Lakers Lead Push To Save Season
A report recently surfaced that there were five NBA teams pushing hard for there to be a 2011-12 season, and right off the bat my mind guessed which teams those might be. The Los Angeles Lakers were clearly first, the Dallas Mavericks seemed likely, Orlando and Miami certainly seemed probable for different reasons, and the rapidly-aging Boston Celtics also seemed to have good reason to want to play.
For the most part, my guesses were right. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the five teams pushing hardest for a season did, indeed, include the Lakers, Magic, HEAT and Celtics. What was surprising was that it was the Phoenix Suns and not the big-spending Mavs who rounded out the list. Still, if we look carefully at each situation it’s fairly easy to understand why these five teams are pressuring the rest of the owners to get a deal done in time to save the 2011-12 season.
1 – The Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers have the most to gain and possibly the most to lose with the season in question. After all, Kobe Bryant was already showing signs of age last season, and his days of dominating the league are coming to an end. The Lakers don’t want to miss one of his few remaining chances to grab a sixth NBA title, which would tie him with Michael Jordan for career championships. The Lakers are also more than happy to keep spending record amounts of money, tax or no tax, in pursuit of that goal.
2 – The Miami HEAT – The HEAT just had one of the biggest summers in the history of NBA free agency and catapulted their way to the NBA Finals. The last thing they want to do is lose the momentum and excitement they built while the league takes a year off to continue a nasty labor fight. The HEAT are in a position to sell out their own arena every night, as well as every arena they visit, so they have much to lose and nothing to gain from any more missed games.
3 – The Orlando Magic – As much as the Magic seem destined to lose Dwight Howard, if the entire season is lost he can walk away without any regard for what the Magic might want to do to keep him or get value for him in trade. In addition, owner Rich DeVos is pushing 90, and the family wants him to see the team win a title before he dies. Missing a season certainly doesn’t advance that cause.
4 – The Boston Celtics – The Celtics finished the 2010-11 season as one of the league’s oldest teams, and have aging stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the final years of their respective contracts. It’s questionable whether or not the Celtics can still compete for a title in the rapidly-improving Eastern Conference, but they would love to give it one more shot before they have to do some extensive rebuilding.
5 – The Phoenix Suns – The really surprising team on our list is the Suns, a team whose managing partner, Robert Sarver, has been cutting costs as quickly as possible to try and save money. Suns fans won’t appreciate the moves Sarver has made to reduce his salary load, but he has been able to radically cut his payroll. If the team chooses to waive Vince Carter they will owe him only $4 million of the $18 he would otherwise be owed for the final year of his deal, and the Suns would actually be significantly below the salary cap and in a position to turn a profit should fans still care to buy tickets to see what’s left of the team that was in the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago.
As of this writing NBA owners and players are still meeting, hoping to hammer out a deal before the end of the weekend that will save Christmas Day games and get the 2011-12 season underway. It’s interesting to see that some of the NBA’s top teams are just as ready to see that happen as the fans who are suffering from NBA withdrawals.