One of Kobe Bryant's most admirable qualities is an insistence on suiting up whenever humanly possible, not simply because he's a ludicrously competitive guy but because, as Michael Jordan did before him, he knows there are fans in the stands specifically there to see him. For some, it might be the only chance they ever get.
Unfortunately, those planning their once-in-a-lifetime Pilgrimage-to-Mamba during the first eight games of L.A.'s 2011-12 campaign are out of luck. After no progress was made toward a new collective-bargaining agreement Monday in New York, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the cancellation of all regular season contests through Nov. 14.
For the Lakers, it means the following games will have gone the way of the dodo:
Nov. 1 vs. Oklahoma City
Nov. 2 at Golden State
Nov. 4 at Phoenix
Nov. 6 vs. New Orleans
Nov. 7 at Sacramento
Nov. 9 vs. San Antonio
Nov. 11 vs. Denver
Nov. 13 vs. Detroit
Don't hold your breath for a quick resolution. While the rhetoric following tonight's negotiations was predictably strong, it still doesn't appear to be a situation where after weeks of talks progress is being made, just not quite fast enough. Said Stern, "We're further apart on where we thought we would get to on the contract length, on the length of the deal, on the use of exceptions by taxpaying teams, on annual increases for players, and for the tax levels, and the frequency of the tax."
On a positive note, I do believe, though I can't confirm, both sides have agreed the basketball will remain orange.
Monday's news comes as a shock to, well, nobody. Pollyanna herself Tweeted over the weekend she'd be making alternate plans for opening night. Still, a very scary line has crossed, because from this point forward the math changes as both sides start losing income. At least initially, expect owners to roll back their proposals, prompted they say by the lost income of missed games. "Our economic situation gets worse," Stern said, "and we have to begin accounting for that." Players could very well dig in, too. Why bother forgoing checks only to accept what they see as the same bad deal a couple of weeks later?
Whether the system is fair, unfair, or somewhere in between is dependent on who is answering the question. Still, it's pretty clear as both sides work to make as much money as possible, they'll cost themselves a ton of money that, particularly in the case of the players, may never be recouped.
Meanwhile, both sides have opened the door for fans to find other ways to spend their money. Right now, it's a two-week trial offer, but while I'm still of the belief it won't span the entire season, don't be surprised if that window of opportunity grows in a hurry.