NBA starts lockout — and it will be a while before it ends

NBA players, led by union president Derek Fisher, and executive director Billy Hunter, can put up a united front, but the owners won't likely fold in these talks. (AP photo)

NBA players, led by union president Derek Fisher, and executive director Billy Hunter, can put up a united front. But the owners aren't likely to fold in these talks. (AP photo)

The NBA is in a lockout. Get comfortable.

Several months back, I fully expected the NFL owners to implement a lockout in hopes of gaining financial concessions from players and maybe even twisting the union’s arm into an 18-game season. What I didn’t know was how long the NFL lockout would last. But logic said that it with so much television network money on the table, regular season games wouldn’t be canceled.

This is is different. NFL owners really didn’t want to change the entire financial structure with the players — they just wanted a bigger piece of the pie. But the NBA owners want to throw away the pie and blow up the whole bakery.

This simply is not a league that can support guaranteed, astronomical six- and seven-year contracts for players. It can’t afford to have such a soft salary cap because owners clearly can’t control themselves. And as Shaquille O’Neal accurately points out, Joe Johnson is not a $20 million player, especially for a team like the Hawks that can’t fill Philips Arena.

I expect this to be a long lockout. I’d be surprised if teams play more than a 50-game schedule.  I would not be surprised if the entire season is canceled. That will depend largely on how quickly the NBA Players Association folds, because I don’t see the owners folding.

NBA owners don’t have nearly as great an incentive to settle quickly as the players because so many of them are losing money. Also worth noting is that some of these same NBA owners also have NHL teams. When NHL lockout ended following the cancellation of an entire season, the owners emerged with the best and most restrictive, owner-friendly CBA in professional sports.

Players have a small window to make their money. So do their wives and girlfriends. The pressure in these negotiations is heavily on the players.

Don’t take this to mean that this is the players’ fault. The owners gave them the last CBA and lavished them with huge contracts. It’s not their responsibility to say no.

The owners created this mess. But cleaning it up won’t be easy, and it’s not likely to get done quickly.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at

91 comments Add your comment

retired broke and .......

September 23rd, 2011
1:18 pm

first and who cares


September 23rd, 2011
1:19 pm

Wait. The NBA is in a lockout? I thought it just moved to Versus.


September 23rd, 2011
1:21 pm

basketball…….. who cares…


September 23rd, 2011
1:35 pm

No Hawks and no Thrashers in Philips Arena this winter….can we get the circus to stay a month?


September 23rd, 2011
1:36 pm

This could be the lockout that will destroy the nba.


September 23rd, 2011
1:44 pm

Agreed, no one is paying attention. ESPN had wall to wall coverage everytime the NFL owners or union so much as went to the bathroom over the summer. This is gonna kill basketball even more.


September 23rd, 2011
1:46 pm

At 15,600 + a night I would consider the Hawks attendance last year to be incredible, given the predictability of the product and the disdain for the ownership.

Atlanta drew about the same as basketball meccas Detroit, Charlotte, and Washington and significantly more that what everyone says is the greatest sports city of all, Philly.

Rank Average % of capacity

18 Pistons 41 683,080 16,660 75.5
19 Raptors 41 679,208 16,566 83.7
20 Rockets 41 663,839 16,191 89.7
21 Bobcats 41 649,694 15,846 83.1
22 Hawks 41 641,596 15,648 83.6
23 Bucks 41 631,910 15,412 82.3
24 Timberwolves 624,960 15,242 78.8
25 76ers 41 604,823 14,751 72.6
26 Hornets 41 603,088 14,709 86.1
27 Grizzlies 41 600,687 14,650 80.9
28 Nets 41 581,378 14,179 80.6
29 Kings 41 569,496 13,890 80.2
30 Pacers 41 555,077 13,538 74.5


September 23rd, 2011
1:49 pm

I wonder what Howard (before I was locked out of the NBA) Thompkins would decide today? It’s not like he didn’t see this coming.
NBA salaries, i.e. Joe Johnson, is stupid money. Almost as dumb as government spending!


