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Commentary: How A Lockout Can Keep Players From Improving

By the time a preternaturally talented basketball player graduates from high school and fights his way through the college ranks, it’s safe to assume that if drafted into the NBA, his intense work ethic and continual motivation will keep the sport he’s now paid to play at the top of his priorities list.

Nobody needs to tell him he can’t spend a quarter of his rookie contract on club nights in Ibiza or the construction of a state of the art video game bunker in his newly finished basement. Too many tales about wasted talent went into this player’s ear. They pop up whenever a shot of tequila is proposed or a free steak is offered by the locals at a fancy restaurant. If this player wants to stay in our planet’s most prestigious basketball league, when summer rolls around he’ll be in the gym six days a week, molding a technically sound drop step or gutting through core exercises until it feels like his stomach’s been struck by a world class archer’s flaming arrow.

Most NBA players realize this is the case, and off seasons are highlighted more as transitional improvement periods than time spent resting. As was pointed out by Josh Robbins in today’s Orlando Sentinel, the pending lockout isn’t only having a direct effect on player’s wallets, it’s affecting their on court abilities—a serious hindrance to the league’s outstanding product.

 A lockout would set the stage for the ultimate test of professionalism: Will players continue to train aggressively without Big Brother watching?

“In any profession there’s people that are self-motivated and then there’s people that only work hard in front of other people, and I don’t think that’s any different in basketball,” Redick said.

And anyone who slacks off might face an uphill battle to get back into shape.

 The last prolonged work stoppage proved that.

 “It’ll be hard” training outside Orlando, Anderson said. “Everything’s kind of given to you when you’re here. So I’m going to have to be on it and set things up for myself.”

The article brings up quite an interesting dilemma. Let’s say the league resumes activity in late November. Guys trickle into their team facilities ready to face the winter grind that is the NBA’s regular season. Now what if at least one starter on each team, who normally works out with the team’s supplied strength and conditioning coach, didn’t go out of his way to take care of himself like J.J. Redick is currently doing. In a team game like basketball, where everybody is connected, all it takes is one faulty piece to seriously hurt what the whole is trying to accomplish. If someone like Tyson Chandler were to wander into camp 20 pounds overweight, the negative defensive impact would be enormous for a Dallas Mavericks team that desperately needs his presence on the back-line to make possible penetrators second guess themselves. All of a sudden the Mavericks aren’t as good a basketball team, and the domino effect begins to lean on a frustrated fan base that can’t understand how on top of missing a month of the season, the NBA has given them a sub-par product. It’d be insult to injury.

For youngsters playing for teams with no undisputed leadership (and there’s a bunch: Minnesota, Sacramento, Charlotte, and Golden State to name a few) that haven’t been able to create a summer training regimen, this could be problematic. Pretty much everybody in the NBA is a hard worker; they wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t. But not everybody was born with a mind that’s accustomed to overcoming obstacles and configuring a Plan B. There will be players in the league—whether they were just drafted or have been doing the same routine for the last five, six, seven summers—who won’t seek out their own personal trainer or basketball tutor. They won’t get better which hurts their team. Poorer teams hurt the league. A hurt league turns a fanbase off. And that’s good for nobody. Except J.J. Redick.

Categories: Commentary
  1. June 30, 2011 at 10:53 am | #1

    I wonder what Demarcus Cousins will be up to this summer…

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