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Volume 20 No. 42
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5 Questions for the NBA

Will there be a jersey jackpot?

Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images

The NBA has spent the past year studying and debating whether to go the way of the English Premier League and allow advertising on team game jerseys. It’s a big, complicated leap, one that would make the NBA the first of the big four sports leagues to sell game-jersey sponsorships. It’s also seen as one of the most lucrative new revenue opportunities for the league.

But putting logo patches on game uniforms won’t happen at least until the 2013-14 season. Until then, major questions remain, including putting a range of value on the deals and figuring out how the revenue would be divided among large- and small-market teams.

Teams, no doubt, are antsy for more local revenue, but can the league sort out the issues to satisfy not only its owners, but also its television partners and sponsors?

Will the Nets find success in Brooklyn?
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images

The renamed and rebranded Brooklyn Nets have moved across the Hudson River into the sparkling new Barclays Center where hopes are sky high in the borough. But will the Nets leverage their new home into success both on and off the court? Will the Nets chip away at rival Madison Square Garden’s market share dominance? Can the franchise owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov build a championship franchise within three years as he expects?

The Nets have entered Brooklyn with a big splash with their new arena, a new logo and brand designed by celebrity owner Jay-Z, and a commitment from ownership to build a contending team. So far, the Nets are off to a blazing start, but all eyes will be on whether the team can truly flourish with its new home and new identity.

Can the Hornets build some buzz?
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson last season swooped in and bought the Hornets from the NBA for roughly $300 million. Now in his first season of NBA ownership, everyone is watching to see how Benson uses the local power and market dominance of the Saints to help drive the Hornets’ business.

Already there is strong cross-pollination between the two front-office staffs, with Saints President Dennis Lauscha also taking the same role with the Hornets.

Leading up to the sale, the Hornets, city leaders, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal rallied to push season-tickets sales to 10,000. The team also won a key new lease at the New Orleans Arena, along with tax breaks and funding to improve the facility. In addition, the Hornets signed a new, more lucrative local television deal.

But running an NBA team with 41 home dates is far different than running an NFL franchise with eight regular-season home games. How Lauscha builds on the team’s newfound traction in small-market New Orleans and how he adapts to running the Hornets bears watching. So, too, is watching how the Saints leverage their massive season-ticket base into business on the basketball side.

Will a new ticket partnership pay off?
The NBA and Ticketmaster enter a brave new world this season as they partner to create a comprehensive, one-stop shopping online site that lists every available ticket for all 30 teams.

What’s noteworthy is that the site will also sell

secondary inventory along with primary tickets as the league looks for more control and profit from the secondary ticket market. Even the six teams that don’t have deals with Ticketmaster will be listed on the site. The league is banking on shopping ease and convenience for fans using the site to drive ticket sales.

Teams like the new deal because it uses the branding power of the entire league to help sell individual team tickets. They also like the promise of data collection and analytics to be gleaned from the site to help provide a better profile of ticket buyers.

How effective and how much more ticket inventory will be sold on the site bears watching as the NBA rolls out the new platform this fall.

Can the Kings find a new home?
George (left) and Gavin Maloof have been unable to strike an arena deal in Sacramento.
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images

Not so long ago, Kings owners Joe, George and Gavin Maloof were the toast of the NBA with their team playing in front of sellout crowds every night in small-market Sacramento. Now, uncertainty reigns over the beleaguered franchise after the Kings pulled the plug on a new arena deal led by former NBA star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

While the Kings and the city point fingers at each other over the inability to land a deal to replace the team’s outdated arena, other cities are licking their chops.

Seattle, which lost the Sonics franchise in 2008 after owner Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City, has a new arena deal in place. Anaheim city leaders last year nearly persuaded the Maloofs to move south, while a group in Virginia Beach has set its sights on building an NBA-ready facility.

How the Maloofs play the relocation card and what type of deal they can muster is one of the biggest issues in the league.