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Blog Entry

NBA lockout's winners and losers

Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:55 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver

It's over. The 2011 NBA lockout is finally, mercifully over. Let's hail the victors and pity the vanquished in this rundown of the NBA lockout's winners and losers.

The Deal

Winners: NBA Owners

Over the next six years, the owners succeeded in shifting more than 1 billion dollars into their pockets by negotiating their share of the Basketball-Related Income split from 43 percent in the old deal to a 49 percent to 51 percent band in the new deal. That number could grow to more than 2 billion if both parties agree to continue the deal through to its full 10-year length.

In addition to the players' 10-figure financial give-back, the owners received major concessions on virtually every important issue governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contract lengths are getting shorter from a maximum of six years to a maximum of five years for players who are re-signing and four years for other free agents, meaningfully reducing the level of financial security players feel while also reducing the burden of bad contracts on a team. The mid-level exception system is shrinking, which hits the middle class free agents hardest while helping to keep owners from overpaying for mediocre talent. The luxury tax system is getting tougher, which limits the very highest-spending teams’ ability to compete and/or set the market for free agents while theoretically creating a slightly more level playing field between large and small market teams.

Whether or not you agree with the logic behind these major changes, their collective impact combined with the clear financial victory makes this negotiation a strong-arm highway robbery. And all it cost: less than 20 percent of the games in one season (and some hurt feelings among die-hard fans).

Losers: NBA Players

Any time you leave a negotiation thinking, “Well, this is bad, but it could have been worse,” you lost that negotiation. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter even admitted that a recent NBA offer was “not the greatest proposal in the world", yet he and the players tentatively agreed to a deal very similar to the one he bashed publicly. This happened because the players never had real leverage or good alternatives. They were squeezed and had no escape route.

But, it could have been worse. The mid-level system in the agreement provides more spending power for teams (and thus more money for free agents) than in previous proposals. The luxury tax system is significantly tougher than the one in the previous CBA, but not as draconian as a hard cap – something that the owners maintained that they wanted for the longest time – and not as punitive as earlier reports indicated it might be.  The NBA also increased its spending floor for all of its teams, providing additional suitors for free agents and theoretically helping to prevent players from getting stuck on teams that totally slash-and-burn their rosters with no intention of actually competing.

America's Team

Winners: Miami Heat

Miami’s biggest concerns heading into the lockout: the new CBA would require the Heat to break up the Big 3 and/or the full 2011-2012 season would be cancelled, costing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a year of their primes. With a season now salvaged, the Big 3 can get back to their redemption work. And, while the tougher luxury tax system and reduced mid-level exception for luxury tax payers will eventually make it more difficult to add big-name free agents, the tax system won’t kick in for two years, meaning Miami doesn’t need to make any major roster cuts for quite a while. Bosh, who many thought last season might need to be traded so that Miami could conform to a hard cap system, appears safe for at least two years, if not the duration of his deal. Forward Mike Miller, as notes, could very likely be spared because the Heat will have a full mid-level exception based on their current salary cap number this year, too.

Losers: Miami Heat

Despite the salary cap good news, the Heat are also short-term losers. The 2011-2012 season now officially bears the historical taint associated with an abridged schedule. The 2012 Finals winner, no matter who it is, will bear the asterisk of being “lockout champions.” That’s fine if you are the Dallas Mavericks defending your 2011 title or the Los Angeles Lakers adding to your stockpile, but if you’re James, Wade, Bosh and company, your first title needs to be clean or critics will mercilessly work to invalidate it. Winning in 2012 will require Miami to win future titles to prove that their triumph wasn’t a short season fluke. In other words, James and company will carry a burden into the 2012-2013 season even if he finally wins his first ring.

NBA Players Abroad

Winners: Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez

Until a recent minor knee tweak by Fernandez, all four NBA players made it through their international excursions in good health. No NBA player made more money playing hoops during the lockout than Williams, who took a risk in broadening his family’s horizons and staying active that paid off in game checks and lack of boredom. Parker and Batum returned home to France, garnering a hero’s welcome, while Fernandez did the same in Spain, where he is extraordinarily popular. All three put up big numbers and gave their fans a chance to see them during their peak years rather just a victory lap when their NBA careers are through. That’s got to be an incredibly fulfilling feeling.

Losers: Anyone that gets stuck in China

The Chinese Basketball Association insisted on preventing NBA opt-out provisions in its contracts, theoretically tying any player who signed with a team in that league through March, when the regular season ends. Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Yi Jianlian, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and others agreed to play in China and now their future is uncertain. Best case: their Chinese team agrees to release them so they can return to the United States. Worst case: they remain stuck until March, when finding a good NBA landing spot, not to mention salary number, could be significantly more difficult. The major consolation here is that Chinese teams were reportedly offering seven-figure deals, so guys that are trapped until March won’t be leaving empty-handed.

