NBA lockout: Made possible by ESPN

I guess ESPN has been previewing NBA 2K12 all this time.

Until David Stern announced last night that the first two weeks of the NBA season have been canceled, you would have been hard pressed to find coverage of the NBA lockout — that is, relative to the veritable panic attack ESPN had at the scent of potential cancellation of NFL games.

There really should be equality in the coverage of lockouts, or as I like to call them, sports comas.

But as we wait for basketball to wake up, it’s officially time to point fingers and taking sides on the lockout issue.

So whose fault is it that the NBA season is disintegrating?

The media’s.

Yep, I’m pointing the finger inward — sort of. I mean, the Daily Illini is a great student newspaper, but I don’t know if things would be different at all had we been playing up the lockout these past few months.

The same cannot be said for the Worldwide Leader.

Over summer, ESPN produced 5-on-5 pieces, where they outsource their workload to bloggers basking in the limelight that only the sports news enterprise itself can provide. These pieces pose questions. Unfortunately, they’re irrelevant ones.

Who’s the best point guard in the game? Will Kobe return to form? Can the Celtics contend again? Can the Mavs possibly repeat?

These questions pertain to gamers, because the only NBA action in the foreseeable future is on Xbox and Playstation. Here’s a more pertinent question: Will the NBA have a season this year?

Not unless a deal is reached.

But the better question ESPN has yet to ask: How can the season be salvaged?

Solve the labor dispute.

Yeah, how?

Well, uh, if they talk about it and negotiate, I guess.

All talks up to this point have appeared to be token conversation. So both sides can claim they’re trying.

These guys, commissioner David Stern and players union director Billy Hunter, should be doing nothing but talking and surviving — eat, drink, sleep, negotiate. That’s it.

Their job descriptions are extensive, yes, but without an NBA season, they are reduced to making sure there’s an NBA season.

There was no fanfare for the amputation of the NBA’s first two weeks. No countdown, no SportsCenter lockout special. Why?

A couple reasons: The negotiators were giving them no news, they weren’t working for compromise, only for their salaries (which they haven’t cut to one dollar, by the way); there’s no reason for hope, the sides are too far apart for an agreement to be plausible. Players have given up hope, prompted by their agents to prepare for the worst.

How are the rookies doing thus far? Have players been allowed to be in contact with coaches? What is this doing to all the buzz created by last year, the NBA’s biggest campaign since the 1998 Bulls’ season? What are the coaches’ opinions of the lockout? What, other than the 3 percent revenue split disagreement, are the issues preventing a deal? What are basketball-Adam Schefter and basketball-Chris Mortenson reporting as the terms and conditions requested by both sides? When are the next talks happening? Why hasn’t ESPN kept the masses informed about the dying NBA season? Why don’t they care? Why did ESPN give a free agent’s decision an hour-long special but not the first wave of games gunned down by insubordinate negotiators?

Well now it’s a headline. Now it’s a story. Not when there was a chance to save the season — it wasn’t important then. So instead of writing “vague columns”: about how “stupid” the NBA owners are, how about doing a little reporting and running a story on why Stern and Hunter have been so reluctant to meet?

Haven’t the owners and league execs known about the impending lockout for like, years? How did they manage to not worry about it until the day before a deadline of cancellation? As much as I appreciate the seven hours both sides devoted Sunday night, it’s a bunch of crap, because it should have been 700 hours spread throughout the entire summer.

When a teacher assigns me a paper and I don’t work on it until after midnight the day before it’s due, I can’t just go to class that next day and say “I’m sorry to tell you that this assignment is very long, and though I worked for six hours on it last night, I was unable to complete it.”

Oh right, I had two weeks to do this.

So yes, negligence of the glaring need for negotiation is a source of fault in this debacle. However, where’s the media influence that we saw with the NFL lockout?

Columns are supposed to be informed opinions, and I’ve been doing little besides asking a lot of questions. I’m just curious as to how we could let this happen in our given situation. I’m Occupying Wall Street, I just want to talk about what’s gone wrong and how it can be fixed. I’m not claiming to have answers. But the conversation needs to take place.

A voice in the crowd isn’t enough to induce a change in the sorry state of the NBA. The only media entity capable of making a positive difference in this situation is ESPN.

It’s a shame they’re not doing their job.

_Eliot is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EliotTweet._