SBD/March 1, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Silver Says Improving Competitive Balance A Major Goal Of NBA CBA Talks

Silver says James leaving Cavaliers as free agent was "worst possible situation"
NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said that the league "needs to do more to help small-market teams ... compete with franchises in larger markets," and that it is a "management goal as it embarks on a new collective bargaining agreement with players," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. Silver: "We're trying to formulate a new agreement that will allow teams like Portland -- smaller markets in the league -- to have an opportunity to be both profitable and competitive on the court." In addition to "fixing what Silver described as a 'broken economic model,' the league wants to assure that small market teams ... can compete with the appeal of players moving to larger market cities." Silver said, "I don't think we want a system where players are necessarily locked into place for their entire careers, because movement is good, for the players and the teams." But Silver added Heat F LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers as a free agent was the "worst possible situation." Silver: "Whether there should be compensation for that team or they should have had other benefits to offer (James) to get him to stay ... are things we need to look at" (, 2/25). Pacers Owner Herb Simon said, "I'm a little concerned about the gravitation away from the smaller teams. ... We need to even the playing field and do something about the disparity in revenues. It shouldn't be only the large markets who win championships." In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote, "What we're seeing is the AAU-ization of the NBA, with the top players wanting to join other stars to form super-teams." There "needs to be either a hard salary cap ... or the ability to apply an NFL-like franchise tag on top players" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/28).

OMINOUS SIGNS: In Boston, Mark Murphy reported players "departed All-Star weekend without much hope -- either from their own representatives or those in commissioner David Stern's army of lawyers -- that disaster is going to be averted next fall." NBA owners "seem committed to shutting down after the CBA expires at season's end." Celtics G Ray Allen is "rightly worried that based on perception, the players will shoulder part of the blame" for a lockout, "even if they cave in and owners still follow through with their threats." Allen: "A lot of people around the world don’t understand that we want to play, and it’s the owners who aren’t particularly happy with what’s going on. They want to change the business model. But we want to keep it going on, because we don’t want to lose the momentum we have. The league isn’t in a good place right now" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/27). The AP's Jim Litke wrote the NBA "hasn't been this entertaining in a while." Litke: "Hustle is in, the East is no longer the junior varsity, and players from top to bottom are putting on such a good show that most nights you'd swear everyone on the floor is angling for a new contract." With four months to go "on the owners' threat to lock them out and kiss off next season," the players are "taking their case to the public" (AP, 2/28).

DOES STATUS QUO WORK? In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wondered why fans in "non-glamour markets" should "even bother rooting for teams or going to games when they know they have little chance of keeping their star players and winning championships." Bianchi: "If this is what Commissioner David Stern and the NBA wants -- a few power teams in a few major markets -- then they should just contract the rest of the league and put Cleveland, Milwaukee, Sacramento, etc. out of their misery. Otherwise, the league needs to adopt an NFL-type franchise tag and/or a hard salary cap so mid-major teams can keep their star players and compete on a level playing field." The league "may like the short-term buzz it is getting from superstar players moving to major markets, but it will reach a point long-term where fans in the smaller markets will abandon their teams, stop buying tickets, quit watching the NBA and find something more productive to do with their time and money" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/26). But on Long Island, Barbara Baker wrote "superstar players are not wrecking the league," rather they are "generating more widespread interest than the NBA has seen in years." While some observers at the All-Star Game were "wringing their hands over the game's demise, the game itself drew its highest rating" since '03, up 37% over last year. The Heat-Celtics season opener also was the "most-watched NBA regular-season game in history." Baker: "The truth is that fans really don't like parity as much as they like good basketball or a good storyline. And right now, the NBA has plenty of both" (NEWSDAY, 2/27). In Toronto, Dave Perkins wrote, "Judging by soaring NBA television ratings, fans like watching superteams. They're surely tuning in to do it." Stern "need look no further than" MLB, which "has never been healthier financially." MLB "has been riding a good long upward swell and the main reason for it is that the New York Yankees got good again." The freedom for NBA stars to "map their common destiny is something the owners ... absolutely hate." Perkins wrote, "If sponsors, networks and big-market fans are happy, will the league really remake itself to gladden customers and proprietors in a few grumpy outposts? Maybe it will. But unless there's a mass exodus of customers from half the league's cities, we shouldn't hold our breath waiting" (TORONTO STAR, 2/26).

Some questioning why Hornets were able
to add to payroll with Landry trade
: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan noted Lakers coach Phil Jackson complained about "one of the least-tracked trades before Thursday's deadline," the NBA-owned Hornets receiving F Carl Landry from the Kings for G Marcus Thornton. Jackson "didn't have a problem with personnel;" it was "about money." Jackson: "I want to know who is making that trade and how they can take on that salary when everybody else in the league -- I mean this is the owners -- (has) to take on this extra salary. Those are things that seem to be manipulations that I'm not quite comfortable with. Where's the consensus? If New Orleans happens to win the championship, does everybody get a trophy in the NBA?" (L.A. TIMES, 2/26).

TRUEHOOP's Henry Abbott wrote Stern's "rhetoric about the Hornets has become fascinating and, if you're a Hornets [fan], maybe a little scary." Stern has "dipped into the NBA owners' pockets specifically in an effort to keep the team in the Crescent City," but that "does not mean that team is not, simultaneously, a pawn in various bigger games." Abbott wrote if the NBA's "rich teams are going to be forking over big dollars in revenue sharing" under a new CBA, there is a "ton of value for everyone in eliminating the teams that will collect the most." It "could also be powerful to threaten the players with contraction." Abbott: "Basically, if they're going to insist on a big percentage of the league's basketball revenues, the league can threaten to reduce player income the old-fashioned way: by eliminating jobs." Stern's "main point has always been that the league would try to make it work in New Orleans." But Stern in comments suggested that the NBA "has enough teams to serve the current market." Abbott: "He could have done wonders for the mood of Hornets fans by saying he would not consider shutting the team down. He did the opposite" (, 2/25).
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