Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nets' season surpasses debut year, but second round loss is no championship; rising team revenue doesn't mean profit; fandom in Brooklyn slowly taking hold

Well, the Brooklyn Nets had a pretty good season, at least compared to last year, when they lost in the first round of the playoffs, and compare to cross-town rivals the New York Knicks, who didn't even make the playoffs in a diminished Eastern Conference.

After all, the Nets had a terrible start--injuries to star Brook Lopez, chemistry issues, stumbling by rookie coach Jason Kidd--but recovered hugely by January. The Brooklyn Game praised them for continually rising from the dead.

But after sweeping the defending champion Miami Heat in the regular season--a season in which the Heat were notably inconsistent--the Nets lost to the Heat in the second round of the playoffs 4-1, triggering all sorts of post-mortems.

It also, as shown at the right, triggered another selling opportunity. But isn't a 30% off "thank you" a suggestion that people who played full-price were suckers?

The ever-spinning CEO Brett Yormark wrote to fans that "Our goal this season was to strengthen our on-court performance, which we did..." Last September, he said, "Nothing but a championship is going to be accepted."

A changing cast

Meanwhile, the players rotate in and out. Gerald Wallace and Jason Terry are gone and forgotten. Other question marks remain. As noted in the Wall Street Journal:
The Nets didn't win that title they've been talking about since general manager Billy King dealt three first-round picks and some unwanted contracts to the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. And with only one second-round win to show for a record $192 million in player salaries and luxury taxes, King had a lot to answer for when speaking with the press for the final time this season.
He defended his decision to bring in Pierce and Garnett, saying that even one season from the duo made the trade worthwhile, which is good because that might be all he gets out of the deal.
Pierce may sign elsewhere--or note. Garnett may retire--or not. Some key role players may leave--or not. Injured center Brook Lopez must recover. Putative star point guard Deron Williams needs surgery too.  Prokhorov spent $190M for fun Nets ride, but don’t call it success, wrote the Post's Mike Vaccaro.

A business success?

As noted by ESPN's Darren Rovell:
The NBA's most expensive roster fell short of its on-court goals Wednesday night, but the Brooklyn Nets are still big winners on the bottom line.

...At the Barclays Center, ticket prices have risen significantly -- and fans paid them. In 2011-12, the team's last year in New Jersey, the team was 27th in the league in ticket revenue. This year, a league source pegs them at No. 5.

The team sold 4,000 "All-Access" seats on three-year contracts when the Barclays Center opened last season. The Nets have already extended 1,500 of those contracts beyond the original end date.

And they've virtually maxed out the prime revenue-generating suite areas.... Thanks to a fresh black-and-white look and the hipness of the Brooklyn name, the Nets will finish seventh this season in gear sales.
Even if fans spend more at Nets games, the team is still losing money, because of a huge luxury tax. Arena revenues are far below those projected.

Where are the fans?

The Brooklyn Nets are new, so they're able to fill the building and sell gear without necessarily winning over the region.

The New York Times's The Upshot, using the very imperfect proxy of Facebook likes, show that the Knicks, in orange, dominate the region, and even the purple Lakers and gray-green Heat have their fans in Jersey, former home of the Nets.
via The Upshot

And while the map leaves the impression the Nets are behind the Knicks in much of Brooklyn, they're pretty close in many precincts and, overall, lead by 22% to 21%.

They've completely lost New Jersey but recreated a fan base in and around Brooklyn. Nets fandom is strongest in the orbit of the Barclays Center, but it's hardly Dodgers redux.

It is clear, as shown in the map below, that other teams have much wider influence. Though winning sure would have helped, the Nets should grow their fan base over time. 

But Brooklyn and New York City are large enough that even a second-string fan base is enough to fill seats--after all, that's what happens in Los Angeles.
via The Upshot

The game changers

From the BROOKLYN INFLUENTIALS package in the Observer, The Nets: The Game Changers
It can be hard to separate the Brooklyn Nets, the basketball team that went on a tremendous 2014 run culminating in what will at least be an appearance in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, from the circumstances that brought them to Brooklyn and the clownish brand-humping of their executives. But if you do, what you’re left with is not only a professional major sports franchise with “Brooklyn” on its jerseys, but also the first major American professional sports franchise to sign an openly gay player in Jason Collins. Nets jerseys and hats can be seen everywhere in the borough, thanks in no small part to the fact that they read “Brooklyn” and not “Nets,” but they’ve made enough of an impact that Brooklyn will be getting a second team fleeing from “tristate area” status to bona fide city team status when the New York Islanders set up shop at the Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season.

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