"Obviously we're trying to ... get this lockout resolved. We want to play NBA basketball. But if it doesn't happen what are we gonna do? We can't just sit around and not do anything. So we have to figure out ways to now continue to play basketball at a high level against top competition and have fun doing it. So, that's the next step. ..If we don't go to Europe, then let's start our own league; that's how I see it." -- New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire
One day later...
"If we don't make [a deal] on Tuesday, my gut -- this is not in my official capacity of canceling games -- but my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day." -- NBA commissioner David Stern
Yeah, Amare, Commissioner Stern is taking your "alternative league" threat very seriously.
I am a big fan of the NBA, but there is a huge part of me that hopes David Stern and the NBA owners back away from the bargaining table and allow the players to follow through on Stoudemire's mention (threat?) of starting an alternative basketball league to the NBA.
It would be fascinating to see Stern respond in the same way a parent responds to the threat of a nine-year-old "running away," by letting them go and then counting the minutes until they return (typically somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes; as a parent, I've charted this. I'm a bit of a parenting sabermetrician like that). You could time with a stopwatch how quickly the players would come running back to the bargaining table.
Much like a young child realizes that when you run away you forfeit things like free food, free clothing, free shelter and free Xbox, the NBA players don't seem to realize that starting up a business (like an entire professional basketball league) requires little things like investors, venues, insurance and television contracts. Just because you have the most valuable skill in your company, that doesn't make you an entrepreneur, and in the case of Stoudemire or any NBA player thinking they can take their ball, go home and then construct a new playground (and make even one-fiftieth of what they make right now)...just because you play basketball doesn't mean you know how to sell and distribute basketball.
The NBA is broken, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The economic rules governing the game have devolved into mind-numbing guidelines that have rendered the salary cap virtually toothless and have made the most prominent superstars the most underpaid (relative to their value) and everybody else in the league drastically overpaid.
It's a system that is supposed to mirror socialism at the team level, i.e., a salary cap should theoretically give everyone an "equal" chance to win, but instead mirrors socialism at the player level and, at this point, Darwinism at the team level.
The NBA isn't broken because Kobe Bryant makes $25 million a year. It's broken because Drew Gooden (discarded by about eight different NBA teams) makes $6 million a year. Stars drive the league. Everyone else is expendable. The problem is the league pays the expendable as if they are essential.
Now, without the platform and the engine of the NBA behind the superstars, even the best of the best are just really famous playground players here in the United States. Unless they want to go to China, Turkey or Italy forever, eventually the players will have to play ball with Stern and the owners, bow to whatever the whims of the commissioner are, and take a deal that's going to be much worse than whatever is being proposed right now.
Because as rich as the really rich players are, there are plenty of moderately rich players who will eventually need paychecks. And by eventually, I mean soon. The twitter hashtags expressing unity and resolve are bold right now, but we'll see how resolute the players become when the reality of mortgages and child support payments sets in.
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SHOW ME HOW
No new league will cure acute, immediate pain. Only the NBA can do that for those guys.
So if the players threaten to run away, I'm pretty sure Papa Stern will let them follow through on their empty threats. He knows they'll come running back.
And in the meantime, he's about to cancel Christmas.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.