head overseas will find how much those teams will spend on their services and might consider staying. However, the NBA is the highest stage of basketball so that might not happen.

In the end, if an entire season is lost, fans will be hesitant to return to the seats, pay for season tickets, on a sport that chose to haggle over money and ignored fan loyalty.

Surya Fernandez

I still clearly remember the last lockout and being handed a complimentary CD of R&B and Pop songs with the modified league slogan “I STILL Love This Game” to welcome me back to the old Miami Arena once the season started with just 50 games on the schedule and back-to-back-to-back games to make up for lost time.

Only after several years did ratings return back to normal and the game itself eventually became the headlines again, aided by a new crop of superstars to define the league in a post-Jordan era, and the financial side relegated to the background.

The situation in present time looks dire and it’s likely that a lockout will happen again. Some players have threatened to play overseas but it’s only a matter of time before the loss of paychecks will force them to concede some of their demands to get back to work. The question is how much both sides will bend to reach a labor agreement so it’s difficult to tell how profound the changes will be to the salary cap and contract limits. Will there be cutbacks on current salaries? Those are important factors in knowing how much the NBA landscape will change.

As far as whether fans will still love this game, TV ratings and interest in the league have quickly shot up the past few years since the Lakers-Celtics renewed their rivalry and more recently with stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony switching teams. If the NBA gets back to work, so will the superstars and if rosters aren’t seriously compromised or teams contracted then it shouldn’t take long before things are back to normal.

Matt Yoder

Regardless of whether or not there actually is a lockout, and let’s face it, there probably will be a lockout… the NBA will be dramatically changed. In fact, the NBA lockout can and likely will be much more drastic than the NFL lockout. The Association is hemorrhaging money left and right and not in the same financial position that Goodell is in. David Stern can’t deal with hundreds of millions of dollars of loss by merely rearranging the deck chairs. Do the owners shoulder much of the blame? One only has to look at this list Bloguin put together of the worst NBA contracts of all-time to discover that answer. Unfortunately for the players though, they may have to give up quite a bit of money to see the league move forward. Depending on how bargaining goes, we could see a completely different NBA landscape or one that looks vaguely familiar with a few tweaks. In the big picture though, I would leave no potential possibility for change off the table if the NBA comes to a lockout.

John Karalis

If we get to a lockout, get ready for some new rules that will change the landscape of the NBA. If negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement don’t pan out before a lockout hits, its because owners have dug in their heels and are looking for some major concessions.

What will the difference be? It’s too early to tell. It could be a hard cap or lowered salary cap. It could be the elimination of exception like the mid-level or bi-annual. It could be some kind of franchise tag. Even if it’s something else, the way teams do business will almost certainly change after a lockout. Teams locked in over the cap but willing to pay a luxury tax might find themselves in a situation where they have to trade what was a cornerstone to their franchise. The way trades are done… the way free agents are signed… the entire process of constructing a team will change.

The good news is, things have changed before and the NBA moves on. Once upon a time you could use the salary room vacated by a free agent to sign new players. That’s gone now, but the NBA just kept chugging along. The net effect of a lockout and new rules might mean a shakeup in the balance of power. Contenders might fall more quickly than they would have under current rules. But the sport will move on and still be great… just with a slightly new look.

Brendan Bowers

If players went overseas as a result of a lockout I think it would end up with both sides – players and owners – appreciating aspects of the NBA they may have found themselves taking for granted over the last decade plus.

From the owners side, it’s probably more obvious. Another avenue for players to capitalize on their skill-sets as basketball players exists, and that is the European route. Unlike the NFL, they don’t necessarily need the NBA to make money as a professional athlete.

From the players perspective though, taking that same leap overseas I think would also expedite the bargaining process from their side too, should the NBA find itself in a stalemate.

David Stern and company doesn’t want Kobe, Durant, LeBron and Wade getting paid as professionals outside of his organized corporate playground, we know that. But outside of those guys, I think it would be tougher than you think for the rest of the league to actually find stable employment.

Those top-10 NBA talents will be compensated accordingly overseas, but the rest of the NBA would end up facing the same struggles that Americans playing overseas already are faced with. That being, sometimes even elite level teams who you think “would pay” simply don’t. I talked to Damon Jones last year who’s whole team in Italy folded, and never paid anybody mid-season. I also talked with Trajan Langdon who added that outside of a handful of elite level teams, it’s not always a guaranteed paycheck overseas.

So the long and the short of it is that owners won’t want players taking the leap as a result of a stalement, and once those players do 90% of them will find out they don’t want to be there.

Neither side may admit it at that point, but the leap overseas will only end up changing the NBA for the better. Both sides will be motivated to get something done, and make that something work long-term.

Philip Rossman-Reich

Clearly there is something wrong with the NBA’s business model if it seems more than half the owners are reporting losses. In the owners’ mind, there needs to be complete change. They definitely need some mechanism to protect themselves from themselves. Whether they actually are losing that kind of money is another question all together.

I think one thing is clear: the rules of free agency, trades and contracts are going to change drastically after 2011. And the players are going to fight tooth and nail (as they should) to keep things the way they are. There are signs both parties want to reach an agreement quickly, but both have major interests they want to make sure they protect. When you get into that positional bargaining, it is difficult to reach an accord.

Will the season be canceled? No, I do not think so. Both sides recognize the momentum they have coming off this season and this Playoffs to throw it away with a fan-killing lockout. Many of these parties also learned their lessons from the lockout in 1999. It took a long time to get fans back to the game after that, and nobody wants a repeat of that.


Photo courtesy of

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.