What to watch this NBA season
|The Golden State Warriors want to build a $1 billion arena on the waterfront in San Francisco.
■ The Golden State Warriors continue their push for a $1 billion arena and development project along the waterfront in San Francisco. The centerpiece is an 18,000-seat arena that the team wants to open in 2017. But it’s a complex project full of political hurdles that will test the patience and skills of team President and COO Rick Welts. While Welts works on the arena, the Warriors work on becoming one of the NBA’s most successful teams off the court. The team boasts a franchise record season-ticket base of 14,000 and a 38-game sellout streak behind rising star Stephen Curry. It bears watching whether the Warriors can continue to prosper while lobbying to complete their massive arena development plan.
Kings and their court
■ Some 90 miles to the northwest of San Francisco, Sacramento Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadivé wants to build a $448 million downtown facility to replace Sleep Train Arena. The arena project was critical in the Kings’ sale to the Ranadivé group over a group that wanted to move the franchise to Seattle. Keeping the project on the fast track while rebuilding the Kings franchise is job one for Ranadivé, who hired respected NBA executive Chris Granger as team president. Granger has loads of talent and experience gained from running the NBA’s team marketing and business operations division. How he takes to his new position while driving the Kings’ business will be worth watching.
■ The NBA this season is allowing teams to sell advertising space on the playing floor in front of the team benches as a compromise of sorts for failed efforts to allow uniform advertising. The highly visible on-court space is seen as prized sponsorship inventory that could generate seven-figure deals, but it bears watching to see how many teams land deals — and at what price.
|New coach Brett Brown is among those trying to get the 76ers pointed in the right direction.
■ Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris has been busy trying to turn around a beleaguered franchise that last year ranked near the bottom in the league in average attendance and season-ticket sales. Harris hired a new head coach in Brett Brown, a new general manager in Sam Hinkie, and a new CEO in Scott O’Neil. O’Neil, the former president of Madison Square Garden Sports, is known as an effective and creative manager, but reversing the course in Philadelphia for an impatient owner poses a big challenge.
■ Can the Los Angeles Lakers rebound after a soap-opera-like 2012-13 season? The team battled through the failed Dwight Howard experiment, the firing of former head coach Mike Brown after only five games, and the loss of Kobe Bryant to injury. The Lakers squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of last season and were promptly swept out of the first round. Off the court, the Lakers suffered the loss of legendary owner Jerry Buss. The question remains whether the team can thrive under the direction of Jeanie and Jim Buss and whether the aging Bryant can return to form after rupturing his Achilles last year.
|Rudy Gay (left), Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan have some fun at Raptors Media Day in September.
■ Nobody has been more aggressive in ushering in change as Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Raptors. The changes in Toronto have been coming fast and furious since the brash Leiweke joined MLSE in April. He revamped the team’s front office, moving out Bryan Colangelo and hiring a new general manager in Masai Ujiri, and restructured the team’s sales and marketing functions. He also helped persuade the NBA to bring the 2016 NBA All-Star Game north of the border and insists on making the Raptors more relevant not only in Toronto but in the league. A new team branding effort is under way with new colors and a new identity aimed at changing the culture surrounding a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs in the past five years.