Yes Virgina there will be a NBA season starting on Christmas Day. But in the end this lockout served no purpose other than to line owners pockets and did nothing to impact the real change that fans should have wanted for the NBA. At least fans that do not live in the big markets of the NBA. Ultimately nothing much has changed from when this all got started. Chris Paul is still going to force is way out of New Orleans. Dwight Howard is going to follow the example of Shaq and get out of Orlando and leave it a mess. The whole idea that this deal does anything in terms of competitive balance for this league is a complete joke. Nothing has changed other than the teams with money will have to spend slightly more of it. But that will not stop them from doing it.
This has been a complete failure on the part of owners for the collective fans of all NBA Teams. Some franchises are now doomed to be nothing more than glorified developmental teams for the NBA. Why on earth should people in small markets waste their money on that? If not they will lose their team? Big deal if that team was actually capable of winning. But under this system it would take a minor miracle for that to be the case. It also gives them little assurance, that any player that is least bit talented, is in any way part of their community other than for a few years. Why would anyone buy into these guys and buy merchandise or tickets for a guy that basically will be gone inside of five years.
In terms of the Raptors if they have any hope of changing their terrible history there is nothing offered in this CBA to help them out. If they are to be successful it will take them stopping pretending to be a small market team when they clearly are not. Ultimately the Raptors will need to spend money to compete with the large markets of the NBA. It becomes even more vital when you consider the division they are part of. Boston on tradition alone will always be one of those big market clubs that can attract free agents. New Jersey now powered by a Russian Billionaire, that sure has heck is not going to be intimidated by any increased luxury tax from stopping him from spending. The Knicks who are the classic example of a larger market franchise in New York. Along with Philadelphia that is a huge sports town that does not take to losing all that well.
In a sense the Raptors have become a lot like the Blue Jays, in terms of being in a division with some of the big spenders of the league and having to find a way around that. While it is not like baseball, in terms of the Raptors could finish third in the division and still make the playoffs, it still will be tough having to play these teams more than anyone else in the conference, outside of the division. While things for a team like Miami are vastly easier. If the Raptors got to play the Magic, Bobcats and Wizards more than any other teams that would be great. But they are stuck in the Atlantic facing teams that clearly will be willing to spend and have the ability to attract top talent to their franchises.
It is far from an optimistic outlook. It also makes the hopes of keeping talent seem bleak as well. Demar DeRozan heading back to the west coast at the first logically opportunity seems likely if not for certain. The Raptors at the end of this lockout still stare at the same problems and challenges they faced heading into it. MLSE has toyed with saying they are willing to be a tax team in the past but never actually going there. If they are to keep DeRozan or any other talented player that comes along they will not just have to talk about doing it they will have to do it. The only way to be a consistent winner in the NBA is now clearly to become one of the few willing to spend money. It has become a game of survival of the richest. There is the odd exception to that rule but not many teams have guys like Kevin Durant that are willing to make a small market home. Even OKC is eventually going to face this issue of having to be a tax team eventually. MLSE is not without means and if they choose not use them it will be there fault that the attendance for the Raptors continues a downward spiral. You can have who ever you like running this franchise unless they have the ability to spend money and build a winner they are doomed to at best be a fringe playoff team.
So while most rejoice in the fact there will be a basketball season this year, you may be missing the bigger picture. That bigger picture is that at the end of the day a lockout that promised a lot of hope for the Raptors future has delivered none. The same issues they had going in they have coming out of it. The ball is in MLSE's hands to decide if they are truly interested in winning in the NBA or not. If you flipped the systems of the NHL and NBA is there any doubt they would go to any limit in terms of spending to make the Leafs a winner? The question will become if they ever are willing to spend that same money on the basketball side to become that winner. In real terms with players on the roster. You can build a new practice court, hire more suits but at the end of the day you need to bpt your money on the guys on the floor.
So it is put up or shut up time for MLSE. But given the direction the club is heading that may wait for another year. But at some point the excuses end and it comes down to are you willing to spend money or not. The sad thing for fans in other "actual" small markets they do not have the option. But the Raptors clearly do and up to this point have failed to deliver on it to the full extent they can.
I have to say at the end of the day the lockout was a complete shame and did nothing for the NBA other than give them more money. But if no one spends the money it is just about the bottom line of some owner that is already rich, is ultimately what this was all about. In the end the NBA has failed to deliver what they promised. The NBA Cares about one thing and that is making money. They are no Santa Claus for giving you back the season. More like Scrooge who is just concerned with their own business. Well to paraphrase Jacob Marley the fans are your business NBA. It is a shame you really don't see that.