Now that the NBA Finals is over, the basketball world is focusing on the real fight of the offseason. The lockout is coming. June 30 the collective bargaining agreement expires and July 1 the NBA will officially be shut down to the players.
After such an exciting postseason that saw the highest Finals ratings in nearly 10 years, you would think the NBA is going to build off that momentum. I am sure David Stern would love for his league to do that. But there is a widening gap between the owners and the players association and even between certain groups of owners.
This could be a long, drawn-out fight.
"It's going to get ugly," Charles Barkley told Howard Eskin and Ike Reese of WIP radio in Philadelphia. "I feel bad because we are coming off a great year for the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks are a feel good story.
"These owners are batting down the hatches and they are going for it. I'm going to be honest with you –– I would be surprised if we played basketball next year."
Barkley said he has no inside information on the negotiations. But he said he does not think the league wants to go through the truncated season it went through after the 1999 lockout. That season was considered lost by many as players showed up to camp out of shape and the schedule felt extremely rushed. The Spurs still won the championship, and nobody is taking that away from them, no matter how many asterisks fans want to put on it.
Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter had a small meeting Tuesday and there are plans for a larger meeting Friday in New York. There will be surely more meeting between then, but there should be at least a temporary lockout.
It is encouraging that the NFL is reportedly drawing closer to an agreement. These wide gaps can be closed.
But the NBA is facing different issues. And different deadlines. There may not be a whole ton of movement until someone has their neck on the line and the season gets into jeopardy.
Barkley, I think, hopes he is wrong. But it is looking pretty cloudy in the NBA's immediate future.
Photo via DayLife.com.