Saving The Season

Winner: Kobe Bryant

We’ve been saying for months and months that no player needs a 2011-2012 season more than Kobe Bryant. At 33, losing a year of his career would have been a disaster, and not just because he would have lost more than $25 million in salary. Bryant is embarking on dual epic quests: passing Michael Jordan in total number of championships and passing Michael Jordan on the all-time points list. Salvaging a season gives him a much better chance at both goals.

Older vets like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are similarly winners in that they save a twilight year from being extinguished.

Loser: Greg Oden

The Portland Trail Blazers center has not appeared in an NBA game since Dec. 2009 and is now a full year removed from his most recent microfracture surgery. Even so, The Oregonian reports that Oden still doesn't have a firm timetable on an expected return to the court and hasn't yet been cleared for basketball activities. Oden is a restricted free agent and now must enter contract negotiations without the ability to prove he can play again. Contract aside, a lost season would have helped delay the return of the enormous pressure he faces as a former No. 1 overall pick; now, Oden will likely come back to Portland, where expectations are still gigantic, after hiding out for most of the lockout, only to face another round of jokes and barbs about his health.

Public Relations

Winners: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Brandon Jennings and other charity game workhorses

The best way for a player to improve his standing with basketball die-hards is to show off his own unrequited love of the game. James, Durant and Jennings stood above the crowd in their dedication to playing in organized events across the country, connecting directly with fans and providing hope even when the lockout turned ugliest. Twitter and savvy sneaker campaigns – “Basketball Never Stops” and “Are You From Here?” – helped keep the positive momentum going. There’s no question all three guys made lifelong fans with their actions over the last six months.  

Loser: Michael Beasley

Beasley got busted for marijuana, threw an "All-Star Classic" charity game in which all the All-Stars bailed, shoved a fan in the face during a New York City exhibition, and sued his former agent and AAU coach – his surrogate father during high school – alleging major NCAA rules violations. He also hired and was then dropped by a PR firm that was working to help improve his image. To top it all off, he spoke out against his players union, saying that it was "kind of retarded" for the players to be fighting over a few BRI percentage points. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves now bring to camp the No. 2 overall draft pick, Derrick Williams, who will be an instant fan favorite and figures to compete for his minutes.

JaVale McGee was another memorable face of player cluelessness, leaving one important NBPA meeting early to tell the media that the players insider were "ready to fold." He quickly denied that he made that comment only to have multiple reporters post audio of his statements instantly. Not his finest hour, to be sure.

Salary Cap Nuances

Winners: Young superstars like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook notes that players who excel during their rookie deals -- such as 2011 MVP Derrick Rose and 2011 All-Star Russell Westbrook -- stand to gain millions of extra dollars in attainable salary thanks to new rules that will reward players who produce at an all-NBA level while on subsidized rookie contracts. Elite players have way outperformed rookie contracts for years and deserved this extra financial incentive.

Losers: Small-market teams clinging to superstars

As the Arizona Republic notes, the rule that would have banned players from signing extend-and-trade contracts a la Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season was not included in the final CBA. So superstars who are impending free agents like Orlando's Dwight Howard and New Orleans' Chris Paul still have the opportunity to force their way out of town, should they choose to do so. You can hear the rumor mill doing extra laps around the track and stomach crunches to whip itself into midseason form.


Winners: Basketball Video Mix Websites and other highlight-reel videographers saw major upticks in traffic and interest during the summer pro-am and fall charity league circuits. Their ability to take high quality, professional footage and cut it together seamlessly in a matter of hours feeding the hoops need for basketball's year-round global audience in nearly real-time.  

Losers: NBA Online

The NBA’s decision to strip its websites of references to players and to start a Twitter account to aggressively push its labor message to media members, and even players, came off petty, heavy-handed and way too Big Brother in an arena that is supposed to be about fun, not business. The league has some serious fence-mending to do, especially with its core audience. It’s unclear whether the league knows that or not.


Winners: David Stern and Billy Hunter 

NBA commissioner David Stern and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter are begrudgingly buried here at the end. After months of cringe-inducing public statements, snail-slow negotiations, legal threats, condescending comments and all the rest, these two old adversaries actually struck a deal, which not only saves the league they serve but also manages to protect their own legacies from irreparable damage.


