Wednesday, October 05, 2011

NBA negotiations stall, and a partial season cancellation looms; sportswriters slam owners who gain many advantages beyond the team

Why was Jay-Z, owner of a minuscule slice of the Nets, front-and-center at the September 26 promotional event announcing the unsurprising news that the team would be the Brooklyn Nets and he'd open the arena with some concerts.

Why is he the face of a marketing campaign?

Well, not only is he a celebrity, labor negotiations prevent the teams from using any of their players. And now it looks like at least some of the season will be lost.

Taking the side against owners

The owners want a greater share of basketball-related revenues, and also want a version of a salary cap to impose some parity among larger- and smaller-market teams. If the sometimes profligate player millionaires are not the easiest group to feel sympathy for, the sometimes profligate owners, who are much, much richer, are an even tougher call.

And that's partly because they fudge the numbers.

In a 10/3/11 essay headlined Letter to players raises fair questions, ESPN the Magazine's Ric Bucher wrote:
It's common knowledge around the NBA that, as the agents' letter points out, those financial records don't account for all sorts of money-making enterprises the owners have and benefit from because they own an NBA franchise. It doesn't account for owners who bought an arena in conjunction with buying a team, and therefore can reap the profits of staging concerts and conventions and monster-truck rallies. It doesn't account for the regional TV networks various owners have, where they get to negotiate TV broadcast deals with themselves because televising their teams' games is the signature content.
The deal for the Nets has already been boosted. I'd add that it doesn't account for owners who reap significant subsidies in building that arena. And Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov has already reaped reams of publicity.

SB Nation's Tom Ziller, in his 10/4/11 essay NBA Lockout Allows Owners To Cheat Fans, Embrace Greed, wrote:
[Phoenix Suns owner Robert] Sarver is dead weight. As Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Tuesday, he brings no value to the NBA. None. People bitch about Eddy Curry, but Eddy Curry isn't holding the league hostage. You want to blame Eddy Curry for the lockout? Robert Sarver is Eddy Curry, a man who spoiled the trust of those who paid him and does absolutely nothing to improve the game. People joke about NBA players who buy Maybachs they don't need, jewelry instead of bonds. Let me tell you this: no player in NBA history has squandered as much money as Robert Sarver has just on the Suns since he bought in. You wonder how a player like Antoine Walker can go broke after making $108 million in the NBA? Ask how Sarver can do the same thing on a much grander (if less stylish) scale. Ask how the mighty Maloof brothers can crush their family's empire and take a whole city's sports identity down with it. Ask how Bruce Ratner can burn through stacks of money like firewood without even one eye on the product on the court. But the biggest difference is that when Antoine Walker burns his loot, the guy has to shimmy down to Puerto Rico and to the D-League to making a living. He has get back on his feet on hustle. Sarver? He gets a bailout. The Maloofs? They pawn off one of their dad's businesses. Ratner? He remembers that the Nets he lost so much money on were simply Vaseline for a real estate project in Brooklyn that will make his company billions more than an NBA team could ever be worth.
It might do that, but only thanks to some gentle state deadlines.

The noise at the arena

In a 9/23/11 Sports Illustrated piece headlined 20 Things We Wouldn't Miss About the NBA #18 was:
The barrage of the senses in arenas
Allow us a moment to shoo the dance teams off the court and mute the sound effects. We need some peace. With the nonstop assault on the senses found in NBA arenas, it's clear no team feels the game is enough. Players are introduced to streams of fire. Defensive sets are deployed with pleas from the PA announcer to clap in rhythm. And timeouts are called so shirts can be air-cannoned into the third deck. The game sometimes feels as if it is just another distraction in a series of them.
High ticket prices bring a crowd that isn't necessarily courted for its basketball IQ, so turning a game into an event is good business to an extent. But there are moments when a soundtrack isn't needed. Give fans the space to think about who set the pick that freed up Dirk Nowitzki for a jumper and you just might get a fan who'll still come when a team struggles. Allow the buzz of a late, tied game to build suspense rather than some player yelling in a video for more noise and you'll get a crowd that identifies with a team, and doesn't just watch it. After years of watching teams try to pump life into fans with the same stale mix of Billy Idol tunes, could silence really be that worse of a sell?. -- Paul Forrester
That fits with my experience at a Nets game: Team Hype: At the Izod Center, noise and flash obscure the hoops.

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