According to the typically impeccably sourced Kevin Ding, Lakers owner Jerry Buss is well in favor of revenue sharing, and a hard salary cap for NBA teams. Buss, more than any other owner in the NBA, has more to lose with standardized scrills sharing. Also, a hard salary cap that would prevent a team like the Lakers from fielding five players making eight figures at once; so this would seem like a huge deal, right? The owner who should be against it all is lining up behind David Stern alongside team leaders from Milwaukee, Memphis and Charlotte.
Yes, it's striking. But does it mean anything, at this point?
For one, the hard salary cap has always come off as a bit of an anachronism for pro basketball, a sport that features nine or 10 rotation spots that really matter, and a sport that can't suffer the wild roster upheavals seen yearly in the NFL and NHL. Because of growing revenue streams and the way the income pie is divvied up (even if the players nearly halve the Basketball Related Income with the owners, as opposed to the 57/43 split the players enjoyed last year), a hard cap that reflects that BRI calculation could be set well above where last year's soft salary cap (just above $56.1 million) was set.
That doesn't really do much for the also-rans in smaller cities, even with increased revenue sharing. No, the smaller cities wouldn't be in competition with a nearly $100 million payroll in New York anymore, but they never really were in competition with that anyway.
Increased revenue sharing? It's a tired argument (along the lines of the tripe you read when a rich athlete gets fined thousands, and writers pass it off as "pocket change"), but to a 77-year-old owner who will likely see his team's new television network earn his organization billions even after Kobe Bryant hangs up his sneakers? It really doesn't matter. It's benevolent, I suppose, but it's hardly along the lines of a lower-spending but just as profitable owner (say, Jerry Reinsdorf in Chicago) giving in to the same ideals.
This doesn't make the report, as authored by Ding, any less striking, though:
The Lakers' most golden age is already over.
The landscape that enabled the Lakers to live like kings on everyone's courts is being wholly redesigned in the current collective bargaining, and there's only one word to describe how the hedges will be trimmed from here on out: evenly.
So unstoppable are the forces at work here — take note, NBA Players Association — that even Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who mastered every angle of this game set up for him to win, knows it's pointless to stand in the way.
While Buss and the Lakers showed off jewels and staged parades, most other NBA owners in smaller markets with smaller budgets felt their competitive spirits nearly broken by all their on- and off-court losses.
This lockout, this opportunity to reshape the league's structure, is their NBA Finals.
To that end, we have no doubt. Especially when Kevin reminds us that just four teams (Buss' Lakers, the Boston Celtics, the Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs) have won 24 of the last 32 NBA championships. Myriad factors go into that level of imparity, we should point out. And before the NBA allowed its players to sign where they wanted when their contracts ran out, the Celtics essentially ran the league for nearly 20-odd years.
But it is "their NBA Finals."
And to Buss? It's one final gift to a league he helped shape, giving back where he sees fit.
Just don't try to sell Ronnie Lester on Buss' benevolent streak.