September 23rd, 2011
1:58 pm

Out Source: ever heard?

I’ll play for 400k…plus bonuses….lol

My J is better than 60 percent of those busters anyway…


September 23rd, 2011
1:59 pm

Ah Jeff Schultz, any mention by you or Bradley of the NBA, NHL, or any sports that does not require subterfuge, a projectile, camouflage, or being a pinion and wanting to be a sheep to feel like everybody else (as they think) just brings out the best of types of bloggers;-) The NBA will return, exactly when that might be is the real question…

Today’s Links | 72ent

September 23rd, 2011
2:04 pm

[...] 43 GamesBloombergThings start to get real in NBA lockoutLos Angeles TimesChicago Tribune -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 890 news [...]


September 23rd, 2011
2:09 pm

hope it never comes back.

day old fries

September 23rd, 2011
2:27 pm


"Chef" Tim Dix

September 23rd, 2011
2:27 pm

And Franco is still dead.

Matt from MN

September 23rd, 2011
2:30 pm

Couldn’t care less about the NBA, but I’m going to miss the Thrashers terribly this winter. It’s really hitting home now that there will be no NHL, as training camp and pre-season games have begun.

iago's yoda

September 23rd, 2011
2:40 pm

….well, bye.

Oh Well

September 23rd, 2011
2:44 pm

Sure won’t lose any sleep over it.


September 23rd, 2011
2:44 pm

Hate these millionaries fighting with billionaires about money. Play the game and be gratful for all the money you do make. I dont make much and certainly could use a raise but I can’t just not got to work until i get what I want. Both sides need to stop crying and start the season. I want to go to phillips and watch J-smoove dunk on somebody. Go Hawks!!! bye bye thrashers, no one cared about you anyways.

Paul in NH (formerly RDU)

September 23rd, 2011
2:50 pm

NBA won’t be back in 2011 and may not be back until Thanksgiving 2012. After just moving to NH I was looking forward to seeing KG and Ray Allen in the Garden but I might be a year late.

Jimmy Crack

September 23rd, 2011
2:52 pm

NCAA basketball…..FAN-FRIENDLY!


September 23rd, 2011
2:56 pm

i dont care and my decision was to get back cash for every game rather thsn the trumped up formula the owners “offered”. i dont want to be on any side so i wont leave my cash in for the owners to use.


September 23rd, 2011
3:03 pm

I only like basketball in March.

Jeff Schultz

September 23rd, 2011
3:08 pm

JSS — I was confused by everything you wrote until that part about the NBA returning but not knowing when. You’re just too deep for me, man.


September 23rd, 2011
3:17 pm

Jeff- really nobody in this town cares. And you know this. Joe Johnson is a joke. No star quality about him at all.


September 23rd, 2011
3:24 pm

The NBA allowed DUMB owners such as the Atlanta Spirit to operate……Now they want to change the rules again.

The league caters to the Hip Hop Generation with the lousy music and over all attitude….The league has a few really well run NBA teams, and a few really fun to watch, other then that it is boring.

And really Shaq couldn’t be more correct….. why pay a guy who mostly disappears when it counts all that money……they were just not a smart group, and thus all the horrible choices from management on down to draft choices.


September 23rd, 2011
3:27 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
That 3:17PM reply is Exhibit A!


September 23rd, 2011
3:31 pm

If you tied a deer to a tree and put it in the middle of Sanford Stadium, I guarantee it would it be a sell out if you told them they could bring a high powered rifle with a multi range scope in with them…


September 23rd, 2011
3:34 pm

“NCAA basketball…..FAN-FRIENDLY!” For who, drunken 18 year olds?


September 23rd, 2011
3:39 pm

Hey Jeff. When are you going to rate the job of Fredi Gonzalez?


September 23rd, 2011
3:43 pm

the death throes of the NBA are here. YAY! this league became terminal in the early 90s and will just fade away…I hope……kobe, lebron, et.all can just head to Europe for all I care….. bring on March Madness

Junior Samples

September 23rd, 2011
3:46 pm

Lockout? I didn’t know the NBA still existed. I haven’t seen a game in decades. Suits me to lock ‘em out for ever and ever amen.


