So much for the fade to black ...
The lockout is done, gone, finished. I read somewhere that we NBA fans will forget the lockout. Will forget? It's already forgotten. It left through the back door so quickly, and having left such a minimal impression on the game, that only the calendar can remind us that we aren't right where we're supposed to be. Only the fever-pitch craving of basketball can let us know that we should already be getting our fix. If you fell into a blissful slumber on June 30th and woke up today, you might never notice the difference.
The lockout has been (effectually) over for less than a week, and we're already right back into Dwight Howard rumors for the Lakers, and CP3 rumors for everyone else. That "Melo" rule the owners wanted, which would remove the ability of players to force their way into a situation of their choosing? Didn't make the cut. Howard and Paul still have every bit as much power today as Carmelo Anthony had in making the move to NYC.
We're just a week removed from doomsday statements about the future of professional basketball, and we're already looking into which mid level free agents the Lakers will be able to sign to address any weaknesses this team might have. The same Lakers who have the highest payroll in the league, miles above the salary cap, and are locked into roughly 90% of that payroll through the next two seasons. All that bluster about removing exceptions to the salary cap or even having a truly hard cap that could not be surpassed? Never mind. The Lakers will continue to be players in the mid level free agent field. Other teams might be able to pay a little more money, and that will affect the Lakers ability to lure the top guys, but the difference between a $5 million player and a $3 million player isn't that big when it comes to role players, and there are certain allures (success, environment, branding) that will go a long way towards compensating for that additional lost income anyway.
So what exactly has changed? To answer that, simply take the NBA that you know and love, and chop off 10-20%. 10% less salary. 20% less years on the contract. 10% less raise percentage. 20% more luxury tax. 10% less fans. 20% less season. The game is exactly the same as it was before, with some slight moderation to trim off the excess.
That seems in pretty stark contrast to the level of animosity and posturing which has taken place over the past few months. It certainly provides a stage to show just how stupid the lockout was. These two parties were ready to rip out each others throats, two sides ready for all-out war. The owners as the marauding attackers, trying to conquer and pillage all the riches the players had amassed over the years... the players trying to defend their bloated, over-sized empire ... these were the scenes which were painted. In the end, the net result looks a re-districting you might see after the Census. The players had too much of the pie, and that has been corrected. The pie itself remains the same.
So we're right back where we started, in that crazy, mysterious, silly period in which the Lakers might trade for one of the best players in the league. Which one? Whichever one you want. It doesn't matter if half the rumors are ludicrous. It doesn't matter if 99% of the rumors never pan out. This is the time to believe in and engage every single scoop, every idea, every notion. Why?
Because silly is so much better than stupid.