The lockout ended, and the NBA’s woes were just beginning.
Dwight Howard asked to be traded. Chris Paul was dealt to the Lakers, it seemed, until the league decided he wasn’t. So the Lakers made another trade, which Kobe Bryant hated.
“Nobody’s happy,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said.
He was referring to feelings about terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which in some ways are so similar to the old ones that it’s fair to wonder exactly what was the point of the five-month lockout.
But he might as well have been talking about the superstars who want new homes, the critics blistering Commissioner David Stern for forcing one to stay put, or team officials charged with having clubs ready to play by Christmas under bizarre circumstances.
“It’s just too bad, it really is. It’s not reflective right now of the great product we had, you know?” former coach and ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said. “It’s one thing to have a summer and fall of strife due to labor negotiations. It’s another to be seen as an organization that’s in disarray once you settle that.”
Van Gundy blames money, the natural place to start. Owners will save plenty by getting players to agree to a 12 percent reduction in salary costs in the new deal. But in doing so in time to salvage a substantial season, they conceded on many issues that were necessary to create the competitive balance they said they craved.
So Paul and Howard are trying to force their way from small markets to big, just as Carmelo Anthony did last year, and there’s no guaranteed mechanism to stop them.
“This is about as bizarre to a start of a season that I’ve seen,” new Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Forget just that short training camp and forget it’s really hard on rookies that come in here. This trade has been done, then all the sudden it’s not done and then it is done. Then guys aren’t practicing that are completely healthy and want to practice and stuff. It’s just crazy.”
“I guess that goes to show why the league didn’t want to do this,” he added.