Lloyd Walton was quite busy during the recent NBA lockout.
The Chicago Heights native and former Mount Carmel High School, Marquette University and NBA star is a a career counselor for the NBA Players Association. His job is to prepare NBA players for what is next when their careers end.
"Age, getting replaced by a younger guy or a knee injury, we want them to be ready to move to another career," Walton said. "Even if the end of your career is a result of there being no season."
While Walton said he is glad to see the shortened season, he said he did not think the deal is a good one for the players.
"This is me, not the union speaking, but I don't like it," Walton said of the new collective bargaining agreement. "A 50-50 split? It is the product that drives the business. I still do not know of any fan who wants to buy, with the exception of Michael Jordan, an owner's jersey. They don't go into the arena and say, 'I am coming to watch the owner.' The players are the product that drives the league."
Walton said the players gave up too much in the 10-year deal which splits basketball-related revenue evenly between the owners and players. The agreement ended a 161-day lockout, which started July 1. There is an opt-out clause after six years.
"They had 57 (percent) the last contract," Walton said. "They gave up too much. The NBA is global and people all over the world recognize the players. It is international."
Walton recalls the late 1970s when he was a second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks. The NBA was in trouble and had a reputation of a drug-ridden league.
"They almost went out of business," Walton said. "Nobody wanted to watch because of the reputation. The owners, David Stern, those guys got things together and recognized the problem.
"They did great marketing. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and the NBA took off."
There is no doubt the fans were the ones left out or pushed aside. In the smaller cities like Milwaukee, downtown businesses depend on the Bucks home games at the Bradley Center and for the fans to have dinner or stop in after the game.
"Sacramento, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, how do you think those cities were impacted?," Walton said. "This is all part of the entertainment package. A night out.
"Milwaukee, those businesses like Major Goolsby's, they count on the big crowds for Marquette and the Bucks."
As far as his career counseling, Walton said the lockout opened some eyes.
"We will continue to work with the players for life after basketball," Walton said. "We had a seminar with Subway coming in and talking to players about their own (franchise).
"My job is to get them ready to move on. You never know when their careers will end."
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.