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David Aldridge

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Arenas such as Indiana's Conseco Fieldhouse may face a long road to hosting their next NBA game.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

An open letter to NBA's players and owners


Posted Jul 4 2011 6:19AM - Updated Jul 5 2011 7:19AM

Now comes the dark, the black sky, one system of hot air colliding violently with another of cold rhetoric, producing softball-sized incredulity for fans who just enjoyed the best 12-month stretch of pro basketball in a generation, and only want to see that continue.

Now comes the silence, the awful silence of indifference and anger, when the hope and hubbub ceases in Miami, and people find other things to do in L.A. than obsess about the Lakers, when the lawyers swoop in to fill the void, and the nation turns the channel.

The lockout. The damned lockout.

It is here and it is not going anywhere for a while, like a stalled front over the Ohio Valley. The league's owners have made this happen -- and, if you understand nothing else about this dispute, understand that it is the owners who have brought it about -- unwilling to accept anything less than an overhaul of the current system that they claim is unsustainable. The question is how far are they willing to go to ensure that change. Are they willing to lose an entire season and gamble that the modest signs of recovery in the league will be lost for the foreseeable future? (Incredible how the NBA's plight parallels the country's economic plight, with progressives and conservatives arguing about how best to get the country out of recession.)

The owners say they cannot make money with this system, which they agreed to just six years ago.The reason they cite is ... themselves. Though they would not characterize it that way, of course.

"We had predicted that the (luxury) tax would be more of a drag on salaries than it's turned out to be," deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday, referring to the dollar-for-dollar penalty teams have to pay when they exceed the luxury tax threshold. This year seven teams are projected to spend more than the $70.3 million limit, itself $12 million above the $58.044 million salary cap limit.

"It became business as usual to pay the tax," Silver said. "And therefore it created a league of haves and have nots, where you have the Lakers at $110 million (in salaries and luxury tax payments) and Sacramento at $45 million."

Owners want the players' union to agree to a new system where the players give back hundreds of millions of dollars in projected salary over the next decade in order to ensure that teams keep salaries in line and have a chance to make a profit. Players balk at this, saying the owners have to take more responsibility for the business decisions that they make via their general managers and basketball people.

We're caught in the middle here at NBA.com. You have no doubt noticed the scrubbing of both this website and those of the league's teams of all images and videos of the players. This was done, we were told, not to try and make people "forget" the players during the lockout, but because -- and I am quoting league spokesman Mike Bass here -- "We do not think it is appropriate to be using video and photography of current players at this time."

(The NFL, apparently, has a different philosophy, which is why you still see videos and highlights of current players on the NFL Network and NFL.com.) But we can show and write about players who are directly involved in the labor talks, like NBPA union president Derek Fisher.

What the Tip will evolve into -- whether there will be one at all, at least weekly -- is under consideration as you read. I can't write about the lockout every week; I'll get as bored writing about it as you are reading about it.

A "pox on both their houses" columns during such times are facile manipulations, designed to get you, the fan, to make an easy choice. The truth is, the owners are right, and the players are right. There wouldn't be an NBA without owners fronting the payrolls of 30 teams, covering players' salaries, assuming all of the financial risks, often going into debt. And there wouldn't be an NBA without the players, whose amazing athletic feats, and emotional and intellectual endurance, compel you every night -- compel you to buy tickets and swag, and watch on TV, and give a damn about the sport.

Having said that, both sides could stand to remember some things as the lockout commences.

Dear Owners ...

Stop whining about how you have to have a system that guarantees profitability. You are the winners.

Income disparity has increased dramatically in the United States in the last 30 years, and you all were the beneficiaries. You got corporate tax breaks and personal tax writeoffs, and are doing better economically, even after this killer recession, than 99.9 percent of all people. Most people in this country make a lot less than they did 30 years ago, adjusted for inflation, while costs have gone up. You haven't made quite as much in the last few years, but you're still taking home a huge check.

Yes, you've taken great financial risks in your businesses, and you've probably taken a big hit in them over the years, just as you have in the NBA. But you weren't guaranteed profits in any of those endeavors. Nothing is guaranteed -- even the Maloof Family, whom I love, couldn't assume the money would keep rolling in owning the Palms Casino in Vegas.

