September 08, 2011
The NBA lockout is spiraling into autumn, with no end in sight. Players swear they can make it an entire season without giving in to the owners' demands, and all kinds of sources from within ownership paint that group as one that wouldn't mind giving up an entire season to get what's theirs. But once the truth serum spikes the punch, both the owners and players would hop at the chance to put together an NBA season in full. To say nothing of the team employees or those who make their living making your life easier as an NBA fan while they pour you a beer or park your car.
Oh, and the fans. They'd like to see the lockout end, we're guessing. So we've heard.
However, some probably don't mind the break. For whatever reason, this lockout might be the best thing to happen to them in years. Let's get into those reasons, team by team. Individual by individual; be they players, executives, coaches, or whomever strikes our fancy. We've nothing better to do.
Boston's Wyc Grousbeck, we're guessing, doesn't want the lockout to end. Why? Click the jump.
This makes absolutely no sense, of course. Wyc Grousbeck is the owner of a championship contender that routinely fills its stadium and plays deep into the playoffs. His team is beloved, his team makes money, and his team (most importantly) might have just one more shot at an NBA championship. With Kevin Garnett(notes), Ray Allen(notes), and Paul Pierce(notes) all on the downside (if, in Pierce's case, just barely) of brilliant careers, why would the owner of the most "WIN NOW!" of the win-now teams want to lose the 2011-12 season?
Or why would he want a truncated season in its place, when the 50-game sprint during the post-lockout 1999 run destroyed veteran teams?
Because Wyc Grousbeck is not only a hardliner, he's a smart businessman. And though he might not be calling a lost 2011-12 season an "investment," as he did during 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, he does see the writing on the wall. Angry graffiti, splayed all over the Celtic offices after just a small downtick in cable ratings and gate receipts resulted in a pretty-middling financial regular season for a Celtic team that actually made the seventh game of the NBA Finals in 2009-10.
Perhaps we're piling all our best hopes for what we think the smartest amongst the hardliners (inconsistent spenders like the ownership groups in Phoenix don't count) are thinking on Grousbeck. And perhaps, in meetings this week, he's at the forefront amongst owners in wanting to give back and give it all up just to see things tip off on time in 2011-12. We fully admit that we don't know.
But if Grousbeck does represent the sensible side of wanting to lose games and/or a season (if there is sense to that side), then we can agree to a point. The cost of owning a pro basketball team has shot way, way up over the last few years, in ways that have nothing to do with escalating player salaries. Travel and team expenses keep growing and growing, year by year, as a result of the US' continuing economic woes amongst myriad other factors, and it's not as if the NBA has a new TV contract in hand that reflects these changes. This is why the owners are attempting to get some back from the players.
Again, we're possibly dumping all of the good qualities we'd hope a hardline owner would exude on Grousbeck, mainly because he's a good owner. He showed remarkable patience with Danny Ainge's youth movement years ago, along with coach Doc Rivers, and through some sound anticipation and a bit of luck (with both Allen being on the trade market and the Timberwolves finally conceding to move Garnett in the same summer the Celtics were rich with assets), Boston was able to build a team that made the Finals twice between 2008 and 2010, winning it once and coming within minutes of pulling off a championship in 2010.
All throughout, Grousbeck hasn't held his nose as he paid the luxury tax, and he's afforded Ainge the chance to do things his way. With all GMs, a "for better, or worse" caveat follows a line like that, but this is also the sign of a good owner.
Good for the game? Good for the NBA? After a season like 2010-11? There's no way. Losing this momentum and losing games and/or a season will be disastrous.
But Grousbeck knows what's good for his bottom line. And if we can get cynical and Donald Sterling-y with things, he's really under no obligation beyond that.
This is why he wouldn't mind holding back a paycheck or 12 from his players this year. This is why he might not want the lockout to ever end.
(Though we suspect he does.)