Nobody liked the NFL lockout. It meant listening to a lot of legal jargon on ESPN when all you want to see was the Top 10. It meant months of seeing b-roll of guys walking into buildings in New York in suits looking disgruntled. It meant listening to press conferences where both sides talk about all the progress when what they really mean is nothing has happened. It meant confusing feelings about the NFL draft. It meant a whole lot of negative feelings towards the NFL.
So what did the NBA decide? Well we have to have one of those!
Today the NBA postponed training camps which were originally scheduled to begin on October 5, and cancelled 43 preseason games, which makes it almost certain that some of the regular season will be missed.
The lockout is going to have drastic repercussions for the league itself. The NBA has risen in popularity to a higher spot than since Jordan sunk that jumper over Byron Russell. The signature franchises (Boston, Los Angeles, New York) are relevant. There has been a huge influx of young and exciting talent (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin to name a few). One of the most polarizing teams in recent memory is keeping interest high (the Miami Heat). On top of that is the loss of millions in ticket/merchandise sales. The NBA has just about everything going for it. Everything except agreement between the players and owners.
But the lockout won’t just have negative effects on the league as a whole but individual teams and those here in the Northeast are no exception.
Aging in Boston
33. 35. 36. No that’s not how many points Dirk Nowitski scored in the finals in Games 1 through 3 last season. That is the age’s of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen respectively. The Big Three Party isn’t as fresh as it once was. It already began to show in the past few years with Kevin Garnett continuing to battle injuries since messing up his knee in 2009. Pierce, although putting up his most efficient statistical year last season, is no longer as athletic as he once was and struggled getting to the hoop against athletic defenders like LeBron James last season. Ray Allen might be the least banged up and can still hit threes like Floyd Mayweather can hit a defenseless boxer, but every year makes him a step slower than the other two-guards in the league.
Even with the injuries and aging the Celtics have remained competitive since winning the title in 2008, and if Kendrick Perkins had played in Game 7 of the 2010 finals the Celtics may have gotten another title. They remain a contender but losing a year could destroy their title chances.
The Celtics have a fantastic young point guard in Rajon Rondo. Rondo makes passes other point guards couldn’t pull off against their younger siblings. He has great hands, is lightning quick on defense and has really shown leadership and toughness with Celtics. He played with one arm in the playoffs against the Heat last season and still put up numbers. However outside of Rondo where’s the youth movement in Boston?
Jeff Green proved last year he is in no way the wingman of the future. Green consistently lacked confidence and shrunk in big moments. When he was on the court the team’s offense stalled leaving it to Pierce and Allen to score all the points. When they’re gone is Green going to change that?
Big Baby Davis gives huge helpings of effort but is not athletic enough nor talented enough to be a starting power forward. The Celtics can’t rely on him once Garnett finally throws in the towel. There is also Avery Bradley and rookie JaJuan Johnson, but Bradley played limited minutes last season and Johnson hasn’t even seen an NBA court yet.
Half Season lost- Here’s an interesting wrinkle. A half season might actually be better than a full season for the Celtics. The team already has amazing chemistry with Garnett leading the locker room so missing some training camp won’t hurt them as much as other teams. The Celtics were 32-9 through their first 41 games last season, and although they had Perkins at the time, having fresh players certainly had something to do with it. Whose to say that losing some of the grind of a full season wouldn’t help the Celtics?
Full Season lost- The Celtics still remain very much reliant on their Big Three. If the NBA loses an entire season the clock, or perhaps grandfather clock is more accurate, on the Celtics title hopes may just reach midnight.
New Face Knicks
What will the lockout mean for the boys in MSG? That is a lot less clear cut than for their Atlantic division foes to the North.
The Knicks made two huge moves last season signing Amar’e Stoudemire before the beginning of the season and trading for Carmelo Anthony during the season. So offense was no issue for the team. Defense? Well that’s another story. Mike D’Antoni teams have never put much value in defense so that’s unsurprising. D’Antoni’s contract is up after this year and thus far the Knicks have not offered him an extension. Not a very good sign. After this year the Knicks may go out and get a defensive minded coach similar to what the Bulls did with Tom Thibodeau. If a coach can come in and drill some defense into this team they can seriously contend, not just make the playoffs and get swept out by a better coached and more balanced team.
