Smurf Turf: No Magic Here

No magic here
Posted Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 3:49pm

It’s supposed to be that time of the year, the little gap between baseball ending and college football not reaching full steam for a few more weeks and the Super Bowl way out there. It’s supposed to be the time when ESPN and TNT begin their National Basketball Association (NBA) ads with the catch phrase, “NBA: Magic Happens Here.”

Well, there aren’t any ads, there isn’t a functioning NBA at the moment, and there certainly is no magic. As of July 1, the NBA entered its fourth lockout in the history of the league. The league has already cancelled the opening of training camps and pre-season games, and over the weekend, representatives of the players’ union were so upset in a negotiation session that they reportedly walked out in a huff. Is it just me or can anyone else read the writing on the backboard? There ain’t gonna be an NBA season, or at least one we’re accustomed to.

In case you’ve been in hibernation over the summer, the NBA isn’t the only professional sports association that experienced a lockout. The National Football League (NFL) did, too. The difference between the NBA and the NFL lockouts is simple: The NFL lockout was about billionaire owners who were making money and millionaire players who were making money, and in the end, both decided it was better if they could play a normal season so that everybody could make even more money.

The pro basketball lockout has different economics. The NBA lockout also comes down to dinero, das Geld, l’argent, or the simple English term, money. Players want more money and owners do too. But that’s where the similarity between the two leagues ends. The NBA owners are bleeding money in most cases. The NBA claims it lost $300 million last year. On top of that, 22 of the 30 NBA teams reported losses from last year’s season. So the owners are thinking, “It’s time the players feel our pain,” and want to restructure the salary cap and revenue sharing agreement to bring down the losses. The players’ union, for the most part, is saying, “No dice.”

Pity the poor players. According to sportingintelligence.com, NBA players average a healthy $4.79 million in salary, or $59,000 a game. And they want to keep it that way. It takes a substantial income to sponsor their posses, their jewelry, their girlfriends, their parties, their fleet of BMWs and Mercedes, and all the other accouterments of the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.

Seeking the PR advantage (yeah, some of us who don’t average $4.79 million clams a year aren’t exactly sympathetic to the players’ plight), many NBA stars are putting on exhibition games for charity. These games are fun and for a good cause and they seem to be entertaining, too, (unless you like to watch good defense). The last game featured on Sportscenter had John Wall’s “Blue Team” edging Eric Gordon’s “Knox Team” in a tight defensive battle, 170-167.

Other players, discouraged about the prospect of a quick resolution to the lockout, are taking their talents elsewhere. Ron Artest (who is legally changing his name to Metta World Peace) is supposedly heading to England to play hoops; former Jazz darling Deron Williams is going to make Turkey his new playground; Nicholas Batum might be heading back to his homeland of France; Leandro Barbosa is going back to whence he came, Brazil; and massive center DeJuan Blair is going to take his bulk to Russia. Hey, money could be tight. Best get a part-time gig somewhere. Five million bucks doesn’t go as far as it once did, what with gas price rising and the cost of corn at $7 a bushel.

Some players are getting a look at what life outside the NBA looks like. Dwayne Wade, in a head-turning PR stunt, took a job at the local KFC, Luke Walton is an assistant basketball coach at the University of Memphis, Kevin Love is playing pro volleyball and Blake Griffin took an internship.

Here’s an idea, straight from the Smurf. Let’s say things don’t go too well for Mitt Romney over the next few months. He’s got the financial know-how to pull a little monetary magic out of thin air. Remember, when the Salt Lake Winter Olympics were on a course leading straight over the cliff, Mitt stepped in and saved the day. Mitt for President? Naw. There’s a higher calling. Mitt for NBA Commissioner? Now that has some juice. As the NBA suffers, somebody has to benefit, right? Mitt’s the perfect fit for the NBA. He’s certainly a better prospect than current commissioner, David Stern, who says all the right things but doesn’t seem to get much done, and always manages to look goofy on draft night, since he seems to only measure about belly-high when he stands next to any of the newly drafted players.

But for now, the magic is gone. The only basketball on the immediate horizon is college hoops, which kicks off in November. My guess is the NBA will put together some kind of a short season, but it might not start until January. Until then, we have only one thing to look forward to:

Dick Vitale, it’s your time to shine.

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