Steinmetz: With NFL back, NBA should feel pressure

July 25, 2011, 5:35 pm
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July 25, 2011


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Matt Steinmetz

The NFL lockout appears to be over. Which is bad news for the NBA.It's bad for a couple of reasons. First, the NFL showed that despite significant differences between owners and players, the two sides came together -- and best of all, no regular-season games will be missed. The NBA is going to have to prove it can do that, and so far there are few indications it can.Or even wants to.
Secondly, the jump-starting of the NFL season means all eyes will be on baseball and football for the foreseeable future, and the NBA is out of sight and out of mind. The longer it's in the background, the less and less people will care.Conventional wisdom remains that the NBA is going to miss part or all of the 2011-12 season because of the lockout. That's a very dangerous game for basketball's owners and players. And let's make one thing clear: The NBA is not the NFL.If there's a sport that can survive missed games or even a missed season, it's the NFL. All professional sports must answer to the NFL -- at least in this country. Football is king and that's just the way it is. That the league's sides got something done in a timely manner proves there is at least an acknowledgment of fans.The NBA appears to be heading down a very different road. There are indications that owners are willing to sacrifice a season in order to revamp the system. But if the NBA misses a season, it should be prepared for a backlash of significant proportions.Calling the NBA a niche sport is a little extreme. But believing pro basketball can and will thrive regardless of what happens during this dispute is a gutsy -- and perhaps foolish -- assumption. You see the attendance -- or lack thereof -- in places such as Charlotte, Sacramento, Milwaukee New Jersey, New Orleans, Atlanta, etc?Those teams don't draw, and it will get worse if this thing is protracted. A long lockout would benefit the owners. But they should realize that even if they make gains in the collective bargaining agreement they're going to take losses in public relations and marketing, and that will affect the bottom line.NBA owners believe they need to turn the system upside-down and do it now. But if they do that, it's going to be a while before the NBA gets right-side up.