Nobody guaranteed you a profit when you got in the movie business (2020 Films), Mavs owner Mark Cuban. Nobody guaranteed you a profit investing in airlines (Mesa Airlines), Suns owner Robert Sarver. Nobody guaranteed you a profit in the home loan business (Quicken Loans), Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

When MCI (now Verizon) Center opened in D.C. in 1996, I had a little money saved up and I thought about trying to open up a bar nearby. It seemed like a logical extension of my job -- go to the games there, walk across the street, have a few drinks with my buddies, have players and fans come by. (I even had a name thought out -- The Fifth Quarter. Get it?) I started checking out potential locations and who owned them, and I asked people who'd invested in bars whether I should go forward. They all told me the same thing: don't do it. The bartenders gave away free drinks; the waitresses always called in sick; you could always count on local inspectors to have their hands out for bribes. Do. Not. Do. It.

At that point, I had two choices. I could stay away and keep my money safe, or I could ignore the advice of people who'd gone before and found the bar business a terrible investment. In the end I bagged the idea and kept my money. But if I had taken the leap and failed, the fault would have been no one's but my own.

NBA owners know the risks before they buy in. They know that players expect to keep making more and more, that the players' agents will always be agitating for max contracts, that great coaches like Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich don't come cheap, that you have to go into massive debt to build new arenas today even with some public financing. They know this because they're not stupid. They got rich because they were smart, asked the right questions, and in the end, made more right choices than wrong ones. Nobody dragged them kicking and screaming into this particular business.

And in the last 15 years, almost all of the concessions have come your way. There are maximum contracts for superstars where there weren't before. (What do you think Miami's SuperFriends would have gotten in a true open market without any limitations? About $125 million each? Or maybe $150 million? Maybe even $175 million?). There's a rookie scale that ended the kind of contracts the Bucks had to give Glenn Robinson ($68 million in 1994). Contract lengths are shorter. Players can't come straight out of high school anymore, and it takes them five years of their career before they get their first crack at unrestricted free agency. You have gotten more than a billion dollars back in rebates from players in the form of escrow payments in the last decade.

And, yes, while the Bobcats sold to Michael Jordan for less than what Bob Johnson paid for them, the overwhelming majority of franchises have increased significantly in value. Don Gaston's group bought the Celtics in 1983 from Harry Mangurian for $17 million. Gaston's son, Paul, sold it to the Wyc Grousbeck-Steve Pagliuca led group in 2003 for $360 million. Even adjusting for inflation, the Gastons made a killing (there are a lot of inflation adjustment sites out there; I used this one to calculate the 2003 cost of buying the Cs). And when the current group sells, it will make a killing.

And do you think you're the only group of owners who've had it rough at times? Do you know what Walter Brown had to do in the 1950s and '60s just to keep the Celtics afloat?

No, I do not say 'if you can't afford it, sell it.' That's ridiculous. I do say, 'you knew what you were getting into.'

Dear Players ...

Stop whining about how you can't possibly agree to a 50-50 split of revenues.

No group of professional athletes has ever, collectively, made as much money as you're making today. You made the last of this money in the midst of the worst economic downturn in eight decades. Nobody wants to take a pay cut. But you have jobs, and tens of millions of Americans do not. They would kill to be able to take a pay cut to keep what they once had. Yes, owners have to be responsible for the decisions they make. But if they chose not to make them, to save their money and go the cheap route, you would be on the first microphone available screaming collusion.

You are the game, no question. People pay money to see you play. But the owners are the ones that take the financial risk. They pay not only your salaries, but the salaries of the coaches, the trainers, the scouts, the front office, the vendors, the janitors and the pilots of the charters you fly so you don't have to be cramped going commercial. They pay for the gas that flies those planes and for the swank hotels you stay in. (Very few Marriotts and Sheratons anymore on team itineraries.) They pay for the health insurance you and your family receive and build the arenas in which you play. And all of those costs go up, year after year.

You know better than anyone who's stealing money, and you know some of your teammates and opponents are stealing. You know that many -- not all -- of those who've gotten the mid-level exception over the years haven't played up to those contracts, and while it's noble to fight for the "middle class" in your ranks, and that no team can win without a deep roster and good bench players, the reality is people come to see the stars. The stars will be paid in any system. It is the middle class that will have to adjust and sacrifice, to accept the fact that taking a few million less on a contract is still better than, as my friend Tony Kornheiser says, slicing meat at a deli.

