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The NBA Returns: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

We are on the brink of the end of the NBA lockout and there’s still much to pay attention to in the upcoming days. The Player’s Union’s decertification and subsequent lawsuits seem to have paid off in driving negotiations a bit more firmly into the realm of "serious." All that really stands to come together is for the Union to reform, to approve the agreement, and work out minutiae as the days go forward.

The problem with that, as with most things in life, is that the Devil is in the details. There are a few issues that remain to be sorted out that impact this year’s draft, drug testing, and traded player salaries. All things considered, once these issues are sorted out, I will let TDS know what I am actually looking forward to most with the beginning of the NBA season.

Age is Nothing But a Number

One "minor" issue that lingers amongst the players is that the NBA Owners are seeking to elevate the age limit to 20 years old, or two years removed from High School basketball. On the surface, I’m completely happy with this idea. From the start I’ve always felt like one and done did a lot of damage to continuity in college programs and didn’t really do enough to develop a young player’s game. I like that the owners are pushing for this because honestly, allowing one and done’s was just ridiculous. It does nothing but make the college game worse.

What the issue here will be is that it impacts draft eligibility for players who stood to be prominent in the upcoming draft (Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond in particular). The Player’s Union has tended to fight the escalations of draft eligibility but they caved before and on this issue, I think it makes more sense to raise the year requirement to improve the game and caliber of competition (I’m looking at you, players who went straight from HS to pros and took 7-8 years to get relevant Jermaine O’Neal in particular.). Who would sincerely doubt that a couple years under the tutelage of some of these coaches would hamper their development?

There are some rumblings of a possible third round to the draft, I really only see this as a worthwhile discussion point if it discards the 2 year requirement for eligibility in order to stash a player away in the college system (Expiration at the conclusion of their 4 years of college before a player must be signed to his NBA team or be declared available to be drafted that year). I think it’s an interesting discussion for them to have but not a particularly fruitful one since the NBA has harvested its talent. This is yet another case for the two year requirement to attempt to stash more talent into the pools rather than continue to yield draft classes like the 2011 NBA draft (Kyrie Irving is nice, but he’s a rotation player, not a superstar player).

Roidin’ it Up

Drug testing, I feel is a minor issue. The NBA’s drug testing policy is one of the weakest in professional sports but I’m also not sure it’s a problem. As it stands there aren’t many drugs that make your shot more accurate or your dribbling skills more fluid. The NFL has steroids to offer more power to deliver a hit, the MLB has an HGH and steroid problem relating to hitting power and pitching control, but really from a professional sports perspective, bigger hands will help you palm a ball, but it needs to be dribbled, it needs to be put into a hoop, and you need to have hand-eye coordination, not many substances improve that. I don’t see this being a problem however, a personal privacy argument could be made to keep the policy where it is.

Face Value

Player maneuverability is set to be an issue. The players are pushing for 225% traded salary matching (1 million dollar player can land a 2.25 million dollar player) in order to allow more flexibility of player movement and to make salary-shedding moves easier. The owners are seeking something similar to a 150% to give some more control to owners and keep things similar enough.

Small market teams are already going to face a challenge enough with an 85% up to 90% base salary spending figure, by limiting the amount of traded player salary matching to 150% will allow small market teams to swap slightly to grossly overpaid players to teams wanting salary relief or needing to meet salary floors a bit easier without hurting their bottom line so much. While 225% would free up much more flexibility in dealing, it certainly favors large market teams who can absorb the hits, whereas the 150% tries to liberalize the system but keep things closer towards competitive balance.

I’m So Excited

This is going to sound stupid, but I did work for AmeriCorps for a year and really value community outreach programs. Seriously, if you have a chance, volunteer with your local United Way, they do a Day of Caring every year and it’s a great way to get involved with your community and feel awesome in the process.

I’m most excited for the NBA Cares program returning. I think it’s an admirable requirement that the NBA imposes on its players. They get so much from the community and pay some back in taxes but really their impact is one that has to be felt at a humble level. For the Rockets particularly I find this program important. Their contributions to the Gulf Coast in the wake of the hurricanes that swept through years ago warmed my heart. The outreach and philanthropy of the owner and its players makes me proud to be a Houston Rockets fan.

I never doubt the sincerity of the players showing up and giving back to their communities and I feel the Rockets go above and beyond the basic requirements that the league office sets down. Our boys keep a clean image, give back, and let the community know that without their support, they’re nothing, with their support; they do all they can to put back. I love it, and I’m sure their impact needs to return.