I got a confession to make – these NBA playoffs are the most fun I’ve had watching a post season in years. There are a few biased reasons – I love Chicago, I love LeBron James. I hate the Lakers, I hate the Celtics. The Western games aren’t as intense but a joy to watch – fast basketball with Dirk Nowitzki just doing amazing stuff night after night. They even have some survey on ESPN Sportsnation about where to place him among the all-time greats. The East? I haven’t had this much fun watching a playoff series (Bulls-Heat) in a very long time.

But come July 1, the NBA will turn from one of the best post-seasons it’s had in years into an unknown future. The L word looming over the NBA draft, owners, players. Will there be another lockout, the first NBA lockout since the shortened 1998-1999 season, the championship with an asterisk?

Last time the CBA expired was 2005, six years after the lockout ending agreement. With the NHL 2004-2005 lockout, everyone just wanted to get a deal signed again and fast. It happened, despite the age limit thing which ended the prep-to-pro age in NBA basketball. The maximum salary cap was also lowered a bit, but the players got a bigger share, 57%, from the league’s revenues.

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Everyone knew it was coming to this. It’s been talked about for nearly two years – when the 2011 summer begins, there’s going to be a huge problem. The financial problems around the world reached the shiny world of the NBA. Arenas for the less successful teams looked more and more vacant, quiet and empty. Too many teams, too many bad contracts, tickets being too expensive. No one willing to back down. We all saw it coming.

David Stern, who looks more and more like a delusional dictator with every passing year, is backing the owners. The NBA said the owners lost 300 million dollars last season. The players want proof. The average salary for an NBA player this season was 5.2 million dollars with a salary cap of 58 million dollars. The owners and the league’s plan is to lower that number to about 40 million dollars, a 30% drop. That’s about 3.6 million dollars per player.

Fans and even people who don’t follow the NBA probably think players are overpaid. When a man who earns about 50k a year has to read that guys who make his yearly salary in a few weeks sometimes (minimum salary in the NBA is 500k) aren’t happy with the money they make, it pisses them off to say the least. But it’s wrong to make the players look like the bad guys. There are plenty of NBA owners who extort cities to get new arenas from public money and have the power to move teams, community landmarks, to anywhere they wish if they don’t get their way.

Another problem is too many teams. LeBron James took some heat after making a comment that later made him backtrack a bit, but he was right. The league needs less teams. Same as the NHL and probably the NFL as well. Not all markets can sustain so many pro teams, and basketball isn’t big everywhere. If an owner wants to lose money, that’s his problem. But if he wants to have a team in a city where not enough people care about the sport and make a profit on the back of players and fans? Can’t sympathize with that.

While I’m getting ready for game 4 of the Heat-Bulls series, I’m watching some news thing on the NFL lockout and the practicing players, informal stuff, hotel meetings with rookies and stuff. Kind of sad. The NBA is more of my thing anyway, but right now, in both leagues, there doesn’t seem to be to many reasons to be optimistic about an agreement coming anytime soon.