In 1995-96, after 11 years in the league -- during which time he'd won three championships, redefined the game on and off the court, taken the mantle from Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas and been the catalyst for an explosion of interest in the NBA, sold a billion or so pairs of sneakers, been on the Dream Team, retired from the game and returned with a simple, declarative, two-word sentence: "I'm back" -- Michael Jordan made $3.8 million playing for the Bulls.

A lot of money, to be sure. But not close to the $5.7 million average salary today's NBA player makes. And ain't none of y'all Michael Jordan. But many of you are getting paid more money than he was until his last two seasons in Chicago, when Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to two "balloon payments" of $30 and $33 million.

The union has already proposed a reduction from its current 57 percent of Basketball Related Income to 54.3 percent. If the players accepted a 50-50 split of future revenues, as I've written before, it would not only prove their seriousness of purpose in doing their part to restore fiscal balance to the league -- based on $4 billion in yearly revenues, the union going from its current 57 percent down to 50 percent would be a $280 million annual giveback by the players, covering almost all of the $300 million the owners say they lost last year -- it would give players a moral high ground. They would no longer lose the public relations battle that they lose time after time. No one could seriously argue that the players aren't doing their part to save and grow the game.

And, as I've written before, that 50-50 split could be revisited in three years; if revenues increase above $4 billion after year three, the players could and should receive a larger split in the remaining years of the new CBA to help recoup some of their financial sacrifice. They would, literally, be partners with the owners.

And even after taking such draconian salary cuts, you'd still be doing better financially than 99.5 percent of all people in the history of the earth. (That remaining five-tenths being the owners, of course.)

When can we expect this to end?

Of course, neither side is going to change much off of its current position. Silver will speak with some of the union's lawyers this week, and the hope is that a full-blown negotiating session will take place the following week. That would be a vast improvement over 1999, when the two sides went five weeks between the imposition of the lockout and their next meeting.

Repeating that delay would be catastrophic. There would be no way to avoid missing games if there were no meaningful talks between now and mid-August. The NFL, which locked out its players four months ago, is finally back on track in negotiations with the NFLPA. Yet they could take the rest of July to iron out all the details -- if they get that far. If the NBA and the NBPA waste five weeks not talking, there's no way we could get a new deal done before Christmas.

Which is exactly when I expect the season to start.

I wish I could be more optimistic. But there are too many owners who have been itching to have this fight once and for all for too long, who see this as their last and best opportunity to, if not break the union, permanently alter its power. (Along those lines, the only reason I don't see a lockout lasting even longer is because of the job Billy Hunter and his group have done preparing the players for an extended work stoppage. Players are much more unified this time around than in '99, in no small part because Hunter has neutered the influence of powerful player agents like Arn Tellem, Mark Bartlestein and Bill Duffy, with an executive committee comprised mainly of middle-class players like Roger Mason, Jr. and Keyon Dooling.)

Both sides will drag their heels until there's a final resolution of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on whether the NFL lockout can continue. A Minnesota judge temporarily ended the NFL lockout in April, ruling for the players in a lawsuit filed to force owners to lift the lockout. But the 8th Circuit overturned that decision in May, allowing the lockout to continue while it put off a final decision on whether the lockout itself was legal. That matter will be decided later this month. If the 8th Circuit rules again for the owners, it will be next-to-impossible for the NBA players to then look to decertify, as the NFLPA did before the NFL lockout began, in order to seek financial damages with an antitrust suit.

"When the 8th Circuit rules, there will be a lot more information for everybody," said Jeffrey Kessler, the longtime union lawyer who is advising both the basketball and football players.

Until then, there won't be any real negotiating. And there remains the question of what would happen if the NFL and NFLPA reach a settlement before the 8th Circuit rules on the legality of the NFL lockout.

So the likelihood is that nothing of substance is going to be accomplished on the NBA front this month. August is never a good month for negotiating, with vacations and other obligations taking key players out of the mix for weeks at a time. And the pessimist/cynic in me believes September won't be much good either, because each side wants to test the will of the other.

