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Brian T. Smith: Fix the NBA with a lockout? So be it

Published June 19, 2011 8:51 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Set your watch. Dial in the clock. Doomsday is here.

While the rest of the working world — aka everyone not named LeBron James — shuffles through another long one Tuesday, the NBA will aim its most threatening and expensive weapons toward total Armageddon in New York City. That's where league owners, players and top brass are set to meet one last time in an attempt to sign off on a new collective bargaining agreement. And if the sides can't compromise and claim middle ground, and egos flare instead?

Lockout, baby, 2011 style.

Crazy thing, though: It's exactly what the NBA needs.

Not in the sense that anyone wants it or it's the right fix or an ideal scene. Lockouts are chaos wrapped in catastrophe. Just ask the NHL, NFL and MLB.

Despite the beauty of this week's Stanley Cup, hockey still has not recovered from the lost season of 2004-05. Baseball fell so far that only juiced balls and more-juiced bodies could lift the grand old game back to its former height. Football? It's one of the biggest businesses in America, and the only thing able to choke its breath is the dead air of a labor dispute. And there are hundreds of millions of reasons it's been 12 years since the NBA last had a work stoppage — namely hundreds of millions of dollars.

But the modern NBA that everyone from Shanghai to Salt Lake City loves, and the one that looked so fine during the recent playoff run and soaring Finals, is also totally and completely financially broken. And if a lockout is what it's going to take for owners to climb down from their million-dollar perches and players to climb out of their million-dollar treehouses, then so be it.

Lock the doors. Box up the balls. Turn out the lights. Game over.

Until the league finally comes back to reality.

Did Dallas vs. three dudes from Miami look divine? Heck, yes. Were the playoffs as fantastic as the NBA once promised? Mmm hmm. Even the regular season was a marvel for diehard addicts and those of us with jobs to do.

Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook … youth, potential and promise.

The NBA really does look beautiful from a distance. But under a microscope, it's a mess. What the Heat concocted in South Beach was an abomination. And as dreamy as it was to watch Dirk Nowitzki get teary-eyed and Jason Kidd finally get his due, it's somehow been lost that the Mavericks were a bought team that took $90 million to package and came in a whopping $32 million above the salary cap.

That cap's at the heart of Owners vs. Players, Part XIV. Its flimsy, whimsical nature has been abused for years. It needs a backbone. But so do the owners, while the players need a come-to-Jesus reality check. That's going to take a little while, though. Tuesday's just two days away.

#lockoutparty2011

bsmith@sltrib.com

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