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Jul 03rd
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Jeff Van Gundy's worried NBA lockout could be detrimental to league

vangundyJeff093011_optBY MATT SUGAM

PISCATAWAY — Several hundred high school coaches flocked to the Rutgers Athletic Center for the first annual Brayden Carr Coaches Clinic to learn from Bob Hurley, Bill Self, John Calipari, Jeff Van Gundy, Larry Brown and Mike Rice.

The event was set up to support “In Brayden’s Eyes: the Brayden Carr Foundation,” which was started in the memory of Rutgers director of basketball operations Jim Carr’s son Brayden, who passed away from an illness this past May at two and a half-years-old.

After Van Gundy taught the coaches about pick and roll offense and defense, he took some time to talk about the NBA lockout. Here’s the question and answer session with the former Rutgers assistant, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach and current analyst for ESPN:

What are your thoughts on the NBA lockout?

“I think everybody in the NBA — players, management, ownership — has to be very cognizant not to be complacent in thinking that we’re more important than we are. The economy is tough, and whatever disposable incomes that are being spent can be spent in other places and we’re not the NFL. The NFL has a strangle hold [on the American public’s attention], and rightly so. It’s super exciting. It’s perfectly set up. It’s weekends, it’s not too many games. Everything is great. I just think we have to be careful.”

What’s the worst-case scenario?

“The worst case is not being able to come to an agreement and I’m hopeful that everybody can get part of what they want, but understastand probably not all of it. So that’s what I’m hoping.”

Do you feel like at this point they are too complacent?

“I’m not trying to demean anybody, because everybody has the right to earn as much as they can — owners on the profits, players in a short career to earn as much as they can — they've just got to be very aware that just because fans have always come back, doesn’t mean they always will come back. And there is going to be a tipping point where fan frustration boils over for some sport, and I would hope it’s not our sport.”

How do you feel it’s different from the NFL in the sense that with the NFL, the owners were making all the money and the players wanted a bigger piece of the pie and it was about player safety and taking care of them after, whereas the NBA, some of the owners are losing money and player safety isn’t as big of a deal?

“You know what, when they throw out numbers, my mind turns off. I don’t know what numbers to believe. One side says one thing, one side says the other thing. The business of basketball does not interest me in the least, nor does the business of football. I just love the competition, so I just want them to settle it. The NFL, they settled, they didn’t lose any training camp — they lost mini camp but they didn’t lose training camp. There was one preseason game canceled — the Hall of Fame game — but they kept their schedule in tact. What we’re running the risk of is losing regular season games, and people romanticize the thought of a shorter season, and a shorter season would be great if it was spread out over the same period of time, but people forget just how bad the basketball was back in 1999. It took a good month for there to be any semblance of good basketball because guys were out of shape, because you couldn’t work with them, there was injuries, there was no practice time to get it right because you were playing all the time.”

But still, you got to the Finals [with the Knicks]?

“Oh no, we actually had a good team, but the shortened season actually hurt us because [Latrell] Sprewell was hurt, [Patrick] Ewing was hurt, so we were dealing with all that. And we also made two trades, so we had a lot of moving parts, and we had no practice time and when the season started we had no practice time. It worked out, but it was bad. People don’t want to talk about how bad the basketball was that year. It was horrendous.”

What do you think about Kobe going to Italy and will more big name guys do it now?

“Frankly, I thought it was a threat by all of those guys, but they wouldn’t do it. There’s two different things: there’s the guys going over to Europe who get out the moment the lockout's ended, and then there’s the guys who go to China…I am a bit surprised that guys are doing it. I think it will be very eye opening and good for them in the way that you see the world, but also you see how good you have it in the NBA.”


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