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Hard Times on the Hardwood

The NBA has some financial housecleaning to do, and that isn’t a bad thing.

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This also means that the NBA is up for a serious overhaul in a couple of years. The mid-level exception will probably drop substantially. The luxury tax penalty will probably increase, and the age limit will creep up to 20. The players’ union will object to all of this, but they’ll agree to it without a loss of any action. The players have no other way to make tens of millions of dollars via playing basketball in America.

What’s about to happen in the NBA is a combination of growing pains and a market correction. Players with skills will still become multimillionaires, but contracts won’t be handed out as if there’s no tomorrow. The league is discovering that there is tomorrow, and it isn’t as sunny as yesterday. Meanwhile all the doomsayers are failing to notice that the league is facing the prospect of several years in which the NBA finals will either involve storied franchises or the league’s top players, and the current recession won’t last forever.

For a long time, sports existed in a sort of fantasy universe where it was immune to ills that face those of us in the real world. That era is over, but the games will go on. Nothing that attracts millions of people to TV sets is ever really in peril.

Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.

Martin Johnson writes about music for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate and beer for Eater, and he blogs at both the Joy of Cheese and Rotations. Follow him on Twitter.

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