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Labor talks. Players’ union. David Stern. Agents. 50-50. Basketball Related Income (BRI). Revenue Sharing. Market Size. Salary cap. Guaranteed contracts.

These are all the keywords we’ve heard over and over since the lockout started months ago. We all know that the billionaires and millionaires (and hundred thousand-aires in the case of the end of the bench guys) are trying to figure out how to divvy up all of the money in a way that benefits each of their respective groups most fully. And that’s cool. That’s what you would expect anyone to do in their position.

Yesterday, the players’ association rejected the league’s latest offer and is now in the process of decertifying their union. This means that there is a very real chance that NBA fans might not get to see their teams play a single second this season. *sigh* Just the thought of that occurring is enough to make me wonder what in the wide world of sports is a-goin’ on.

I know what makes sense to me in terms of what should happen, but my opinion and $5 will only get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks the last time I checked.

So, even though I can talk about how the BRI should be split (50/50) or what changes need to be made to help the parity, competitiveness and economic viability of the league (revenue sharing and a hard salary cap), it won’t make a bit of difference, other than to make me feel slightly better for having gotten it off my chest.

Being a fan of a team in a small market (and living in that same small market) undoubtedly makes me a little biased…but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong either. I know that I keep referring to the NFL as the model that the NBA should be looking at, but doesn’t it make sense to copy a league that grows in popularity each year and has incredible sway in terms of marketing and exposure. After all, their small market teams don’t have the same kind of economic woes that the ones in the NBA do.

The perception of the NBA is what hurts these smaller markets as much as their market size does. The NFL owns the “casual fan” demographic for may reasons, while the NBA languishes behind in that area. Fans don’t believe the NBA’s regular season matters (by and large, you’d be hard-pressed to prove that it does for the top tier teams), that the players play hard every night (ditto the previous comment) or that the regular season is too long (and it is, in my opinion).

So…couldn’t you fix all three of those problems in one fell swoop? Of course you can. Shorten the NBA’s regular season. Right now, they play 82 games. That’s way too many games in my opinion. Not to mention the fact that because they’ve settled on that number means that they play teams in their own division 4 times a year, teams in the opposing conference 2 times and some teams in their own conference (but outside their division) 3 times a year, but others 4 times. Does that make sense?

Why not play divisional teams 4 times and everyone else 2 times a year? That would give us an NBA season of 66 games, which would trim just over a month off the season. It would help promote divisional rivalries (much like the NFL does) while limiting the length of the season and the amount of travel required, and also correcting the imbalance created when some teams play the Lakers or Heat 4 times, while other teams play the Timberwolves and Raptors 4 times. This is an issue that should be right up there with everything else under discussion in my opinion. As long as we’re making changes, why not make some that will help the perception of the sport we all love and potentially assist it in bolstering its popularity?

It’s somewhat similar to the scene in “Gladiator” where Proximo tells Maximus, “Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.” In the same way, the NBA needs to do all it can to win the casual fan. Otherwise this lockout, coupled with the image problems the league has been facing in recent years, could lead to the kind of issues that necessitate contraction of teams, among other, potentially more drastic measures. And nobody wants to see that happen.

Your guess is as good as mine

(When you Google “NBA Season Is Too Long”, this comes up.)

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