SBD/Issue 49/Franchises

NBA Franchise Notes: Thunder Drawing Less-Than-Capacity Crowds

Thunder Coming Up Short
Of Sell-Outs At Ford Center
In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel wrote fan response to the Thunder this season "certainly is not what we expected after the romance of the Hornets." Wednesday night's Clippers-Thunder game at the Ford Center was attended by 18,312 fans, 824 short of capacity, and that has "become their standard crowd." The team "would have had a sellout had management not made the still-strange decision to cap season-ticket sales." Tramel: "Prediction: the Thunder won't make that mistake again. ... I thought it would be a season sellout, and I think the Thunder management thought so, too." But if 18,200 is going to be the "bad crowds, then the [Thunder] are the least of the NBA's attendance problems" (NEWSOK.com, 11/20). Thunder fans have started booing the team, and ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "People in Oklahoma City should not be booing. They should be crawling on the ground to kiss the feet of the athletes who go to Oklahoma City to play pro ball” (“PTI,” ESPN, 11/20).

SILENT WARRIOR: In Oakland, Monte Poole noted the Warriors have "spent the past couple of months going about their business" as if Warriors Exec VP/Basketball Operations Chris Mullin, who is in the final year of his contract, is "off in the distance, isolated, clinging to an impressive title but stripped of real power." Mullin is "seen but not heard," which is "odd for a lot of reasons." Since Warriors President Robert Rowell suspended G Monta Ellis for 30 games, it has been "all [Rowell], all the time," even when it involves a matter "directly related to basketball -- which theoretically falls under Mullin's authority." The relationship between the two "begs for clarity to ease minds and to end the choosing of sides among fans and observers" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 11/20).

CASH-STRAPPED: In Atlanta, Kristi Swartz reports NBA President of League & Basketball Operations Joel Litvin Thursday testified that whether Texas business exec David McDavid "had enough cash on hand to support the money-losing Hawks would have been a concern for the NBA had the league received his application to buy the team." Court documents indicated that McDavid, who attempted to buy the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena's operating rights from Turner Broadcasting in '03, had a net worth of $181M. The documents also showed that "about $80[M] of that was in cash -- $60[M] of which McDavid said he would pay up front to buy the teams." McDavid filed a $450M breach-of-content lawsuit against Turner for selling to the Atlanta Spirit, but Turner execs have testified that the Spirit was "a better deal for the media company, partly because the investors had the cash to do the deal" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/21).

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