In a better world, Laker fans would spend this July reveling in the NBA's version of the hot-stove league. Our skills as raconteurs would be put to use debating whether Lamar Odom for Andre Iguodala is a sensible trade, whether the Orlando Magic could be persuaded to part with Dwight Howard and whether any team anywhere could be conned into paying for the last two years of Luke Walton's flatlined career. Instead, we're all beached on the shore of the NBA lockout. Our days are spent, to the extent we can tolerate doing so, listening helplessly as David Stern and his flunkies promulgate what amounts to a campaign of fraud, by which they ask us to believe the league is bleeding out financially despite multiple independent analyses suggesting otherwise and their own refusal to make public the league's financial statements.
What are the Laker faithful to make of this? How will the lockout affect the purple and gold, and how are the collective-bargaining negotiations likely to affect the team's future? These are issues I'm here to address in this handy set of FAQs. If you'd like to understand the lockout from the league-wide perspective, I recommend reading a couple pieces by Larry Coon of ESPN (here and here) and this post by Nate Silver of the New York Times. They've got that beat covered. What I'm here to do is explore what it all means for the Lakers specifically.
So if you are a Laker fan, I recommend printing out 100 copies of these Fishmore Lockout FAQs. (No more than 100, though. Gotta keep the lifestyle green!) Put one copy on your refrigerator, one in your safe-deposit box and keep one on your person at all times. The other 97 you should hand out in a Whole Foods parking lot or slap on the windshields of your neighbors' cars.
Let's dive in.
Labor disputes are super boring. Do I really need to pay attention to this?
Not at all. Someday the league will come back, and if all you care about is the simple pleasure of watching basketball games, feel free to tune everything out for the next few months. You'll be happier for it. You only really need to pay close attention if (a) you're interested in how collective bargaining shapes the competitive ecosystems of pro sports leagues, (b) at some point in your life you made the mistake of becoming an NBA blogger, or (c) you are Derek Fisher.
Derek Fisher? What does he have to do with this?
Fish is president of the players' union. He's responsible for representing the players' interests at the bargaining table and for negotiating a deal that the union can accept.
Sounds delightful. What will his teammates be up to while he's stuck in conference rooms?
This and that. Kobe Bryant might get a crew together and play some exhibition games in China. Pau Gasol will play for Spain in the European Championships. Ron Artest is balling in various pro-am summer leagues, as is Steve Blake. Andrew Bynum is boxing.
What about the rookies, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock?
Typically they'd be playing in the NBA's official summer league, but that's been canceled, so the youngsters are on their own. Goudelock plans to finish up his degree at the College of Charleston. Morris will stay and work out here in Los Angeles.
OK, back to the negotiations. What's the one issue on the table that would have the greatest impact on the Lakers?
The hard salary cap. The Lakers bring in loads of cashishe, and thanks to the many exceptions to the league's "soft" salary cap they've been able to plow a good portion of that money back into player salaries. That's how they've maintained a player payroll that's routinely far above the league average.
A hard cap would force the Lakers to ratchet their payroll down to a level very close to what the rest of the league is able to spend. Maybe not right away, as there would likely be a phase-in period of a few years, but sometime soon the Lakers would lose their ability to convert their financial advantage into an on-court talent advantage. Which, not to put too blunt a point on it, would blow.
I'll say. How likely is this "hard cap" you speak of?
I'm not sure, to be honest. The owners are pushing it, but the players are vigorously resisting the idea. Many people seem to think the owners will surrender this point in the end, in return for a bigger share of league revenues, shorter player contracts and other things they really want.
And what of increased revenue sharing? That could damage the Lakers' financial position, right?
It could, but that's a much less bitter pill to swallow. The Lakers are a cash-flow geyser. Their new local-TV deal with Time Warner Cable will inject about $150 million a year, which by itself is way more than enough to cover player payroll. Then consider the exorbitant prices they charge for game tickets and that every home game sells out, throw merchandising and other revenue streams on top of that, and it's pretty clear the Buss family has money to burn. Or share with the Toronto Raptors, which is pretty much the same thing.
It depends on the actual numbers, of course, but unless the new revenue-sharing rules are outrageously Bolshevik, they shouldn't damage the Lakers' ability to bankroll an A-list roster.
What's an "amnesty rule," and would it allow the Lakers to get rid of Luke's contract?
An amnesty rule would say something like: each team can waive one player, whose salary would then no longer count toward the team's salary-cap figure. And that would indeed allow the Lake Show to send Luke on his way. But don't get too excited. If an amnesty rule comes into play, it's likely to be part of an interlocking compromise that also sees the arrival of a hard cap.
Clearly a shortened or canceled season would suck, but would it suck for the Lakers more or less than it would for other teams?
It depends on which outcome we're talking about. From the Lakers' perspective, a shortened season mightn't be the worst thing ever. As an old team, they might welcome a truncated regular-season schedule. Fewer games means less wear on Kobe's joints and fewer opportunities for Bynum's knees to asplode.
A canceled season, though, would be a catastrophe. The clock is tick-tick-ticking on this version of the Lakers. In two years, if not sooner - hell, if it hasn't happened already - the existing Kobe/Pau/Odom core will have aged out of its championship window. It's excruciating to think that much of what's left of their prime could be wasted on labor nonsense.
Wow. That's depressing.
Yes it is. Welcome to the lockout.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.