NBA Lockout: Who Are The Winners?
The prospect of the NBA lockout extending past the 2011-12 opening tip is a depressing thought to many. It impacts not only players, owners and team personnel, but the trickle-down effect reaches many others, far too many to enumerate here. Of course, fans of the game can hardly bear to think of a reality involving no professional basketball.
It remains to be seen if the two sides can strike a deal on a collective bargaining agreement in time to preserve the 82-game season. A shortened NBA season may certainly result; in fact, a full-season shutdown is not out of the realm of possibility.
In the case of say, a 50-game season, there are some who would actually benefit from such a scenario. Hard to believe, right? It’s true, and we offer you a breakdown to support that very statement.
Let’s begin. Who won’t really mind a shortened 2011-12 NBA season?
David West – After a lengthy “will he or won’t he?” period of time, West announced he was opting out of his final contract year (worth $7.5 million) with the New Orleans Hornets. As a result, he became an unrestricted free agent, ready to test the free market. That was a risky move; rehabilitation related to his reconstructive knee surgery last April may continue until the end of this year. Should the lockout last that long, West will take advantage of the time to fully recover. In that event, he’ll be in a much better position when free agency finally commences.
Greg Oden – We’ve heard it all before. Oden, the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, has appeared in a grand total of 82 games in four years. He’s been sidelined due to microfracture knee surgery since November, 2010; reports indicate the restricted free agent won’t return to the court until January, 2012. If the NBA doesn’t fire up until January, the pressure to return early is then lifted, and he’ll be ready to go with everyone else. If he manages to keep healthy during the remaining season, sweet offers may come rolling in. Keep in mind he’s just 23 years old.
Brandon Roy – Both Chad Buchanan, acting general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Roy are contemplating the magic question: how many games can he play? A shortened season will highly benefit Roy. In addition to taking advantage of the extra time to focus on continued rehab, he can also concentrate on ways to adapt, even reinvent, his game. Roy recognizes that must be done. One particularly favorable aspect of the lockout is that he, along with Oden, remain under the team doctor’s care.
Kobe Bryant – One would presume Bryant is resting this summer or maybe just doing light workouts, but not this superstar. Sources say he traveled to Germany in early June to receive an innovative platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment to his help strengthen his troubled knee. He’s presently in the Philippines with fellow NBA players playing in a pair of exhibition games. There’s talk of Bryant and his agent forming a China basketball tour made up of NBA players on several teams, including Bryant. And finally, it appears as soon as Turkish club Besiktas nails down a sponsor, the-almost-33-year-old star may sign on.
Other players that were not 100% at the end of last season, such as Rajon Rondo, Joakim Noah, Toney Douglas, Rudy Gay and many others stand to gain from a delayed-start season.
Tim Duncan – The 82-game NBA season is tough, but players adapt quickly. As players age, the schedule becomes brutal. For the 35-year-old Duncan, a 50-game season would be ideal. Over the past three seasons, his numbers (minutes, points, rebounds) have steadily decreased. Last season, he averaged 29.3 minutes per game in the first 47 games (13.9 ppg/9.4 rpg), and 26.9 mpg (13.4 ppg/ 8.1 rpg) in the last 29 games. In his 14-year career he’s played in 1,053 regular-season games and 176 playoff games for a total of 44,685 minutes playing time. A fresh Duncan, looking at a 50-game season, wouldn’t mind a delayed season start.
Jason Kidd – Kidd, 38, just came right out and said it to Sporting News: “I have been through a lockout twice. One was short, but the second one cut the season to 50 games. And as I get older, playing only 50 games, hopefully that would be to my advantage.” Fun fact: Kidd leads all active players in total regular-season games (1,267) games and minutes played (46,689). And we have to point out he’s ranked first in career active-player assists (11,578). Just 4,228 more dimes will tie the career leader, John Stockton.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – True, the statistical numbers aren’t what they used to be, but these two still have another legitimate shot next season. Fewer games will help immensely. Allen, 36, averaged 80 games over the past three seasons at an impressive 35.9 minutes per game. Garnett, 35, averaged 65.7 games in three seasons at 30.8 mpg, but check this: last season he played the most games at the highest minutes over the past three years, even the most rebounds (8.9) too. Garnett is second to Kidd in regular-season games played (1,195) and minutes (43,915). Allen is third in minutes played (40,808).
