Folding with a decent hand
Mike Monroe, the San Antonio Express-News‘ NBA writer, wrote about the lockout this morning. Though I thought I was done addressing the subject until it’s resolved, I can’t help myself. In his story, Monroe mentions Peter Holt and the notion that he could be considered among the “hawkish” owners, those who would rather cancel the season in order to drastically alter the system in the owners’ favor.
The Spurs are often cited as proof a small-market team can thrive if managed well, but it was no rumor that Holt refuted the contention last week. The Spurs managing general partner, who is chairman of the owners’ labor relations committee, used the post-blowup news conference to say his franchise lost money each of the last two seasons.
Then he asserted the Spurs would have joined the list of money losers earlier without some luck.
“We just got there a little later because, fortunately, a fellow named Tim Duncan showed up and David Robinson before that, and we won some championships,” Holt said. “So we were able to go deep into the playoffs.”
Holt has been lumped among hawkish owners intent on a lopsided win in the talks, but it is hard to imagine he favors canceling the season, given that his luck with Duncan is near its end.
Monroe’s last sentence is the key to me. Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck wants a season, though he was considered a hawkish owner earlier in the lockout. Grousbeck, like Peter Holt, has a team with an aging core and a title window that closes a little more with every month gone by, if it’s not already too narrow to fit through. I bet good money (for a blogger) that Mark Cuban wants a season, even if some reports say otherwise. Cuban’s Mavs just won their first title and have a smaller championship window than most reigning champs, due to the unique nature of their championship makeup. Not that Dallas’ win was a fluke, just that a lot fell into place perfectly for Dallas last season.
I’ve read that the Spurs haven’t been a profitable franchise the last two seasons, though it’s hard to tell for sure. Part of this is because the Spurs have paid the luxury tax in attempt to win another championship. The other part is because the Spurs haven’t won a championship, and in fact haven’t even gone on a long playoff run in that time. The Spurs missed out on some valuable playoff revenue that might have put them over the top of profitability, or close enough, because of those early exits.
If the season is cancelled whole hog, the last year of Tim Duncan’s contract is wiped away and TGPFOAT (the greatest power forward of all-time, act like you know) becomes an unrestricted free agent at 36 years old. There’s no guarantee that Duncan plays another season. Post-Duncan life doesn’t come with a championship window or deep playoff runs. At best, it includes NBA middle ground and the long-shot hopes of a high lottery pick.
Peter Holt can hold out for a system change all he and other owners want, and that just may happen. But if this season is lost and the Spurs’ run as contenders goes away, Holt risks gaining something that has been somewhat foreign to the small-market Spurs during his ownership tenure, something that other small-market owners like Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert already have: irrelevance.