SBD/July 20, 2012/Franchises

Rockets Struggle To Portray Jeremy Lin Signing As Strictly A Basketball Maneuver

Alexander (l) said the club has sold more tickets than expected at this point in the year
The Rockets officially introduced G Jeremy Lin Thursday and during the hour-long press conference, team brass "labored to portray the signing of Lin as strictly a basketball decision, as if acknowledging any influence of the business reasons behind the courtship opened some portal to their nefarious intentions," according to MK Bower of FOXSPORTSHOUSTON.com. Rockets Owner Les Alexander said the club has "sold a lot more tickets than we anticipated selling at this time of the season." But he also "dismissed valuing a marketing bonanza lacking on-court success by pondering: 'If you don't win, what difference does it make?'" Bower wrote at this stage, with Lin's "popularity as integral to his remarkable story as his perimeter jump shot, the Rockets are prepared to take full advantage of everything Lin brings to the table on and off the court." Since Monday, as rumors that Lin "would rejoin the Rockets strengthened, the Rockets have sold as many seats as they did during their 22-game winning streak from Jan. 29 through March 16, 2008." Beyond those figures, the Rockets "opted not to delve too deeply into the feasible financial effect of Lin serving as the face of their franchise." The correlation between Lin and former Rockets C Yao Ming appears "obvious and unavoidable." In much the "same way the Rockets fielded questions relating to their dual interests in drafting Yao first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft, they have been forced to revisit their history regarding their motives with Lin." The potential exists for Lin "to provide a measure of similar results, particularly if the Rockets can capitalize on his presence by further bolstering their roster and tasting success" (FOXSPORTSHOUSTON.com, 7/19). Rockets GM Daryl Morey said the financial benefit “is quite limited” for the Rockets with the signing of Lin. Morey: “We don’t get any of the merchandise, except in arena and things like that. It’s a lot less than people expect” ("TrueHoop TV," ESPN.com, 7/19).

ATTRACTION NEEDED: NBA.com's Fran Blinebury noted after three straight seasons "of being the last team to miss the playoffs and carrying the best record," the club was "in need of an attraction that would make the masses remember that the Rockets were still operating an NBA franchise." Alexander said, "I think the spotlight's important. We're gonna be on national TV now because of Jeremy and I think free agents want to be on teams that are in the national spotlight. So I think from a basketball standpoint we really improve our negotiations with many, many free agents." For now, Lin "will be the face of the franchise" (NBA.com, 7/19).

PAYING FOR ITSELF: TIME.com's Sean Gregory wrote as long as he "doesn’t regress on the court, Lin’s high salary ... could pay for itself, thanks to Houston’s global branding machine." Given the club's "prior inroads into China with Yao, the Rockets could afford to take more of a financial risk with Lin, who has started only 25 games in his NBA career." Lin will "probably put more Houston fans in seats." Last season, the Rockets finished 22nd in the NBA "in home attendance, averaging 15,363 fans per game -- that’s 85.1% of the Toyota Center’s capacity." So there is "room for growth, and Lin can provide a boost" (TIME.com, 7/19). In N.Y., Kate Murphy notes the Rockets' acquisition of Lin "was savvy if the team wanted to continue its popularity in China." When Yao was "on the roster, Rockets games had a Chinese audience as large as 30 million, according to CCTV5, the Chinese sports channel. And the NBA said it subsequently had amassed more than 41 million combined followers on Sina and Tencent," the Chinese versions of Twitter (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20).
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