The vast majority of players begin getting paid in October, so that's when they'll start missing checks. And while owners will continue to get money from their TV partners during the lockout, the vast majority of revenue generated by NBA teams still comes from ticket sales. And October is when they start playing games. (Owners are already losing money as people hold back from renewing season tickets and companies hold back from renewing sponsorships, suite sales and the like.)

The guess here is that talks will continue sporadically during the summer as both sides await the 8th Circuit ruling. But that will become moot when the NFL and NFLPA settle in early August and play an abbreviated (two-game) exhibition season, starting the regular season two weeks late, in mid-September. The NBA and NBPA will really get down to it in early October, after the Commish cancels the NBA preseason. There will follow six weeks of public posturing as the deal slowly gets hammered out in private, with the help of bigfoots who will stay in the background (I sense a Jerry Colangelo sighting in the offing, and would it shock me if a B.H. Obama makes a phone call or two to both sides? No, it would not).

Then comes a settlement in mid-November, a frantic two-week free agency period, a week and a half of training camp, another week and a half of exhibition games, and -- voila -- Opening Day on December 25, with a octupleheader on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, TruTV, NBA-TV and The Travel Channel. Samantha Brown and Adam Richman will co-host the pregame show.

Actually, I would take a 65-game regular season right now, given the alternatives.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

What's up with the Draft next year if we have a year-long lockout?

A lot of people would like to know -- first and foremost, the teams. The 2012 Draft promises to be a spectacular one, with the kind of potential superstars available that were lacking this year. Several prominent college players that would have gone in the top five this year pulled out, and their status for next year is likely to be the same, along with several collegiate big men who will be attractive to teams that didn't take a flier on one of the European bigs this year. And there will also be a crop of incoming college freshmen who could be top-10 or Lottery picks.

All of that, though, is on hold until there's a new CBA.

A league spokesman said via e-mail Friday, "... all our efforts are focused on reaching an agreement and I am not going to speculate on any possible impact on the 2012 NBA Draft."

There is precedent for a league holding a Draft following the cancellation of the preceding season.

The NHL used a weighted Lottery in its 2005 Draft, which followed the loss of the entire 2004-05 season due to owner lockout. On July 22, 2005, the league had a "Draft Drawing" in Ottawa. Teams that had missed the playoffs in the previous three completed seasons -- 2001-02, '02-'03 and '03-'04 -- and who hadn't won the first overall pick from 2001-04 were each given three out of the 48 total balls in the Lottery drawing. Four teams received three balls and had a 6.3 percent chance of getting the first pick overall.

Ten teams that had either made the playoffs from 2001-02 through 2003-04 or won the first pick in those years received two out of the 48 balls, good for a 4.2 percent chance of the number one choice. The remaining 16 teams that had met more than one of the criteria received one ball apiece, or a 2.1 percent chance. In the end, the Pittsburgh Penguins -- one of the four teams with three balls -- won the first pick and selected Sidney Crosby.

After the first pick was awarded, the next ball that came from among the 29 remaining teams received the second overall pick. The process continued that way until each of the 30 first-round picks was assigned. Subsequent rounds went in the opposite direction; the club that picked last in the first round picked first in the second round, and so on, with the third round order repeating the first round, the fourth round repeating the second, etc.

Major League Baseball's 1995 Draft, which followed the 1994 season that was cut short by a players' strike that wound up cancelling the postseason, including the World Series, went in inverse order of regular season record when the strike began on August 12. The first pick alternated between the National and American Leagues, based on the reverse order of their Draft position the previous season. Since the Mets had picked first in the 1994 Draft, the (then-) California Angels got the first pick in 1995 and took outfielder Darin Erstad.

If a worst-case scenario takes place this year in the NBA and the whole 2011-12 season is cancelled, the vote here would be for a simple inverse order Draft like MLB's in '95. That means 17-65 Minnesota would get the first pick, 19-63 Cleveland the second pick, and so on. But the Clippers own the Wolves' unprotected first next year. To be fair, that arrangement, as well as any other unprotected firsts, should be honored, with all protected picks carrying over to future years, since there would be no regular season records on which to base their protections.

