As the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA regular season nears its close after the league managed to cram each team's 66-game schedule into 124 calendar days, the Los Angeles Lakers are in familiar territory.
Even with Tuesday's 112-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers have the third-best record in the Western Conference and are looking ahead to a deep playoff run and potentially even the 17th championship in franchise history with a healthy Kobe Bryant back in the fold.
Even though it appears the Lakers have barely missed a beat when it comes to their competitive chances in the post-lockout NBA world, things have changed drastically for the franchise thanks to the league's new collective bargaining agreement, as well as the new revenue-sharing arrangement amongst the league's 30 teams.
"We can make a lot of money and still lose money? That's not a good thing," Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com this week in a wide-ranging sit-down interview. "Especially when it's a family-run business. I mean, my god, we don't have Carnival Cruises behind us or Kohl's Department Stores ... and Microsoft up in good, old Portland. This is it. If we lose money, we lose money."
Buss credited NBA commissioner David Stern for doing a "fantastic job" during the NBA lockout negotiations but believed that the league's 28 other owners targeted the Lakers when it came to discussions at the bargaining table during the work stoppage.
"I thought (Stern) tried to keep it calm and fair," Buss said. "I think most of the other teams were pointing at the Lakers. They were saying that the Lakers do this, it's not fair. The Lakers do that, it's not fair. But, in the end, I think David Stern kept it all calm and did the best he could."
Shortly after settling the new CBA, the NBA also hammered out a new revenue-sharing plan. Under the new model, Buss estimated that the Lakers, who used to dole out approximately $4 million to $6 million a season in revenue sharing, now will owe anywhere from $50 million to $80 million in revenue sharing each season.
The Lakers signed a new local television deal with Time Warner Cable starting in the 2012-13 season that will be worth anywhere from $200 million to $250 million a year for the next 20 to 25 years, based on various published reports. However, despite the TV-related financial windfall, Buss said that the aggressive increase in revenue sharing will severely dip into the Lakers' new profits.
"People (other owners) were throwing it back in our face with the new television deal and it's basically kind of wiped that out," Buss said. "Fifty million dollars extra per year just kind of went out the door."