NBA team owners and the NBA Players Association have failed to reach a consensus for a new collective bargaining agreement, leading to the first two weeks of the NBA regular season being canceled.
Netizens aren’t taking the news very well:
As a result of the lockout, three members of the Denver Nuggets have already signed contracts to play in the Chinese Basketball association for the upcoming season beginning in November, and now China’s lone
bust representative in the NBA Yi Jianlian will also be coming home: Easy Yi has just signed a contract to play with his old team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers (a full list of NBA players going overseas can be found here).
According to The Atlantic (usually our first stop for basketball news), the central issue in the negotiations between players and owners concerns money, and the billionaire owners’ unwillingness to pay as much as they have been paying:
The owners claim they’re losing money, so the players need to be making less. That might mean cutting salaries, lowering the salary cap, making every contract nonguaranteed—propositions that the players aren’t wholly opposed to, but ones they claim the owners are massively overstating the need for.
The last time the NBA lockout happened in 1998-99, players were totally unprepared for the furlough, and many formerly sculpted athletes returned to their teams fat and out of shape due to their regular training and competition regimens being put on hold (see Baker, Vin and Kemp, Shawn).
Another more pressing issue was the revelation that many players were living paycheck to paycheck, perhaps highlighted this time around by Celtics point guard Delonte West, who reportedly was broke enough recently to seek employment at Home Depot.
Chinese owners now spending more than ever
Though NBA team owners are complaining somewhat disingenuously about their financial distress (more than you’d ever want to know about it here), Chinese sports franchise owners seem to be in the ascendancy, having opened up their pocketbooks at an unprecedented clip this year.
J.R. Smith can lay claim to having the biggest contract in the CBA’s history ($3 million USD/1 year), while his Nuggets teammate Kenyon Martin’s contract is good for second-biggest ($2.65 million USD/1 year). Then there’s the owner of the Shanxi Brave Dragons, who was prepared to pay serious money for Kobe Bryant’s services, prior to the CBA’s decision to only allow free agents into their league.
Even the owners in football are signing fat checks left and right, with Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande splurging for Argentinian Dario Conca back in July, to the tune of €26.5 million euros for two and half years, a figure good enough to make Conca the third best-paid player in the world.
Currently, it seems that Chinese sports team owners are more invested in spending big to win, rather than simply running a franchise as a business. The thinking that sports teams are simply money-making ventures has been railed against repeatedly by Malcolm Gladwell, who points out that even owners like Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers) are smart enough to realize that:
“To me, NBA franchises are like pieces of art. There are only 30 of them. They aren’t always on the market, especially a franchise that would have been such a natural fit. … If you just looked at the Cavaliers in terms of revenues, profits and balance sheets — and you paid this amount for it — people would say ‘You’re insane! You’re nuts.’ But if you look at all the tentacles, the impact on our other venues, it makes tremendous sense. We have now opened a Cleveland office [of Quicken Loans] and that’s tremendously successful. Our employees love it that we’re associated with the Cavs and can come to games — that helps us attract and keep better people. There are a lot of nonprofit things that can be done with pro sports. It brings an unbelievable amount of excitement.”
If we can’t have an NBA season to get us through the winter, we guess we’ll just top up a little extra hooch for the tea thermoses we’ll be bringing to games at Luwan Stadium, to aid in all the shouting and non-ironic team spirit. GO SHARKS!