That would mean, in this scenario, a 2012 Draft following a cancelled 2011-12 regular season would go as follows:

1. L.A. Clippers (unprotected from Minnesota)

2. Cleveland*

3. Toronto

4. Washington

5. Sacramento/New Jersey (coin flip)

6. Sacramento/New Jersey (coin flip)

7. Detroit

8. L.A. Clippers

9. Charlotte

10. Milwaukee

11. Golden State

12. Utah

13. Phoenix

14. Houston

15. Indiana

16. Philadelphia

17. New York

18. Atlanta

19. Memphis/New Orleans (coin flip)

20. Memphis/New Orleans (coin flip)

21. Portland

22. Denver

23. Orlando

24. Oklahoma City

25. Boston

26. Dallas/L.A. Lakers (coin flip)

27. Dallas/L.A. Lakers (coin flip)

28. Miami

29. San Antonio

30. Chicago

* Cavaliers can swap 2012 first-rounders with Miami

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

He will not be joining the Spoelstras during the holidays. From Pat Carter:

I am still in shock at the inexperience of (the) Miami Heat coach in The Finals. It took him six games to realize that he needed to go small ... I can't believe Spolstra did not read this and try match up/strategies each game? I was rooting for Miami but blogging that Dallas was goung to win because this guy should not even be here ... Please pass this on to Pat Riley -- remind him some old Laker fans blame him for his inability to utilize Magic in low post against Boston and deciding to use Kupchak/Rambis against Houston's twin towers [in 1986] as opposed to speed which was how they got too conference finals. Magic should have had seven or eight rings and Michael would still be playing to catch him.

I didn't think Erik Spoelstra was that bad in The Finals, Pat. Rick Carlisle outcoached him, but as Jeff Van Gundy always says, this is a make or miss league, and the Mavericks made a couple dozen big shots throughout the series. The one thing I thought Spoelstra failed to do was figure out a way to get his stars some easy shots when they were struggling to score in the half court.

When the King's English is crowned. From Chris Corlew:

I have a question that's not exactly related to basketball about a column you wrote a few months ago ... I noticed that you would print quotations like "Because of my mother and my grandmother. They was strict." or "Mother's Day has always been important to us, even when they was growing up."

It's the "they was" I'm wondering about. What are the rules for dialect writing, in your eyes? I know journalists sometimes have to 'clean up' quotes from athletes, and let's face it, no one in the NBA is speaking the queen's English. Which is fine, God knows I don't speak it. I'm wondering what your guidelines are, though.

I'm an aspiring novelist and I have my own tiny NBA blog (who doesn't, right?). I'm a white guy who's very interested in and very driven by racial issues, and one motivation for this email is a question on how to write dialogue for characters. In college, my writing professor told me the Zora Neale Hurston style of heavily misspelled and apostrophed dialect was now considered old fashioned. You're a journalist, but I feel the same idea applies. Not to mention that the NBA might be the most diverse institution in America. At what point is "cleaning up" quotations condescending/patronizing and at what point is it just journalism?

Great question. I remember early in my career, when I was asked by John Thompson, then coaching Georgetown, if I would clean up some of his players' quotes when I covered the team for The Washington Post. I did. It seemed a reasonable request at the time. Obviously, I've changed my mind. I prefer to let people speak for themselves, and only parenthetically add words when what they are saying would be hard to decipher otherwise.

Others may certainly feel differently, for various reasons.

Four people rationally -- and, without vitriol or invective -- talk about gay marriage, as discussed last week. You may recall I wondered why anyone who didn't believe in gay marriage would care if gay people want to marry one another, since it doesn't involve them. I asked for answers, and these folks provided them. Starting with Justin L. Nestel:

I was reading in your latest column and while I can't give a definite answer for everyone who opposes gay marriage, I will do my best to explain my stance. I would like to first state that I harbor no ill-will towards anyone in the LGBT community, however I don't approve of that lifestyle, similar to that I would not approve of smoking, alcohol or drug addiction. It is not that I would turn my back on these people, but there are certain actions I cannot condone. Also, I am not claiming to be perfect, or even close to perfect, I have many struggles. That being said, the issue of gay marriage scares me with regards to freedom of religion. What makes our country so great is freedom of religion, and if they government declares that gay marriage is the law of the land, what keeps the government (or in particular) the interest groups from then to begin to attack the churches the preach against homosexuality? I don't honestly think that gay marriage is the "end all be all" for the LGBT community. Now it may be for some, but every community has activists who continue to push their agenda.