Steve Nash and Grant Hill – Nash is 38 and Hill turns 39 this November. Nash led the league in assists per game over the past two seasons (11.0 and 11.4, respectively). Hill’s scoring last season (13.2 ppg) topped his previous four years. Plus he missed just three games over the past three years. Whatever they’re drinking, we want some. How good could they be if they face a 50-game season with considerable rest?
There is a downside. Kidd indicates he would likely retire if the 2011-12 season were canceled, and Garnett “hinted” the same thing.
Players Who Need Improvement
There are some players that could really take advantage of their free time by improving certain aspects of their game. While they may not be exactly cheering about this lockout, it would behoove some to dedicate themselves to getting better.
Evan Turner is already on top of it. He’s not happy with his shooting percentage last season (.425), so he’s already solicited the services of “Shot Doctor” Herb Magee. The 2010 second overall draft pick averaged .502 in field-goal shooting over three years in college; he wants those numbers back.
If Eddy Curry can lose forty pounds during this lockout, the Miami HEAT just might sign him. Pat Riley is a fan of the seven-foot center, but not at his current weight. He’s just 28 years old; who knows if he can summon the discipline to get in game shape.
Speaking of weight, Kendrick Perkins pledged to drop twenty pounds over the summer. The Thunder center has hired a nutritionist and is working out with John Lucas II.
Those who had a disappointing 2010-11 regular season and/or postseason – Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Pau Gasol, Robin Lopez, Andris Biedrins, and Aaron Brooks immediately come to mind – should take advantage of this extended free time to improve certain areas. Truth be told, every player should be working on their game.
NBA players going abroad to play has dominated basketball news and related discussions in light of the lockout. All the sudden, teams such as “Besiktas” and “Maccabi Tel Aviv” have become part of our vocabulary. Names of overseas teams have been plastered everywhere. Some are getting major exposure, and hence, newfound interest. Should they land a high-profile name like Besiktas did with Deron Williams…even better.
Raise your hand if you’re just about tired of the word “overseas.
College Basketball/Other Sports
It will be interesting to see if fans turn their attention to other sports – perhaps hockey and baseball – or, more likely, to college basketball. The 2011-12 college basketball season should rank among the most intriguing, both in talent and storylines, in recent memory. Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Austin Rivers and many more should capture fans’ attention while we wait it out.
New York Knicks and Miami HEAT
The two new-look teams will undoubtedly succeed with its host of All-Star players (Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh), but it’s going to take dedicated work, i.e. lots of practice. Remember in a lockout, players cannot use the teams’ facilities or coaches. They must take it upon themselves to keep in shape.
It was good to hear Stoudemire organized a practice session with some of his teammates in Los Angeles. As for the rest, they are keeping busy: Wade had Lasik eye surgery and is about to take off for a relaxing visit to China, Bosh got married, Anthony’s been rehabbing his elbow and has the reality show thing going (set to air in August), and James has been low-key, but did receive a warm welcome at a recent charity game held near Cleveland.
In fact, James is already benefitting from all the attention directed to the lockout/overseas talk. The glare is slowly subsiding and should keep going that direction during the lockout.
Eventually the summer activity will die down, and if the lockout continues past October, the two groups of players should log major gym time together…directed on their own, of course.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks
Nowitzki is loving life right now, soaking up all the well-deserved adoration. With his team winning the 2010-11 championship and his Finals MVP title in tow, he’s the last positive remembrance fans have of the NBA season.
We venture to say the Mavs benefit from their rivals having a reduced amount of time to figure out how to beat them.
Watch out, NBA fans. Once your non-NBA-loving spouse catches wind of the fact there may not be an 82-game NBA season, your life may change. Prepare for “quality time” requests and suggestions of “finally doing projects around the house” with all your free time.