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Jenni Carlson: NBA can't afford a work stoppage now

by Jenni Carlson Published: June 13, 2011

A grand season for the NBA came to a glorious ending in the Finals.

On a night when the Mavericks were left celebrating a title and the Heat were left wondering what in the heck went wrong, the decisive game mirrored this entire season. It was intense. It was competitive. It was a ton of fun to watch.

It was a fitting finale to a splendid season.

Yet despite a series that put an exclamation point on this roundball ride, we are now left with some different punctuation — a question mark.

What's next for the NBA?

A lockout looms. Even though the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement is several weeks away, it's practically a foregone conclusion that an agreement won't be done by then and that owners will lock out the players on July 1.

Now's not the time, folks.

The NBA has never been in a better place than it is right now. I mean that to include everyone — the league, the owners and the players.

I know there is plenty of talk out there about how the league is teetering because few franchises make money, many face financial losses every year and some are even in trouble. There are teams that don't have the revenue to pay their bills. There are clubs that struggle to compete year in and year out.

Look at the New Orleans Hornets. The franchise that launched Oklahoma City's NBA journey had to be bought out by the league earlier this year.

But here's the thing, some teams will struggle regardless of what the collective bargaining agreement says. They will make bad deals. They will use poor judgment. They will drive themselves into a hole.

No amount of wheeling and dealing by the league will change that.

Go back to the Hornets for a second. They were handicapped by Hurricane Katrina. No doubt about that. But they were crippled by the decision to pay Peja Stojakovic — Peja Stojakovic! — $14 million a year.

Even if he wasn't injury prone, he was never worth that much money.

What's more, the Hornets offered him that outrageous contract the first day he became a free agent.

Poorly managed franchises will make dumb decisions whether the league has a hard salary cap, a salary limit or any other measure meant to save some teams from themselves.

The thing is, the opposite is true, too. Good clubs will thrive no matter what the rules say.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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