If the government then begins to regulate religion, then we have truly lost our freedom. Thomas Jefferson's document on "Church and State" has unfortunately been so butchered that the meaning has been lost. I believe that a person should be able to worship who or whatever they want and love whoever they want, but the "State" and federal government has not the right to tell us what we can or cannot believe or how we can and cannot worship (within boundaries, ex: human sacrifice).

I hope that this helps explain why people such as myself oppose gay marriage. It is not to persecute the LGBT community, rather it is the ramifications the entail this very sticky issue.

From Leslie Schroeder:

As a person who comes from a very religious Catholic family with sixteen years of Catholic education behind me (although not a Catholic in my adult life), I think I can answer the question of why some people care about, or are opposed to, issues that do not even affect their lives. Because emotionally it affects them: They're afraid. They are frightened that their way of life and the way they've raised their children could be ultimately be threatened by any sort of compromise. To them, marriage is both religious and legal and any compromise weakens the institution (sacrament) as a whole. To them that is a threat to both family and society (because family is the backbone of society).

It's the same reason that Catholics, generally, have not made much noise about all those priests who covered up the molestation and rape of young boys. Those men by any reasonable, rational thought process both aided and abetted horrific crimes against children by transferring the priests (with full access to children) and broke the law by not reporting those crimes. Other than one or two, such as Bernard Law, these men are still revered by Catholics. Many Catholics even feel that these men have been unfairly targeted by the press. Why? Because they're afraid. If they make too much noise, they will affect the Catholic Church as a whole and weaken it. And their lives revolve around their faith, church communities, and their families, which have been raised in this faith.

Personally, I am in favor of gay marriage as a legal right that every person should have. To me, it's that simple. And I don't fear it. I AM opposed to any law that forces any religion to accept or not accept gay marriage. That's the state telling churches what to do. That would violate the division of church and state that we have in this country, and THAT would make me very afraid.

From Daniel Manno:

I always appreciate your approach and insights and this disagreement wouldn't change that. The issue with the gay marriage is the definition of marriage provided by the Bible does not include gay marriage. I do agree with individual freedoms but I also believe in the Bible over all other truths. Since the country was built on the Bible and individual freedoms you will have these conflicts. I believe, and I said "I" because it is my belief and I wouldn't expect that people should believe because that is what I think, it all should be based on the foundation on which this country was built. So when the Government provides an alternate definition of marriage that is where I have the problem. So how do we as a people insure that gays are able to get adequate healthcare and other services that afforded to other non-gays is the issue that needs to be solved. So if you chose a lifestyle, I know this will raise an eyebrow because it is not a choice, then you have to know the associate consequences of the choice. Consequences, good or bad, are true of any choice. So why are people are hung up on what is right or wrong or morals should be used to determine an individuals right to healthcare and other benefits. I do not like the act of homosexuality but I love the person still and believe they should be treated as a person. It is a hard line to walk but we need to understand that you can't govern morality but it has to be an action. it is like the word love, a verb.

From Troy Hale:

In response to your comment posted June 27th, "I just wonder why anyone would care what two other people decide to do with their lives if it doesn't affect yours," I want to ask the question: "How can anyone make the argument that gay marriage does not affect other peoples' lives?"

Believe it or not, choices my neighbours make affect me too. The argument that people's choices do not affect other people is ignorant. Gay couples raise children, vote in elections, sit on community commities, etc. They help shape the community I live in. And while I am in no position to tell someone how to think or feel, we as society have a responsibility to create, or abolish, laws to affect the way people are allowed to act and make a stronger community.

Children should have a right to being raised by both a mother and father (unless they are subject to unfortunate circumstances such as divorce or death). Studies prove that children raised in traditional families find more "success" in their lives. If we allow gay marriage, then we allow our future generation to miss out on vital growth experiences of having a mother and father. That is not to say that they would not be loved, only that they will not have the very important benefits of a mother and father. I wish I could quote you specific studies to prove my point, but I am sure a quick google search will do the same.

