A few weeks ago, LeBron James was criticized in the media for making comments that many considered “pro-contraction”. He quickly recanted his statement, going so far as to admit that he had no idea what the word contraction even meant. (I believe him.) But it’s a conversation that looms over the NBA. With the bleak outlook as far as the collective bargaining agreement, the constant and very real threat of a lockout, many believe that contraction is a viable option for the NBA.
The mention of contraction seems counter-intuitive given the fact that months ago league commissioner David Stern had hopes of international expansion. Of course, mentions of contraction could be another power move to place management and owners in a better position when collective bargaining agreement talks get down to the grit. But I’d like to argue that it isn’t a bad option.
Admittedly, my opinion on the subject changes every two months. And only recently have I even considered contraction as a viable option but with the current struggles of teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards, something has to be done.
The difference in talent between teams like the Kings and teams like the Lakers is astounding. In its Golden Age, the NBA was a 23 team league. Now, it is up to 30 teams. That means that over 80 more players are taking up roster spots, which means that the talent is more diluted now than it was then. Take away a few teams and guys like Brian Scalabrine won’t be sucking up air, riding benches, and swinging towels for millions of dollars a season. Fewer teams means that those guys won’t have anywhere to go but the developmental league.
Raise the bar in the NBA, that means that players are more likely to stay in college and develop the skills that are necessary to become stars. Let’s be honest, if I’m Kyrie Irving and I’m looking up at the league and see guys like Scalabrine (bad example but he’s the first that comes to mind) making NBA rosters, I know I have a great shot, whether my game is mature or not.
Owners all over the league are complaining that salaries are too high. Yes, you have to pay Carmelo Anthony gazillions of dollars when Mike Conley is worth a whopping $55 million. Fewer players in the league means that owners are wasting less money.
I don’t want fans in cities like Memphis (that team would be first to go if I were in charge) to lose their teams but when the alternative is a better product for a league that is slowly falling from grace, I don’t think contraction is such a bad idea.