One Man’s Plan, Hard Choices

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With things mostly quiet on the NBA lockout front the past few weeks, folks have had plenty of time to come up with their own theories as to how to solve the problem.

Few people have been as precise in their aim as HT fave Ken Berger of CBS Sports, whose detailed plan we have highlighted here several times in recent weeks.

His final installment, however, includes some suggestions that will make fans in certain cities cringe. The word “contraction” usually has that effect on the conversation. Berger calls for hard financial choices to be made.

Sure, it seems like a radical idea, yet as Berger explains in this first passage, all logical options must be considered:

“But if the owners and players want to find hundreds of millions more to close the gap, they should look no further than eliminating the two teams that are the biggest drains on a business model the NBA says can no longer operate in this much red. Before addressing which teams need to go, we need to understand the pros and cons of contraction — and some history.

Since its heyday as a 23-team league in the mid-1980s, the NBA has steadily expanded — to 25 (Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat), to 27 (Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves), to 29 (Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies), and finally to 30 (Charlotte Bobcats). Of the seven most recently added teams, two (Vancouver and Charlotte) no longer occupy the cities they expanded to and only the Heat and Raptors are considered money-makers for the league. (The Magic have been successful on the court, twice advancing to the NBA Finals, but according to Forbes Magazine lost $23.1 million in 2009-10, their final season in the old Amway Arena before moving last season to the new, $480 million, city-owned and financed Amway Center.)

The Hornets are in New Orleans, where they may not survive, and the Grizzlies are in Memphis, where they have wallowed near the bottom of league gate-receipts tables — though last season’s run to the Western Conference semifinals could provide a spark, if not a cure-all.

The Timberwolves somehow are still in Minneapolis, where they have been a drain on the public coffers ever since the city agreed to assume the debt, operational expenses and renovation responsibilities associated with the 20-year-old Target Center in 1995.

“It was one of those gun-to-your-head kind of deals,” said former Minneapolis councilman Paul Ostrow, who wasn’t on the council at the time but subsequently was a frequent and strident opponent of the city going further into debt to support the team and its aging arena. “It was like, ‘We’re going to leave town unless you do something.’ ”

Though both the league and players privately acknowledge that contraction has been discussed during collective bargaining, it has not been seriously considered, according to sources on both sides. Thirty player jobs would be lost, an anathema to the union, and no one would wish job losses on the dozens of basketball and non-basketball staffers whose livelihoods would be harmed.

Again, those would be hard choices, to be made during extremely hard times. By no means are we advocates of anyone, anywhere losing a job. But if the conversation reaches this point, hard choices will have to be made.

Optimists surely are hoping it never comes to this. Realists, meanwhile, understand that you can never completely count it out until a new deal is signed.

15 Comments

  1. R4 says:

    I’m just happy they at least we all know Toronto is Top ten money maker in nba and we don’t even go to the playoff. I feel like a little New York Knick team. So many fans always say I never see Toronto on Tv but from what I begin told you need money to watch every single game and if you don’t you will only watch the big team.

  2. watcher says:

    Contraction isnt gonna happen’. No owners are going to opt out without some form of compensation and the league won’t ever fall for the ABA’s St. Loius Spirits deal again, where Ozzie and Dan Silna receive a portion of NBA TV rights in perpetuity – Giving them $186 million for doing exactly nothing up until 2008 (Wikipedia).

  3. ZULU says:

    Thought you were on ‘cacation Sekou? If NBA owners are so HARD PRESSED financially. Why don’t they put their teams on the market (more often). Secondly, name me the player who had his agent draw up a dream contract and had it signed by a team without any questions? Finally, there isn’t one person who lambast the players for being ; over paid, spoiled and etc. That wants to take one dime less on their paycheck. If you don’t sign your own pay check then take a chill pill. By the way has Stern opted to take less or suspend his pay during this period of strife?

  4. lobsangrampa says:

    Dont’ buy NBA stuff, dont go to the games- let the greedy, selfish, reckless and immature players learn a lesson about responsibility and respect to thier fans

  5. lobsangrampa says:

    yesterday I posted a comment that suggested we boycott the NBA beacuse of their greed.

    It was removed….

  6. ritche noval says:

    it is up to the organization on how to settle their issue and league problems. what is more important is for them to make their moves as early as possible. other wise i cold say the end of more than 50 year old league is about to happen.

