Dilip Vishwanat/NBAE/Getty Images
My “The lockout is over!” moment came when I woke up Saturday morning and saw a Facebook notification on my phone. A wall post from a friend gave me the news.
I feel like a guy whose girlfriend unreasonably started a fight and then went off the grid for a couple of days before coming back and acting like nothing happened. You’re a little mad. You’re not quite sure what happened over those couple days, and you probably don’t really want to know, but at least she came back. You’re willing to overlook a relatively large bump in the road just because you love her, and just dropping it seems pretty reasonable.
And, of course, when it’s “where the magic happens” time again … it’s pretty amazing, and all is definitely forgiven. I can say with certainty that’s exactly how I’ll be feeling on Christmas Day when the NBA finally tips off.
All along, I knew I’d be satisfied with something resembling a full season that started by the time football was starting to wind down. That effectively meant Christmas, I knew, so the league could get its first shot of network TV revenue, and because that’s the first day most casual fans care in any case. Of course, those of us who are aboard the bandwagons all season have been suffering since October when we knew games were going to be missed.
All I know is that Oklahoma City, as a city, community and fan base, is a winner today. It remains to be seen if the franchise can be considered a winner, because who knows if Sam Presti and crew will be able to exploit loopholes and mistakes as effectively as they did under the old CBA. I’m sure they’ll remain among the best in the business, but it may just be harder to get away with highway robbery. But Thunder fans revolted by the thought of missing out of a season’s worth of the game, players and team they’ve come to know and love get to enjoy momentum that is allowed to continue more or less uninterrupted. Nothing has changed that will prevent the Thunder from contending in the NBA this season.
In the end, I blame no one. Not because there’s no one to blame, but because I’ not mad. The owners’ need to fix the NBA’s economics was a little overstated, but it’s true they needed a CBA that would save them from themselves at least to a certain extent. The players knew they were going to have to make significant concessions, and they did, but hindsight shows they were right to disclaim the union because they apparently got the last few system issues they wanted in order to be able to swallow the bitter pill the new CBA was always going to be for them. In the end, it was a relatively effective negotiating process for both sides, even if it was not even in the same area code as perfect.
The biggest problem for fans that followed every twist and turn of the lockout is that the landscape in 2011 enabled every twist and turn to be followed. Would it have been as maddening if there was no instant reaction to every non-news item, as was the case in 1999? How u. That wasn’t always a problem. Optimism didn’t always rise and fall a few times in one day like it does now. It wasn’t the NBA’s fault that hardcore fans were able to be so optimistic and disgusted at the lockout’s progress all in the same hour as much as it was a consequence of the age in which we live.
But after every zig and zag, the end result is going to be NBA basketball by Christmas. One of the youngest contending teams in league history will be back to playing games in downtown Oklahoma City by the end of next month. Between now and then, I’ll just watch this video over and over again. And when the ball goes up for the first home game, and especially for the first home playoff game, I won’t be thinking about the lockout. It’s back to basketball. Finally.