The NBA lockout is hurting nearly everyone ancillarily involved in the product of professional basketball in the United States. From the stadium workers to the fans to the writers and everyone else who depend on the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant plying their trade in NBA arenas, there are many people being affected by the current struggles between the owners and the players.
The one class of people that doesn't seem well-represented to this point in the lockout rants and musings, however, are probably the basketball players that are on the fringe of being able to say that they play in the NBA. Not the rookies, but the players that didn't take the quick-and-easy route to the NBA and instead reached the summit of their professional career just as they were entering their athletic prime.
Players like 28-year-old Larry Owens.
Owens isn't a household name like Kevin Garnett and he didn't make over ten million dollars in endorsements last season like Dwight Howard, but he's also a member of the National Basketball Players Association. And, as ESPN's David Thorpe pointed out Tuesday night, there's a rather large gap in the situations of some players compared to others.
"It's true that the owners represent vastly different situations, but it's also true on the players side. Garnett, Chris Paul and LeBron, meet the bench warmers," Thorpe wrote on Twitter. "End of the bench guys make tiny money compared to stars. Play fewer years. And have to fight off new talent every summer and fall."
While the aforementioned players have been preparing over the last couple years to sit out this season in exchange for the best Collective Bargaining Agreement possible, Owens has spent those seasons playing in Belgium or taking a cold bus from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Bismarck, N.D., while playing a back-to-back as a member of the NBA Development League's Tulsa 66ers.
That was all supposed to change this year for Owens, however. The veteran seemingly parlayed his status as a hard-worker and solid defender with Tulsa into a full-time job with the Washington Wizards after earning a call-up from the NBA team last season following a stint with the San Antonio Spurs.
Owens received a qualifying offer from the Wizards prior to the start of the lockout, guaranteeing him at least some sort of NBA salary for the upcoming season -- unless, as it seems might happen, there is no upcoming NBA season as the two sides dig in after already canceling the beginning of the regular season.
In that case, as is the case of numerous other veterans hoping to play this season before their window of opportunity is closed once again, missing an entire season could be devastating.