Thursday , May , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA doesn’t need a lockout

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – The NBA and the Players Association need to agree on a
new collective bargaining agreement and avoid a lockout.

On Wednesday, NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik revealed that, due to the
Players Association’s change of heart regarding several key issues, no further
negotiations between the parties were scheduled.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30th. The NBA is
in the middle of the playoffs, and the league will be able to finish the
postseason, as the finals are expected to end no later than June 23rd. The
2005 NBA Draft, which will be held at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in
New York, is scheduled for June 28th.

“Our collective bargaining agreement expires on July 1. Without a new
collective bargaining agreement there will be no season,” commissioner David
Stern said while testifying before the House Committee on Government Reform
Thursday.

Some of the sticking points of the negotiations are the amount of years
on long-term contracts, the amount of annual raises in long-term contracts,
and changes to the escrow and luxury tax systems, which are designed to
control salary growth and penalize the clubs that spend the most amount of
money.

If the league and union, which endured a seven-month lockout during the
1998-99 season, before settling on the current deal, cannot come to an
agreement, summer leagues and offseason conditioning programs at team
facilities would most likely be cancelled. Teams played a 50-game season
during the shortened 1998-99 campaign.

The NBA should have learned a lesson from the National Hockey League, which
cancelled its 2004-05 regular season and has still not reached an agreement
with the Players Association. Fans don’t seem to care if hockey returns, and
it looks like it is going to take a lot of hard work for the NHL to win back
its fan base.

Players, teams and fans have had a tough 2004-05 campaign. On November 19th,
the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers were scheduled to play a competitive
game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. However the contest turned into an out of
control melee. Indiana won 97-82, but the game had to be stopped in the final
minute because of the fracas. Stern showed no mercy, as he suspended Indiana’s
Ron Artest for the remainder of the season for his part in the brawl. Stern
also suspended eight other players for their roles in the melee that started
on the court and eventually found its way into the seats and included the fans
at The Palace.

On March 25th, another scary incident occurred prior to Indiana’s 94-81
victory over the Pistons at The Palace. A telephoned threat that there was a
bomb in the Pacers’ locker room delayed the start of the contest by almost 90
minutes. Fortunately, nothing was found by the authorities.

Even though the two mentioned incidents involved just the Pacers and Pistons,
the events have created a dark cloud over the entire league, which has had to
take security measures through out the different arenas to make sure an event
like the one that happened at The Palace on November 19th never occurs again.

The NBA players and the league do not need any more negative publicity. Fans
want to see their favorite players like Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Steve
Nash and Shaquille O’Neal do what makes them great on the court.

Fans don’t want to be bothered by the specifics of the collective bargaining
agreement, all they want to know is when their favorite team will take to the
court for the 2005-06 season.

The NBA and the Players Association need to iron out an agreement that is fair
for everyone. After all, this league knows what damage a lockout can do.