September 23rd, 2011
3:48 pm

Where is M. Cunningham?


September 23rd, 2011
3:49 pm

Can anyone care to explain why the Hawks beat report is M.I.A. on NBA matters and Hawks news? Its been nearly a month since we last heard from Michael Cunningham. Is he a season reporter? Isn’t this the NBA season more or less?


September 23rd, 2011
3:53 pm

blazerdawg…..if you believe those attendance figures from the Hawks, I have some swamp land you might be interested in! The real NBA died years ago. The buying public has gone elsewhere with that disposible income. It is just a bad sport now and what a shame!


September 23rd, 2011
3:59 pm

Paddy – I believe that the NBA uses the same attendance criteria league wide, so I do not believe that Atlanta’s attendance is outbof proportion with any other market. I agree with you that the NBA is a bad and predictable sport now. Hopefully the outcome of the new agreement will solve some of the leage’s issues.

P. Bull Terrier

September 23rd, 2011
4:00 pm

This is like the question about the tree falling in the middle of the woods. Will anyone even notice the NBA isn’t playing until February when the NFL season is over? Will anyone even notice the NBA isn’t playing once March Madness begins?

JSS – Imagine the TV revenue the Sanford Stadium deer hunt would bring – given the gruesome spectacle of 90,000 people opening fire toward the middle of a round stadium.


September 23rd, 2011
4:02 pm

NBA is not the NFL… No one is following or cares that theirs a lockout…


September 23rd, 2011
4:08 pm

…so what’s the bad news? that they will eventually come back?


September 23rd, 2011
4:20 pm

zzzzzzzzzzz. Wake me up when the NBA is relevent again, like in the 80’s and 90’s. Could care less.


September 23rd, 2011
4:24 pm

Shaq is sooooooooo right.

Ryans house

September 23rd, 2011
4:45 pm

Shortening (the ridiculously long) basketball season is sweet.

If we could only bring back the Thrashers or figure out how to lengthen football season now…


September 23rd, 2011
4:51 pm

Go watch the NHL


September 23rd, 2011
4:52 pm

“JSS – Imagine the TV revenue the Sanford Stadium deer hunt would bring – given the gruesome spectacle of 90,000 people opening fire toward the middle of a round stadium.”

Well, it is actually elliptical… Still, they are 1. Drunk, 2. In a frenzy, 3. they can’t shoot straight sober… Wow, it might be like rush hour on GA 400!


September 23rd, 2011
4:55 pm

For the haters of the NBA: You honestly think this lockout will end the league? A lot of people are hating the MLB now after the 94 strike, and you know what it’s still around. The NBA will follow the same path, and in fact it did before, the 1998 lockout and just in the past few years has finally recovered from that, it will rise again after this lockout.


September 23rd, 2011
5:01 pm

maybe joe johnson will hold a big party at phillips during the lockout…i know he really did not mean to cause this…provide chips and sodas joe and all is forgiven


September 23rd, 2011
5:03 pm

Bbbbuuuuut where will LeBron take his talents?

How will Kris Humphries pay for the wedding?

No more guns in the locker rooms?

I won’t miss a season of these self-absorbed jerks at all. The inmates have run the asylum for too long, the owners can’t control themselves and Stern has let it happen. They all deserve each other. Buh-bye.


September 23rd, 2011
5:05 pm

PS – Better short the co’s that make tattoo products.


September 23rd, 2011
5:09 pm

What are the strip clubs now going to do – a lot less rain-making and $200 bottles of Crystal? Maybe Obama will take care of them in his jobs bill.


September 23rd, 2011
5:21 pm

So the Atlanta Spirit started the NBA on the road to ruining the league. They were good for something after all.

Dawgdad (The Original)

September 23rd, 2011
5:41 pm

I don’t think many of us care if they ever resolve their dispute. Maybe Roller Derby will take over the Arena and draw bigger crowds.