George's Arrival Hasn't Boosted Thunder Ticket Sales Due To Lack Of Available Inventory
Thunder F Paul George being traded from the Pacers this offseason "wasn't exactly a launching point" for Thunder ticket sales, according to Erik Horne of the OKLAHOMAN. But it is "hard to receive a boost when you've maintained the popularity" the Thunder have, even with the arrival of George. Thunder Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Brian Byrnes said, "That really doesn't change when you acquire Paul George because there wasn't really a lot of inventory available to sell or to market, which is a really good sign." Byrnes said that for the last seven seasons the Thunder have had a "season-ticket renewal rate" between 94-96%. Following F Kevin Durant's departure to the Warriors in free agency in the summer of '16, it remained at 96% and is at 94% "going into this season." For the Thunder, moments like the draft or a "massive trade acquisition don't deliver run-to-the-box office impact since there's simply not ticket inventory available." Byrnes: "The question of how do we see the impact of Paul George on the business ... we're probably not there yet. There'll be an opportunity in the fall when merchandise sales, where television ratings might be indicators." He added, "We've seen a lot of demand for Paul George t-shirts and those things, but sometime around training camp or so we'll be able to show what the last two or three months have looked like and the impact" (OKLAHOMAN, 8/20).
CAN'T TAKE A JOKE? In L.A., Mark Whicker writes the NBA's investigation into whether the Lakers tampered with George has "become the definition of tampering, apparently." You might as well "punish an ostrich for burying his head." The investigation came after Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson made an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in April. When Johnson was asked what would happen if he encountered George he said, "I can’t say I want you [to] come to the Lakers, even though I’ll be doing this," and started wink-winking. Whicker: "That was a big laugh line, of course, and if you watch the video you wonder if the NBA office should maybe take up meditation or soft-tissue massage or other chill-out activities." This "did not rise to the level of corporate raiding" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/22). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto said, “If the Lakers get punished, it will only be because they were clumsy at it. The reason why they were clumsy at it was because Magic Johnson's been a general manager for 18 minutes" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 8/21). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley: "Magic's just in a tricky position, a former player who's now a team president" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 8/21). TNT's Charles Barkley said, "I'd be very surprised if they had anything on Magic. ... It's like one of the worst kept secrets in the world, Paul George wants to go to the Lakers next summer" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/22).
GO AHEAD, FINE US: ESPN's Ramona Shelburne said the investigation began partially because the Lakers have been "very brazen talking ... openly" about trying to add George. She said the Lakers were "almost daring Indiana or other teams" to file a tampering complaint. The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke: "There’s no way the NBA is going to do anything about it because everybody tampers all the time” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/21). FS1's Eric Davis said, "Should the league view this as tampering? Yes. Should Magic have avoided this? Yes. Are they going to punish him? No. ... The Lakers not being good is bad for the league” (“Speak for Yourself,” FS1, 8/21). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "understands that the Lakers, not the Pacers, are intrinsic to the success of the league" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/21).