LOS ANGELES — What was THAT about?
Chris Sheridan and I were both wrong on our predictions that the NBA would start on time (Chris), or by Dec. 1 (me).
On the other hand, actual events, which were always going to reveal the real deal, proved our basic premise:
The NBA was in far better shape than it claimed, citing $300 million annual losses, making a long work stoppage, as Spock used to say, most illogical (which in Vulcan can mean anything from foolish to out of their gourd).
I missed by 24 days, but David Stern, the sly fox, held one thing back. On the Sternian calendar, they can still play 66 games… as many as they would have starting Dec. 4 on the old schedule.
But enough about the bad old days…
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Or, at least, its latest incarnation hopes it still is, as a brilliant dawn rises once again over Lakerdom …
It’s not hard to tell who won this war–the owners, especially the big ones. Nor is it hard to tell which of them won the most:
That was Jerry Buss, the biggest of all.
When the NBA couldn’t get a full ban on sign-and-trades, it left his Lakers in position to pull off a coup they’re dreaming of, which would make signing LeBron James pale by comparison.
If Dwight Howard and Chris Paul wind up on the market — a safe assumption as far as I’m concerned — the Lakers could offer Andrew Bynum for Dwight and Pau Gasol for CP3, or vice versa.
Nothing says that they will be enough to land either player, but it should put the Lakers in the running for both.
(Oh, and Dwight likes the Lakers. Asked which All-Star he would most like to play with last season, he answered “Kobe Bryant.”)
Nor will finances be a problem, ever again.
If all the owners are now in better shape than they have ever been, the richest will stay the richest, with the players giving back so much, the league won’t have to make the big teams take overly drastic hits to boost revenue sharing, now about 10 percent of baseball’s.
Meet the richest of all …
As far as his personal fortunes goes, Buss is like a proprietor of a mom-and-pop store, as Laker people put it, in a league full of billionaires.
Of course, that’s some mom-and-pop store.
If the Knicks are valued higher (Forbes had them at $655 million to the Lakers’ $643 million last season), that’s about to end, even with Madison Square Garden prices now slated to bring in $2 million per game.
Next season, the Lakers start their 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner, which will take them from their annual $30 million from Fox Sports West to $150 million.
On paper, that would put the Lakers, who now average a profit of $45-60 million, zooming past $150 million.
In fact, an informed source projects an even higher figure, in the $170 million range. (To put that in perspective, Forbes said the Knicks made a league-leading $64 million profit in 2009-10. The Lakers will more than double that.)
In either case, Jerry, Jim and Jeannie Buss are going to have a lot to say about what happens in this league for a long time …
Not so fast.
I know it seems like a long time ago, but the Lakers’ season didn’t end too well.
If you can remember back that far, they looked decrepit and faint-hearted as the Mavericks swept them, 4-0, showing no emotion, unless you count quitting and pouting, with Lamar Odom lollypopping backcourt passes and Bynum leveling J.J. Barea.
That was the note Phil Jackson left on, unlamented by management — demonstrating how he had no relationship with Jim Buss, his significant other’s brother — on his way out.
Then they hired Mike Brown, a decision widely torched by the local press.
(My choice would have been Jeff Van Gundy, whose years in New York showed he has the stage presence to stand a chance of replacing the Zen Spin Master. Brown is very nice but bland as it gets.)
Thankfully, the lockout then descended and everyone in Lakerdom fell into a deep, needed sleep.
GOOD MORNING, LAKERDOM!
Behold, a Laker season like all recent Laker seasons, but even more dramatic!
Between now and their hopes of landing Howard, Paul and/or Deron Williams lies the season, which, like all Laker seasons, can go either way, like a comet flaming across the sky, or cratering.
A great season will preserve their cachet, making them the sun of the NBA solar system.
A bad one like the one (2006-07) when Bryant tried to bail, wouldn’t leave them looking as good.
Brown did himself a lot of good by winning over Bryant, who had been fuming at having been left out of the loop, but that’s just the start.
Jackson’s genius lay in his constant, bemused self-assurance that allowed him to toy with expectations, calamity and the press corps like a seal with a beach ball on its nose.
Brown can’t calm stormy seas with a one-liner, so if this doesn’t start well, with Pau and Andrew aware of the speculation they’ll be gone, the usual jibes flung at Derek Fisher, et al …
Hey, if it was easy, anyone could do it. Phil Jackson, himself, only did it five years out of 11.
Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops. His columns appear each Monday.