  7. Jeff says:

    move one to KC and eliminate the other.

  8. Max Trueblood says:

    But we also need to take into consideration that things run in cycles. People are quick to want to get rid of the Pacers and Timberwolves but if you asked people this question 10 years ago and suggested that we get rid of the Wolves and Pacers, you would be laughed out of the room. KG was leading the Wolves to the post season every year and the team sold out often.

    Ditto with the Pacers. They were a huge success before the malice at the palace and subsequent horrible front office decisions.

    Same with the Kings. They were America’s darlings and nobody could ever imagine them leaving. Berger is wrong on the arena front as well. The Sactown taxpayers will not be on the hook for a new building as it will be privately funded. Not only that but an entertainment center would be a huge boost to a boring downtown that needs to uplifted, something that will most likely not happen if an anchor tenant like the Kings leave town.

    Meanwhile, the Warriors, Mavericks, Magic, Hawks and Cavaliers were jokes and would probably have been good candidates for contraction had contraction been a hot button issue back then.

    It’s easy for people to get rid of other people’s favorite teams but when someone mentions that their own team be contracted, they get all snotty. These are the same people who feel that Seattle got a raw deal but at least a deserving market got a team in it’s place. With contraction, NOBODY gets the benefit of having a team.

    Let’s keep the league at 30 teams and focus on the financial issues that will allow all 30 of them to compete and quit looking to get rid of teams knowing full well that there is a fan base out there that will be losing a civic treasure and fun entertainment option.

    • David says:

      That’s not true, I live in Toronto but I would love to see that team get contracted. I’m not saying that it should because it is doing okay financially, but when it doesn’t, it would be a good idea to do so. Also, have a bad team is embarrasing. I watch the Heat now.

  9. Selfish Players says:

    This is ridiculous that we must even consider such a thing. These players are filthy stinkin’ rich, and they can’t afford to give up a tenth of their paycheck? The owners are pretty darn rich too, but the difference is that most of them are gradually losing money. What a disgrace to them, selfish greedy people nowadays. It’s absolutely stupid that we must even come to THINK about contraction. The NBA spoiled players from the start! And now they want more, just like little kids do when you buy them too many things.

    • Gary says:

      Yeah seriously, athletes are way overpaid, but the NBA and other leagues bring this kind of stuff upon themselves. Sucks that fans gotta suffer.

  10. erric says:

    But if the owners and players want to find hundreds of millions more to close the gap, they should look no further than eliminating the two teams that are the biggest drains on a business model the NBA says can no longer operate in this much red. Before addressing which teams need to go, we need to understand the pros and cons of contraction — and some history

  11. SkaterNate says:

    I think this could be a good idea. Like AJC stated about the recession. Businesses everywhere are having to cut out branches and employees. Even where I work it has happened. We closed down three of our ten facilities, and had to lay off about 25% of the workforce of the remaining facilities. Now 30 people is nothing compared to the losses our company has had. The staff and players who would be lost are all high caliber people who could easily find employment elsewhere. I mean if you are good enough to play in the NBA, then you are good enough to play in any other professional league around the world. And the staff members, if you are skilled enough to run as highly respected of business as an NBA franchise, then they too would easily be able to put their skills to work somewhere else. Tough times call for desperate measures. When the expenses exceed the profits, it is time to cut some expenses out. I think a small loss will greatly benefit the rest of the NBA and it’s franchises.

  12. MsBevBlack says:

    Wow!
    So much to consider, and hard choices has to be make. Unfortunately, the bottom line is, “it is what it is ” and you just have to accept things sometimes. Player and Owners should use their money very wisely, because in this day and time you never know when your current paycheck may be your last. Count your blessings!!!

  13. AJC says:

    I think contraction is an excellent idea. Obviously, during the current recession, the league cannot support the current 30 teams. Either relocate them to places where they would be profitable, even if it’s to Europe or places such like St. Louis, San Diego, or drop them entirely.

    However it should be noted that no business is guaranteed success, and the league should take note of this, more than half of all businesses eventually fail. There’s no valid reason for the league to use the players as leverage to guarantee the owners profits when the owner’s knew the risks when they purchased the teams. They should look to profit sharing revenues and other ways to spread the wealth and not at the expense of LABOR.