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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
NBA officially cancels the preseason, the opening two weeks in jeopardy

By Andy Kamenetzky

Not the news hoped for at the end of Tuesday's meetings in New York, but also not terribly shocking. Even those optimistic about a reasonably normal 2012 season figured the preseason would be toast. Certain things were simply destined to be sacrificed. It is what it is, and as we speak, it ain't pretty. However, since we've got until Monday before the regular season's first two weeks also go the way of the Dodo Bird, I'm going to focus solely on what has been irretrievably lost.

I won't insult our readership with crocodile tears over these canceled contests, insofar as sincere despair goes. I've already acknowledged on The Show Formerly Known As The Triangle my excitement at the prospect of axed pilgrimages to Anaheim, Ontario (California, not Canada), Bakersfield and the like. Were these sentiments tongue in cheek? Sort of, but not really.

If anything unites citizens of L.A. and the surrounding areas, it's a desire to avoid traffic. Doesn't matter how long you've lived in Southern California or how numb you've grown to bumper-to-bumper crawls, when given the chance to avoid such a trek, you jump in it like an opulent mini-giraffe owner. Factor in the lack of suspense these games hold for a veteran team like the Lakers typically low on legitimate roster battles, and I won't fake insincere anticipation for October basketball. (Even if they reduced the number of games against Golden State down to one from the usual 27.)

Just like for the players themselves, the NBA is a long season for the scribes. These are the games that typically feel like, well, work. Blessed as I am to have such a cool job -- or any job nowadays, really -- that's just me being honest.

However, I'm also not jaded enough to miss the passion of the fans in those preseason arenas. Without fail, they're loud, enthusiastic and completely dialed into the action. Moreover, they were also grateful for a night with the purple and gold in their backyards. That it had no bearing on the actual season was irrelevant, and their excitement wasn't dampened by the prospect of watching more Coby Karl than Kobe Bryant. For many, these games marked a once-yearly opportunity to watch the Lakers in person. Maybe regular-season tickets are too expensive. Maybe Staples Center is too far away to make the commute for a 7:30 game on a Monday-Friday work day. (Again, it always comes back to traffic in L.A.) Maybe some just don't have the energy for such a long day, even one involving Lakers basketball.

No matter what the reason, these fans must now wait until 2012 to see the Lakers, regardless of when/if the regular season starts. This will be disappointing, and I sincerely feel for those members of the Laker Nation.

I also feel for anybody who happened to be on a work schedule in those arenas during a game. Those games represented a day's pay now down the porcelain. I don't know if the fairest way to divvy the BRI is a 53-47 split for the players, 53-47 for the owners or 50-50 down the middle. But this much I'm positive about: Even if this contentious issue was solved by awarding one side 100 percent and the other a finger gesture, it's hard to argue either party needs the money as much as a Citizens Bank Arena popcorn vendor. The livelihoods affected by the lockout expand beyond millionaires and billionaires squabbling for the most cheddar. These exhibition games represent lost revenue -- or worse, unpaid bills -- for a working class Joe trying to get by.

The exhibition games have always been completely overshadowed by the embattled CBA issues, and in the grand scheme of things, they're a matter as insignificant as being treated. But for countless unlucky people around L.A., they've now taken on a deeper meaning, and it's a shame to see that happen.