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The NBA and the NBPA will hold a formal bargaining session for a new CBA tomorrow in N.Y., sources said. The NBA CBA expires on June 30, after which time the league can lock the players out (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). In Denver, Chris Dempsey wrote outside of the Heat, the "biggest story of the new season" will be the new CBA and the “fact there isn’t one yet.” If a new agreement is not reached by the end of the season, a “work stoppage would be on the horizon” for the '11-12 season. Dempsey wrote, “What there doesn’t seem to be a lot of is fan interest. Just a bunch of yawns. It is in stark contrast to the NFL.” Has the NBA “built up enough good equity with the fans for them to care?” The quality of the product on the court is “as good as it has been in recent years, the star power is at a high level, and the league just provided one of the best Finals we’ve seen in a while." But Dempsey wondered, “Is any of that enough?” Nuggets coach George Karl said, “It could be the last stand -- let’s have a great year; let’s finish this off and put the best basketball ever played in the NBA on the court.” Dempsey noted a bargaining session held during the All-Star Game weekend in Dallas “was a bickerfest” and nothing was accomplished. The latest meeting last month in N.Y. "was better," but the NBPA has been "telling its players to make good financial decisions and prepare for no basketball just the same” (DENVER POST, 9/20).
NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer's win Sunday in the Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300, the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, was a "breath of fresh air to a NASCAR fan base weary of Jimmie Johnson's four-year reign of dominance," according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Bowyer, a "blue-collar racer who rose through the ranks of Midwest short-track racing," so far "has resisted being molded into a polished corporate pitchman." Bowyer's team owner Richard Childress noted Richard Childress Racing VP/Competition Mike Dillon told him after the race, "This is the best thing for NASCAR. We need somebody like Clint Bowyer winning races and running for this championship." Childress added, "He came from the short tracks, the dirt tracks. He's worked and he's earned his way to where he is today. He's very fan friendly. The fans love him. It's what I think NASCAR needs, a new type of hero" (AP, 9/20). ESPN.com's Ed Hinton asked, "Is a hero in cowboy boots what you've been missing in NASCAR all this time? NASCAR hasn't had what you could call a common-man champion in a decade, since Texas-born, North Carolina-raised Bobby Labonte won the old Winston Cup." He added, "You don't get any more Heartland America than Emporia, Kan., where Bowyer is from." Bowyer is "not at all one of the cool kids who've won all the titles since Labonte." He is the "visage of the common man," and his demeanor is a "revival of the aw-shucks variety" (ESPN.com, 9/20).
END OF HIS REIGN? In Orlando, George Diaz notes with Jimmie Johnson having won four consecutive Sprint Cup titles, it is "getting extremely frustrating for the marketing folks at NASCAR to push any story lines beyond 'Hey Jimmie Johnson really is good!'" Johnson finished 25th in the Sylvania 300, an "ominous way to start defense of a title," and the "mood in the garage now reflects hope instead of hopelessness." But Johnson "has made it even harder to root against him because he's such a nice guy, complete with the gorgeous wife, a former Wilhelmina Model who recently gave birth to the couple's first child." He is "picture-perfect in so many ways, a younger, hipper and more successful version of Jeff Gordon" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/21).