I was over it by 7 a.m. Saturday. After 148 days, after countless conversations with friends about how the owners were slimy crooks cooking their books and how the players were ungrateful, after vowing I could be happy watching Kevin Durant on YouTube and Derrick Rose in that killer adidas commercial for the next several months in place of an NBA season, and after all the lockout drama, anger and bitterness, I needed all of 15 seconds to be happy it was coming back.
As I do every morning, when I woke up Saturday I rolled over and grabbed my phone to check the overnight news. This is a habit that drives my wife crazy, no matter how many times I tell her I need to be aware of what's happening, just like I need to watch football all day Sunday (and Thursday on Thanksgiving and Saturdays in January). I work in sports; it's my job to be aware. The first email I noticed while scrolling through the spam was from Otto Strong, one of the mag's deputy editors who runs our NBA coverage. It was time-stamped 5:59 a.m. and simply read: "The NBA is back." I checked my Twitter feed and saw that Ken Berger from CBSsports.com, who has been killing it during the lockout, had one of the first mentions breaking the news -- at least on my network -- a few hours earlier. (One small part of me is disappointed I won't be able to read Berger's 140-character rants about the absurdity of covering this particular labor dispute.)
After reading Strong's email and getting the details of the agreement from Twitter, I thought, What happens in Vegas? This has been a tough year for the folks on The Strip. The economy stinks. And the NFL lockout caused some pain too. More than one bookmaker told me their handle through the first six months of the year, while awaiting the NFL and the players to settle their issues, was down seven figures. It's the little things they were missing: Bettors looking for action on season win totals in April or tourists coming through in the spring to bet baseball and putting down a dollar or two on Super Bowl futures. Those small wagers add up.
The NBA isn't nearly the draw the NFL is. While the Nevada Gaming Commission doesn't break down handle between college and pro sports, it's fair to say David Stern's gang comes in a distant fourth after the NFL, college football and college basketball. (Of the $2 billion-plus wagered on sports in Nevada each year, more than 40 percent is on the two footballs combined.) I got a taste of where the NBA falls in the hierarchy when, on Saturday morning, I kept firing off emails to Hilton bookmaker Jeff Sherman asking for up-to-date NBA betting info. After indulging me with a few answers, he finally sent a one-word response that read, "Stop." His point: It's a college football Saturday, nitwit. NBA season win totals do not matter.
Still, maybe not in the moment but over the course of the year, just as the NFL lockout nipped away at handle, so did the NBA's unfortunate break. The Hilton has actually had NBA futures posted since last season's finals ended. You can see them listed to the right.
At this point, the action has been, as Sherman emailed me before telling me to shut up, "very minimal." Jay Kornegay, Jeff's boss at The Hilton, emailed me later in the day and wrote, "Our handle is down about 15 percent from last year, and the struggling economy is also factored in this number. But we expected some of the pro handle to transfer to the college game, and it's been minimal. We're pleased to see the NBA is scheduled to be back on the betting boards. Merry Christmas to us."