Friday, November 4, 2011

When we will see the Bulls play again?

As I sit writing this late Wednesday night, I am watching Comcast Chicago's rebroadcast of Michael Jordan scoring a then-team record 58 points against the New Jersey Nets in 1987, a game that the Bulls won 128-113. It was interesting to see the old Chicago Stadium floor, Doug Collins (with an '80s perm) as coach, a game that was originally broadcast on pay-TV channel SportsVision, and Jordan basically the only truly special player on the team. It was a fun trip back to a time when I really became interested in basketball as a sport.

However, this was replacing the 2011-12 Bulls' game at New Orleans, a game that was canceled as the NBA lockout continued into its 127th day after the Bulls' opener Monday night against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks was called off as well. It was among those initially canceled by NBA Commissioner David Stern last month, and it was joined by another two weeks of games being called off Friday by Stern after negotiations broke down. As of this writing, the Bulls are scheduled to play their first game on December 3 against the Houston Rockets at the United Center.

For the Bulls, the cancellation effectively killed off their annual November circus trip to the West Coast. While that could be considered a good thing considering they now don't have to make that kind of trip, what kind of effect will that have on a team that was starting to gel into something that could be truly special? What kind of effect will this entire lockout have a team and a league that was coming off one of its better seasons in years and was looking ahead to something truly fun and great? Obviously we won't know until the games start (assuming they start at all), but we can also hope and pray they don't end up like the 1998-99 season, when a lockout shrunk the season to 50 games and led to the Spurs claiming a watered-down title against the Knicks (However, this may have saved Bulls fans more grief than they had expected since this was Year One of the post-Jordan era).

Separating the players and the owners is about $100 million a year in revenue and other issues, including whether to drop to a 50/50 split of revenues (what the owners want) from the previous 57/43 arrangement favoring the players.

Needless to say, something needs to be done about the current system. In recent year, even with a soft salary cap in place, the NBA has begun to resemble Major League Baseball n that the major market glamor teams (the Knicks, Lakers, and Celtics and the Bulls and Heat to a lesser degree) are favored over the smaller market teams such as Memphis, Sacramento and Orlando. Seemingly every day, we see speculation of smaller market stars such as New Orleans' Chris Paul and Orlando's Dwight Howard being guided to New York or L.A., leaving those teams in the dust. Heck, it happened last year with Lebron James leaving Cleveland for Miami (a glamor team).

Did the NBA err in overexpanding to those markets? Perhaps, but small market teams can thrive under the right system (see the Green Bay Packers in the NFL).

Either way, a new system must be worked out, or we can kiss any sense of competitive balance or competition, period, for that matter, goodbye.

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