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Commentary on the Impending NBA Lockout

Time to start growing that Lockout Beard again, Mr. Stern.
Time to start growing that Lockout Beard again, Mr. Stern.

Have you ever been walking up to a smoking hot chick, and then behind her came the ugliest human being on the face of the earth? I'll break it down in basketball terms.

2010 offseason: Smoking hot chick

2011 offseason: ugliest person ever

As pissed off as people are about how frustrating this offseason has been (count me in this group), just wait until the next one. Lost in the shuffle of the free agency saga are little men trying to feed their egos. And lost in those egos are the fact that they are not going to make any money the year after next. None at all.

With the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expiring at the end of this season, the owners and Players' Union have been trying for some time to come to an agreement. Players want more of the same (more or less) but the owners want more (way more).

Currently, players make 57 percent of basketball-related income. Tickets, merchandise, you name it, they get a piece. The NBA makes roughly $3 billion a year. The players' cut of that is $1.71 billion. That means the average player in the league makes in the neighborhood of $4 million per year.

As Rockets fans, we've gotten used to Daryl Morey and Les Alexander spending wisely. On the other hand, most owners and GMs are crap. Some spend an inordinate amount of money on Joe Johnson, which is bad but not awful, but some spend too much money on Eddy Curry. Here's where the owners want out.

The owners want to reduce the limit of guaranteed contracts to get them out of hot water when they screw up. The players don't give a shit when the owners screw up. They just want to get rich, bitch. And who can blame them? They're spoiled, and it's the NBA's fault.

The NBA wants a hard cap. No more luxury tax or threshold. It's time for the LA Lakers to stop paying upwards of $95 million for their players while the Minnesota struggle to put a product that resembles an NBA team on the court for about half that much. It's not fair to fans or the owners when they're competing with teams with bottomless pockets. The crazy part here: this goes against everything the NBA always wants. The NBA would still benefit from a LA-NY Finals, but not the same way. There won't be as many stars on those teams for the league to market, and eventually the teams would suffer. But the bottom half of owners are winning. It's like playing poker against someone who gets an extra card every hand. You might win every once in a while, but you'll mostly lose. As stupid these owners are with their money in paying free agents, they know the league needs them.

The most likely solution? Max salaries getting cut dramatically. Lower the max contracts, and so even when LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh become free agents again, they'll be looking at much less money. Second- and third-tier players will make about the same amount of money, but if the league makes LeBron worth less to his owner, there will still be enough money for the rest of the league and owners. The top 10 salaries last year were worth about $20 million each. If the NBA lowers the max to $15 million, they could save $50 million from those ten players alone. Pretty enticing move for the league, right? I mean, what's the difference between $15 and 20 million?

A lot, according to the players. Enough for the players to lockout the 2011-2012 season. Next year's free agency bonanza, with names like Carmelo Anthony, Yao Ming, and Tony Parker becoming free agents, will be a farce.

Now to local matters. The Rockets have positioned themselves beautifully. They have only $18 million committed to 2011-2012 (Kevin Martin and Trevor Ariza). Expect Morey to wait this thing out a little, and start extending the guys he wants as the season goes on or completely leaving them if he doesn't like them. It will also factor into every decision as the season goes on. Why trade for a guy who becomes a free agent at the end of 2011 or even 2012? Those contracts become worthless during a lockout. Some team may even take on some seriously bulky contracts and go for a big run this season, banking on a lockout to ease their money.

Lots of things to consider here, but here's the take-home message: There will be a lockout barring the Players' Union stepping down (unlikely). What are your thoughts? Who's to blame: greedy owners or greedy players?