It seems almost a certainty that the NBA is heading towards a lockout as the NFL has. The impact it could have on the Raptors and the NBA in this country could be massive. Changes in the CBA that have been discussed could have some serious positive impacts on the Raptors. While a loss of the sport could have a tremendously negative impact on coverage of the sport here in Canada. Let's talk about that first and then will tackle the positives for the Toronto Raptors after that.
If there is one thing that I have learned in doing this blog for over 3 years is there are a lot of basketball fans across this country. Many of whom feel they are being screwed over in terms of coverage of the NBA in this country. The main stream media and the way they treat the sport is quite frankly a joke. You only need to look how the NBA Playoffs are treated in terms of television as an example. Buried on secondary networks and running all most at the same time as the NHL Playoffs. It is a toxic mix in a country where Hockey is religion for most. Hockey is always the main concern of sports networks in this country. It is elephant in the room. Even when the NHL had their lockout and missed an entire season, it did not stop people in this country from talking about it on a daily basis. It was total insanity. What perhaps was even more insane is the fact that hockey coverage in the post lockout era is even bigger than it ever was. It gets more insane every single year. Hockey fans in this country had zero impact from the lockout. In fact when the NHL came back Canada went hockey crazy. No real surprise in that.
But should the NBA go away for a year or even less that will not have the same positive impact. If basketball gets buried now how do you think it will be treated after a lengthy labour stoppage? I don't think anyone can debate that it will improve coverage. Many basketball fans turn to the internet for that fix. It may not shock anyone, but I am far from getting rich doing this the last three years. It is a concern for the future of lots of blogs like this one I would imagine. So if some blogs get swept aside due to a lengthy labour stoppage it would not shock anyone. It would or should not surprise anyone that basketball on the other side, will have to fight and claw just to maintain the pretty shabby coverage it gets now in the main stream media in Canada. If you think things are bad now, it has been far worst in the past and it likely takes step backwards on the other side of a lockout. Let's face it the lack of creativity in sports media in this country will most certainly see more Hockey replacing the little slice of the pie basketball has.
So if you think not getting to see Kobe Bryant get his MVP award after the All-Star Game was bad. Games not being shown at all or stuck in stand by waiting for an endless NHL Hockey overtime to end to see the Lakers. Wait maybe TSN just hates the Lakers? But jokes aside, all minor inconveniences that drive you nuts now likely only grow in a post lockout NBA in Canada.
After coming to terms with this reality of all of that, there is a potential silver lining. In terms of the Raptors there could be a lot of positives for them on the other side of a lockout. While they will no doubt they will be concerned they do not lose fans and interest as a result. They also will hope I am totally wrong about the media response to this. Still in terms basketball operations some things in the new CBA could be mighty helpful to the Raptors.
If you were to just say one thing has been the major stumping block of the Raptors success what would it be? Incompetent ownership? No wasn't going there, but that could potentially look different in the post lockout as well, with MLSE having it's majority share in the company that owns the Raptors on the market. But where I was going was the loss of it's star players. It has been the repeating and defining story. One that the Raptors have not been able to solve on their own.
We have a shiny new franchise tag to solve that problem. Demar DeRozan can grow in Toronto and you do not have to live in fear he will follow the path of McGrady, Carter and Bosh. The NBA would not be doing this just for the Raptors but for many other franchises that have true financial concerns from losing stars. The Raptors never have had to fear for their franchise if a star player walks. But can't say the same for markets like Cleveland, Milwaukee, Memphis, New Orleans and many others. Those franchises need more certainty that their stars can not up and cut out for South Beach, L.A or NYC. How about the Magic with Dwight Howard looking more like a goner everyday. A franchise tag would maybe not allow teams to keep their stars in the long term, but it would give them another card to play in trying to get value for them, instead of seeing them force their way out of town in a bad trade or just walk away all together.
The elimination of the MLE. The Mid Level Exception for those who may not be CBA Junkies is that one contract/contracts that teams can use each year to bring in a player or players to add to the mix. It is why and how teams like New York, Miami, L.A and other high budget teams can still add a good player at a decent salary (5 to 6 million) . Making the choice to take a little less money to go to a contending team a easier pill to swallow. It is how some teams regardless of having a ton of cap space have never been able to bring in that big name that could help them turn things around. The Raptors have been positioned well by Bryan Colangelo to have a significant amount of cap room looking forward to the first 2 seasons under the new CBA. Assuming there is a season next year that is. But when basketball resumes the Raptors will have money to spend. While the reality is some veteran players who have made their money might still go to those teams with the best chance to win for the NBA league minimum. It opens the door for players not that far a long to have to give teams with cap space a more serious look. As much as players want to win they also do want to make money. A players career is only so long. It is important that they maximize the time they have to earn money. They are one injury away from earning nothing more potentially. Toronto is a city that NBA players do like and is by far not the least attractive market in the NBA.
A hard cap is also being talked about. While MLSE does not exactly benefit from this. You only need to look at the hockey team and see how the Leafs have performed under the NHL Cap as proof of that. However the Raptors have never been treated the same by MLSE in terms of spending anyway. I would just put it to you this way. If the NHL operated under the NBA system does anyone doubt that the Maple Leafs would be a tax level team? The Raptors should be that in NBA. But regardless a even more restrictive cap than the NHL has would at least make it a level playing field for all. It would also make mistakes more costly at the management level. But the idea of super teams in Miami and elsewhere would take a serious blow if that hard cap exists.
The overall outlook to me is the bigger the owners win in this labour deal it makes the Raptors chances to be competitive increase. That is of course if done with the correct and proper management in place. There is not a team that can survive under any system with totally incompetent management. See Stu Jackson in Vancouver for the best example of that. I highly doubt the Raptors can find a guy that is going to be able to adjust as fast to a new system than the one they have in place in Bryan Colangelo. For all of Bryan's faults, the one thing he has always been is a forward thinker and looking to stay ahead of the curve. Despite being 22-60 and having a truly awful season one of the worst in franchise history. He still has positioned this team well to deal with the NBA's new and uncertain reality under a new collective bargaining agreement.
There is lots of changes and impact that this lockout will cause for the NBA and the Raptors here in Canada. That is about the only thing we can say with any great certainty. This gives you a small glimpse at what some of those thing potentially could be. But no one is going to feel the sorrow for us that was afforded to hockey fans in this country when the NHL Lockout happened. While no one will celebrate the NBA's return with the stupid insanity that hockey fans have. The NHL is not a better product based on their year on the sidelines. Let's hope that the NBA will be better off on the other side of their labour war. I fear that basketball may have to endure being buried in Canada just like the NHL is buried in U.S in a post lockout NHL. It is a real problem for people that love basketball in this country to consider. I hope I live long enough to see a Canada that embraces the game that was invented by one of our own. Basketball is a great sport that in case you forgot was given to the world by a Canadian.