As NBA Ends Shortened Season, Did The Lockout Affect Teams' Success?
As the NBA Playoffs get set to begin this weekend, the league has “made most people forget there even was a lockout” that shortened the season, according to John Smallwood of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Unlike the ‘98-99 lockout, which shortened the regular season to 50 games and “wiped out the All-Star Game, the season's 66-game schedule was granted legitimacy by the fans.” The success of this season “is testament to the old saying that the only bad publicity is no publicity.” NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "There was no social media to speak of in 1999. In some ways, the bloggers, the social media, everything that was going on, our fans were out there. … In some ways, our community, through social media, was staying engaged." He added, "I would just say that the season has gone better than we could have hoped for. Our fan response across everything we do has been terrific -- from television to attendance to social media” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/26). SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney wrote, “Remember the doom-and-gloom lament that the NBA would curtail the momentum it had built up last year by engaging in labor strife that interrupted the regular season? The ratings don’t bear that out, and neither does attendance.” NBA TV posted a record audience for its 96 broadcasts, "reporting a 33 percent increase in viewers.” ABC also “claimed record viewership for the 15 games it aired.” Attendance was “up or steady in 18 of 30 markets.” There were six teams last year that “averaged crowds of 100 percent of capacity or better -- this year, there were nine” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/25). ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry said, “I think you look at our ratings, I think it didn’t miss a beat. Attendance, I’m not positive, but I think it’s fine. I think the strike has had no bearing on anything that’s happened this season. I think the league is in a great position” (THE DAILY).
LOSING BATTLES TO WIN THE WAR: In Boston, Bob Ryan writes “all over the league, players are being held out of games when they could play as coaches are choosing to risk losing battles in order to win the upcoming war.” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said, “Teams always have the right to do that. I don’t think it’s unprecedented." Ryan writes neither the players nor the coaches “are villains,” but the villains are "the negotiators on both [sides] of the infamous season-delaying labor/management brouhaha who fiddled and diddled all summer and fall, failing to produce a new CBA until December.” The result was a compressed schedule that “has turned out to be a nightmare of epic proportions.” Ryan: “It’s not a schedule. It’s a battle of attrition, nothing more, nothing less.” Media and ownership “might find games featuring auxiliary players intriguing.” But “all a fan knows” is that the Celtics-Heat game on Tuesday that did not include Celtics F Kevin Garnett and Gs Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, and Heat G Dwyane Wade and Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh “might as well be played in some high school gym in Chicopee or Ocala. For free” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/26).
THE BLAME GAME: SPORTING NEWS’ David Steele wrote under the header, “Stern, Owners Responsible For NBA’s Miserable Season.” Last Saturday night’s “marquee game” featured the Wizards-Heat game with James and Bosh on the bench “because, as star players across the NBA have been doing for a month, they needed the rest, playoff position be damned.” Wade dislocated a finger early, sat out the rest of the game and “probably will miss a handful more.” The Wizards won “to cap a week in which they beat the Bulls in Chicago" without G Derrick Rose or F Luol Deng.” Steele: “This is what you get for your money this season. Well done, David Stern and owners” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/22). In S.F., Scott Ostler writes other sports “have goosed the excitement of their seasons by expanding the playoffs.” The NBA has “done that, too, but its lottery system also turns the last couple of weeks of the season, for several terrible teams, into a grand demolition derby.” For Warriors fans there will be “genuine excitement as the team goes for its 43rd loss.” Ostler: “I'm not mocking the Warriors, I'm saluting them. Seriously. This is NBA reality, and if you ain't tankin', you ain't tryin'” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/26).