Since: Jan 21, 2010
Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:42 pm

NBA lockout's winners and losers

Reaching an agreement is a winning situation for all involved.  The owners are looking out for their interests and being the business owners they have every right  owners to make cuts in their business operations when they choose to.  The players are in a winning situation because they are accepting a small cut and if they didn't accept the deal, it would have been a 100% pay cut.  The biggest winners of this long pathetic battle are the consession workers, ticket takers, security, custodial staff and others that need the income to put food on their tables and pay their bills.  If the players can't adjust to accepting a small percentage less in their paycheck that is still in the hundreds of thousands per week or month if not millions in this difficult economy,  they had no business trying to challenge the owners in court.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:21 pm

NBA lockout's winners and losers

Biggest winner by far is the Chicago Bulls for not having to go on their 'circus tour' this year. Will help them for sure.

Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:48 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers

So instead of making 5000% on their invested dollar the owners will now make 500%.  (sarcasm) They are still winners in this.  The uninformed dont seem to understand that if they were not winners they would sell the team to recoup their investment.  The losers have always been the fan.  I can understand taking in a live game or two for recreation but your life shouldnt revolve around other peoples dreams.  You could spend more time and money making your dreams come true.  I never saw anyone be able to do that while lining someone elses pocket.   Please understand that for the owners, the players pay is a tax deductable expense.  The owners do not live week to week.  They live at a minimum year to year.

Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:27 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 6, 2010
Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:08 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers

hey the NBA is back finally everyone is a winner. i support the NBA and will follow it every day even the wizards and timberwolves.

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 9:58 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers if the NBA wasn't a big enough joke as it was before this. Well, 5 years from now we will still be complaining how the bottom feeders are still eating crums while the upper-echelon teams will still be going for titles. Good to see the same ol' same ol' in the NBA. Until the day there is a HARD CAP on teams, 70% of the teams won't stand a chance a success and by success I mean, NBA tiltle hopes. I don't care what anyone says...the NBA is not in the Big 3 anymore. NFL, MLB and yeah...THE NHL! Take's a man to play physical sports, ya the NBA is NOT! He touched my elbow, throw hi out and give me 10 free throws. Don't get me started on all that diving and flopping, don't think you don't see it. Let's see these idiots try that against a hockey player. A hockey player dives, he gets mugged by the other teams goon. You dive in the NBA, they give you points. F the NBA, F david stern for being a pansy, F Lebron for just being Lebron and F the NBA for being proud of selling out 1/3 of the long as its the proper 1/3rd right Stern.

Since: Apr 4, 2008
Posted on: November 28, 2011 9:43 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers

The fans and people who make a real living on the game (not the owners or players) are the real losers.  I'm not planning on watching a game for a VERY long time (if ever).  The NBA sucks and they shove their product where the sun don't shine.

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 9:12 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers

Players drawing a check in the NBA (and their agents). Any player that says they got a bad deal is lying or dilusional. They went a week without a paycheck and wonder.  If they have any sense, they'll get rid of Billy Hunter, who's "representation" of the NBPA looked like a vampire "protecting" the blood bank.  

Fans....the stakeholders forgotten by BOTH the NBA AND players....

Fans may not be the ONLY losers over time...because ultimately, fans pay for them all, and there is a lot of competition for their dollar. NBA stars were exposed as greedy and disloyal, and in a bad economy, that's not going to endear anyone to the NBA, or specifically for the big name players, who many believe were holding the NBA hostage. Many NBA fans hoping for much stiffer penalties, serving to make the NBA a better product, will be disappointed. Fans of small market teams will be disappointed.

I wouldn't call David Stern or Billy Hunter "winners", simply because they finally got a deal done, in what should have been a no-brainer. It took a prolonged work stoppage, where everyone invloved's (lack of) intelligence and greed was exposed in the media on a daily basis. The whole mess harmed the marketablity of the NBA, and although the deal helps the NBA recover some losses, it sure won't help increase the NBA's popularity.  

Since: May 13, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 6:47 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers

All I can say is the guy in the back of the photo....He is asleep standing up....ALL GREED!!! ALL THE TIME!! When you pay those ridiculous prices to attend a game.....Do you ever get your monies worth? I will not attend ANY PRO GAME this year. I personally felt.....  not at any time was the FAN even considered to have any sorrow in the loss of a season....especially when it is OUR money that makes the league go round. I agree.....draw a line in the sand....FEWER TEAMS. The talent is as watered down as watching a backup quarterback start in the NFL.


Winners...Winning teams

Since: Sep 29, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 6:27 am

NBA lockout's winners and losers

You say you havn't watched a game all year...Your Bald headed lie....You've watched and you will watch when the NBA starts up...You just want some attention hound...If you never watch, then why are you on a sports site, reading this long a** article for. You make me sick. You know you wake up and click you channel straight to the 4 letter network.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or