We Won't See the Knicks For a While

NBA cancels first two weeks of season as lockout drags on

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Amar'e and company remain in hiding for a little while longer.

    The NBA has gone somewhere that the NFL did not go in this year of sports lockouts.

    They pulled the plug on regular season games Monday, cancelling the first two weeks worth of games after the owners and players could not reach an agreement to end the long lockout.

    Commissioner David Stern said the two sides remain far apart on just about every important issue.

    There's little doubt that it is Stern and the owners who brought things to this point. Plenty of owners are fine with empty arenas because it means they don't have to pay player salaries and they are taking an extreme line on givebacks beyond the ones that the players have already agreed to as the process has played out.

    While they differ from their NFL brethren in that some owners are actually finding it hard to make money, they refuse to accept any blame for overpaying for both franchises and players without having a gun to their head. They want a bailout, one the players have agreed to give them in many respects but not a big enough one for the owners to actually allow the season to get underway.

    The players aren't blameless. They don't want to give up their outsize share of revenue and huge salaries at a moment, although you wonder just how much they're expected to give up when the owners won't sacrifice a thing.

    It's funny that Stern gets so much credit for being a great leader when this is the second time under his watch that the NBA has lost games to a labor fight. Judging from the reaction of fans, well, there's been very little reaction from fans who don't seem to much care about the fact that the NBA won't be starting on time.

    That's not great for the league, although the one thing all sides can agree on is that they think the fans are dopes who will show up and pay both sides just as soon as they finish their money fight.

    History says they're right, of course, although you wonder if there's a class of casual fans who won't be flocking back in this economy.

    It might not be bad for the Knicks, though. Maybe it's silly to focus on that when there's no basketball, but, frankly, we'd rather think about the game of basketball than the nonsense going on in conference rooms even if there's no actual basketball coming anytime soon.

    If you'll recall, the last time the NBA decided that actually playing basketball wasn't part of its mandate, the league cut the season down to 50 games and it ended with the Knicks making it all the way to the Finals.

    Could that happen again? It seems unlikely, but there are a couple of reasons why a short season might work out well for the Knicks.

    The first is that they are a team with all their key pieces in place. There are still flaws with that team, to be sure, but Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and company will be able to hit the ground running while other teams will have to integrate new players or coaches into the mix once they resume basketball activities.

    So how do you explain that those '99 Knicks added Latrell Sprewell and barely made the playoffs before making their epic run? That definitely happened, but in an Eastern Conference with the Heat, Celtics and Bulls, it is pretty hard to see that kind of thing happening again.

    The Knicks are also a team that will benefit from less wear and tear on their bodies. Chauncey Billups was not the picture of health last season and Stoudemire's knees only have so much basketball left in them.

    A 50-game (or thereabouts) sprint looks good for a team with continuity and top-end talent because there's no need for everything to gel before the team finds its way in the second half of the season. It is also just more exciting because every game means much more in a short schedule than it does in the bloated 82 games we're used to sort of following until around February.

    All of this is probably just an attempt to find the bright side of a lump of coal, but its better than mock outrage that the owners and players are behaving this way.

    It's par for the course and something we should all be well used to at this point.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.