The Knicks are also looking forward to the 2012 free agent summer. Although they’ve already added two superstars, they are still missing a point guard for the future. Chauncey Billups was a decent filler, but has more than lost a step. I wonder if there is a point guard in the 2012 class who is young, talented and can play defense? I wonder if there is a point guard who put on a show in the playoffs last season cementing him as a top point guard in the league? I wonder if that same point guard has expressed serious interest in playing in New York? I wonder if you understand I’m talking about Chris Paul? CP3 would be an amazing pickup for the Knicks. With teams like the Heat building super teams by taking pay cuts, what’s not to say Paul could do the same in New York and re-create the Knicks-Heat rivalry of the nineties, although instead of overly physical brawls it would be high-octane, athleticism fueled contests. A seven game series between those two teams would be instant ESPN Classic fare.
The only concern with Chris Paul is a history of injury issues. A year off from NBA competition may allow him to fully heal and make him that much more dangerous for whatever team he goes to in 2012, including the Knicks.
Half Season lost- Losing half a season is no good for the Knicks. Would they win a lot of games? Yes. Would they make the playoffs? Yes. Would they really contend for a title? No. Losing half a season takes away any continuity that could have come from last season. The team’s chemistry still looked suspect last year, especially in the playoffs. Not playing together for half a season and missing full training camps would not help. Also this Knicks team is not built to win a title yet. They are a very good team and exciting to watch and have finally made Spike Lee have something to cheer about again, but until they add some defense and a real point guard, which they can’t really do in a half season, they’re not title contenders.
Full Season lost- No team in the NBA wants to lose an entire season to this lockout. However the Knicks wouldn’t totally lose everything by not playing this season. Losing a whole season doesn’t help the Knicks continue to improve on last seasons breakthroughs but Melo and Amr’e aren’t going anywhere. Chris Paul would get a year to heal, although let’s not jump the gun. The last time the Knicks thought they were going to land a huge free agent that would lead them to a title he ended up shipping off to South Beach. D’Antoni goes and the Knicks can start with a clean slate. All in all not too shabby.
No Sleep ‘Till Istanbul?
The Nets are already in a transitional period. They were bought by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who already showed he’s willing to make big moves when he traded for Deron Williams last season. Plus the Nets will be moving to Brooklyn some point in the future. Jay-Z also has a part ownership in the team and that ‘s pretty awesome, although how it helps them basketballwise is unclear. Brook Lopez in a nice power forward to go along with Williams, so a good core has already begun to take shape.
The Nets may have been a playoff team this season if it weren’t for the lockout. However, it’s tough to make the NBA playoffs when your best player is playing in Istanbul.
Deron Williams signed with Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League and while that may be exciting to crowds in the former Ottoman Empire, it is not for those who live near the Boardwalk Empire. Playing any professional sport comes with some risk of injury and with Williams playing overseas there is no exception. If Williams goes down at any point it could be detrimental to what the Nets are trying to build. Williams is also a free agent after this season so they may not get Williams for more than the half season he played last year.
While other players have jumped on the playing-overseas-trend, few have gone as far as to sign with a team. If Williams goes through with it, he could end up being the only one. This is ultimately a move for leverage in the negotiation process. The players have to prove they don’t need the league and the league tries to do the same to the players. Playing overseas is a terrible solution for fans. Do we really want games to be on in the middle of the afternoon to watch our bigger, stronger, faster players dominate?
Half Season lost- This scenario allows the Nets to work on the core they’ve already built and possibly make moves towards the future. This team is not a championship contender in any way, so they in no way become more dangerous with only half a season but it would get Williams back to New Jersey and allow for a better conversation over his possible resigning. Furthermore a little Prokhorov in the NBA is jut good for everybody, not just the Nets.
Full Season lost- Losing a full season might just lose Deron Williams for the Nets either through injury or free agency. Then the team must begin from scratch and build around Brook Lopez, who is definitely talented, but has not shown that he can be the franchise guy and with teams like New York and Miami building teams with more than one franchise guy it’s tough to see Lopez alone leading the New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets, or whatever they get renamed, to title contention.