I agree with some of what all you wrote and disagree with other parts. All I was hoping to do was have a rationale discussion about it without devolving into personal attacks and name-calling. Each of you did that, and I thank you for contributing. Now I understand a little better and will think about the issues you raised.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and time-killers for the next six months that don't include Angry Birds to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently witty, thought-provoking, entertaining or snarky, we just might publish it!

By the Numbers

3 -- Years since the city of Seattle reached a settlement with then-Sonics owner Clay Bennett that allowed the Sonics to move to Oklahoma City in exchange for $45 million, ending Seattle's 41-year run in the NBA.

204 -- Days that the 1998 NBA lockout lasted, forcing a 50-game regular season.

$750,000 -- Amount that former NBA player Antoine Walker still owes to three Las Vegas casinso after pleading guilty last week to one felony count of passing a bad check as part of his attempted restitution to the casinos last year. The prosecutor in the case said he would only seek probation -- and not jail time -- as long as Walker pays what he owes.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) Happy Fourth of July, everyone. With all the lockout talk in recent days it's easy to sometimes forget how incredibly fortunate we are to live in this country, with all of the blessings and rights that people have fought and died for available to so many. Can you imagine what John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would think about this dispute between millionaires and billionaires? Celebrate wisely today -- not too much vino or beer with your bottle rockets, please.

2) Nice touch by John Calipari.

3) Not sure I totally agree with the take here; this is from a group with a decided political point of view. But it's an interesting hypothesis worth reading.

4) Even though the NHL's teams have their new salary cap after their lockout, small-market teams seem to spending money like hotcakes.

5) God help me, it's still great, after almost 30 years, to wake up on the first Sunday morning in July and watch the men's final from across the pond at Wimbledon. Miss Bud Collins, though. (Kids! Collins, one of the most decent men in journalism, who has written about tennis for the Boston Globe for almost 50 years and worked for NBC for 35 years until 2007, was the Craig Sager of broadcasters.)

Not Feelin' ...

1) Is it over yet? No? Damn.

2) Kurt Rambis, still not fired. I have come to the conclusion that this must be at the hand of owner Glen Taylor, perhaps to avoid having to pay Rambis the balance of his contract while having to hire a new coach who won't actually start work for God knows how long. Someone should end this folly, yesterday.

3) Lockout Victim of the Week, Vol. 1.

4) RIP, Lorenzo Charles. Very sad and too soon.

5) There was a heavyweight title fight Saturday afternoon. Live. The only reason I realized this was that some people I follow were Tweeting about it. I turned to it in the seventh round. Turned it off by the ninth. One of the Klitschko Brothers was fighting. Can't remember which one. Good gracious, boxing isn't what it used to be.

Tweet of the Week

I think the Lockouts a classic example of people arguing how 2 split up a wonderful pie.Its very difficult for either side not to get greedy
-- Hall of Famer and NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33), Friday, 12:25 a.m.

They Said It

"Right now, we have to realize, two games away from winning a world championship with the way that we played already, is that you don't want to try to reinvent the wheel here, you just want to try to take advantage of opportunities that are there."
-- Heat president Pat Riley, in his end-of-season media availability, discussing how Miami will likely tweak its roster next season rather than overhaul it following its loss to Dallas in The Finals.

"The challenge this summer is going to be to try to win a championship and to not jeopardize that cap space that we have for the following year. That's going to be a real challenge for us. If there is some opportunity to do a good deal that might jeopardize our opportunity to "start fresh," for lack of a better term, I think that that's going to be the biggest challenge, that we maintain our patience and stick with the plan through that process."
-- Celtics president Danny Ainge, in an interview this week with WEEI Radio in Boston, about the immediate future of the Celtics. Ainge acknowledged that 2011-12 is likely the last year that the Cs in their current form can contend for a championship before having to begin a transition period in earnest.

"We're not just going to talk about defense. We're going to live it. I don't think defense has been taught there, because of the way they played-trying to outscore opponents. We're going to teach it, and, as we teach it, we're going to hold guys accountable."
-- Mike Malone, the Warriors' lead assistant coach, in the San Francisco Chronicle on what he expects from Golden State next season -- and, implicitly, taking a shot at previous coaching staffs in the Bay.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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