Lockout already hurting plenty for some - NBC Sports

Lockout already hurting plenty for some
Veterans needing to prove themselves, long-shot free agents and new coaching staffs already behind
NBAE via Getty Images, file
With the NBA lockout in place, Eddy Curry can't visit teams to audition for a spot, NBCSports.com contributor Ira Winderman writes.
July 4, 2011, 2:07 pm

Only there are games lost in those opening minutes, the ones without a single lead change, when that early six-point deficit turns to eight then 10 then simply too much to overcome, even with the inevitable comeback.

This is where the NBA lockout stands, in these opening days.

Some will argue the NBA isn't a July sport, anyway.

They would be mistaken.

Even now, seemingly just hours since David Stern and Billy Hunter went their separate ways, valuable time already is being lost, by more than many suspect.

Already scratched are the summer leagues scheduled for Orlando and Las Vegas. We're not talking as much about first-rounders getting their initial seasoning, as was the case with the Wizards' John Wall and Kings' DeMarcus Cousins last July in Las Vegas. This is about the opportunity for some to get their only seasoning and perhaps only opportunity to impress, such as second-round picks from current and previous drafts, those who toiled overseas in relative obscurity, as well as those who were buried on NBA inactive lists this past season.

A year ago, quality play in Las Vegas allowed Derrick Caracter to solidify a spot with the Lakers, Reggie Williams to firm up his chances with the Warriors, the same for Sam Young with the Grizzlies, and Ty Lawson to make his move toward what could wind up as a full-time starting spot with the Nuggets.

This year? This year's second-rounders might have no choice but to make their first impressions overseas, and borderline NBA types won't get that second chance to make a first impression.

Some teams rushed to get such tenders in place, such as the Heat with former Memphis standout Robert Dozier, who thrived this past season in Greece. But other players this year might have to complete European agreements without tying them to potential NBA contract tenders.

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The first casualties of the lockout could be those with the most to lose, and those without a voice. Most who compete in summer leagues are not members of the National Basketball Players Association; they had no union vote in the very labor dispute that is crippling their pro careers.

Then there are those caught between the lowest rung of summer-league play but not quite on equal footing as the players dug in against the league's labor proposals, a group of veterans caught in the ultimate limbo, former NBA players who have been out of the game and are seeking their way back.

No one would expect, at this stage of their careers, for Eddy Curry, Flip Murray, Mike James, Jamaal Tinsley, even Allen Iverson to have to work their way back into the league through summer-league auditions.

But they at least could have made their rounds through league practice facilities during these weeks and months, mixed it up with returning veterans in private auditions in front of NBA coaches and scouts.

Now those who were out of sight in 2010-11 could wind up out of mind when teams scurry to piece together rosters at the end of the lockout. Even a brief lockout could end of careers of players such as Mo Peterson, Bobby Simmons and Larry Hughes, who might have been hoping for the one final shot.

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Then there is a third group of players, perhaps the most significant group of players, impacted by the early stages of the lockout, those recovering from offseason or late-season injuries.

Take Josh Howard, who is in the midst of offseason knee rehab. Not only is he barred, by lockout rules, from continuing to work with the Wizards' training staff, but he has to complete his rehab as an impending free agent. It is one thing for an interested team to consult the Wizards before the resumption of free agency for an update. It is another to attempt to get similar insight from a party less familiar with NBA demands.

Taken further, even if Kobe Bryant didn't opt for his unusual course of treatment in Germany, he could not have attempted anything close, or anything at all, with the Lakers' training staff during this lockout.

For that matter, the last thing Greg Oden needs at this stage is a divorce from the Trail Blazers' training staff and the team facilities that essentially have become a second home.

Then there is a fourth, non-player, group that suffers a setback each day the lockout drags on, even the opening ones: recently named head coaches, a group that soon enough will include new entries in Detroit and probably Minnesota.

Even veteran coaches appreciate the significance of offseason bonding with players, when the pressure is off and the dialogue does not come amid benchings, losing streaks or intense media inspection. It is why Philadelphia's Doug Collins hit the road in the days leading to the lockout, for a final round of face time.

It is something Mark Jackson with Golden State, Dwane Casey with Toronto, and the impeding coaches in Detroit and Minnesota will lose out on by not being positioned as early as, say, the Lakers' Mike Brown.

It is easy to minimize the influence of the lockout in July for a sport that does not play for real until the final week of October.

But to say there is no significance of these early days of the lockout is to ignore the very careers the lockout already is impacting.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat .

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