SBJ/February 27-March 5, 2017/Franchises

Lakers making bold changes

The Los Angeles Lakers spent the NBA All-Star break making bold changes to their basketball operations. Jeanie Buss hired Magic Johnson to run basketball operations after firing her brother Jim. She hired agent Rob Pelinka to replace longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak. Longtime PR executive John Black also left the team.

With a 19-39 record at the All-Star break after last year’s franchise-worst 17-65 season, the Lakers likely will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The on-court disarray hasn’t yet significantly hurt the team’s business operations: Staples Center is still sold out and local TV ratings on Spectrum SportsNet are up 3 percent.

New Lakers poobah Magic Johnson in New Orleans
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
But the recent lack of the Lakers on-court relevance within the NBA isn’t good for the league’s overall business. One basketball insider is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the Lakers’ sweeping moves given that Johnson has never run an NBA franchise.

“The NBA wants the Lakers to be successful, but the impact of these moves will be based on the results,” said one NBA agent. “There is always a level of optimism when you make a change. Rob has a ton of experience in the business but this is a new role for Magic. Players love L.A., but it will come down to their meetings with free agents and when you hear their vision.”

Compare the Lakers front office overhaul to the improved state of the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that like the Lakers has struggled mightily on the court over the past few years.

The Sixers are on the upswing both on the court and at the box office. Since January the team has sold 2,100 new full-season tickets for the 2017-18 season. It’s a noteworthy number given that last year, the team won only 10 games. But this year, the Sixers went 10-5 in the month of January alone, grabbing fans’ attention just as the team began selling for next season.

The Sixers haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2011-12 season, but the franchise has been readying itself to take advantage of the improved product on the court.

“We have the sales investment and culture,” said Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil.

Also helping sales: The Sixers for the first time this year have joined many other NBA teams in using an auto-renewal program and recently rolled out its “Welcome To The Moment” marketing campaign.

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