Indianapolis, Kansas City, and the changing arena economy

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What do you look at to tell if a team is doing well? Attendance, right? After all, the way to tell how good a team is if they have fans coming to games.  Low attendance means you’re not making money. Sure, the Clippers are the exception, but it’s L.A. Everything’s overpriced. But attendance is still the real determining factor in success.

Right?

In the words of Dwight Schrute, “False.”

The real key to a franchise’s success is a more complicated algorithm that factors in sponsorships, partnerships, and attendance. But the attendance piece isn’t built on sheer numbers, but in quality.

The Dallas Morning News’ Mark Francescutti has an excellent article today outlining the success teams are having by doing something counter-intuitive. Slashing prices. The Mavs are obviously the centerpiece, with this money quote from Mark Cuban:

“Bottom line is that the upper bowl is becoming a smaller and smaller
part of our total revenue,” owner Mark Cuban
wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “So we would rather
have a full house than make a couple dollars more. More fans means a
better home-court advantage, it means a better fan experience, which in
turn means more sales.”

The reason that the Mavs can make those kind of cuts is because the modern arena economy is now dependent on corporate suites and club seating. By focusing on those tickets, it allows the teams to fill out the big house.

This is why so many owners are requesting new arenas (outside of sheer greed). The modern economy has shifted to a sleeker, more efficient model and many older arenas are simply not fitted to that model.

Which brings us to the case of Indianapolis versus Kansas City. We told you yesterday about the Pacers potentially being sold for dirt cheap (that’s right, $230 million is cheap in what we’re talking about). One of the reasons a potential owner may want to relocate the team is because of the way the arena is configured.

Conseco Fieldhouse has 69 luxury suites. To put that in perspective, American Airlines Center in Dallas has 144 suites. Geez. Even smaller markets like the Rose Garden in Portland has 70 suites. Arco Arenas is severely behind with only 30 suites, one of the reason a new arena is a major issue in Sacramento. The Toyota Center in Houston has 80 suites.

Now, market size is going to be a huge factor, but so is how new the arena is, as well as what kind of club level seats are available. Kansas City has been a place discussed as a potential arena location for years, because they have a brand new arena, the Sprint Center, with no tenant. Huge building, no tenant. The arena also features 72 suites and a higher capacity for club seats than Conseco. So you’d have a similar overhead structure in a cheap city, with a building that maximizes profit, if you can fill it.

The arena itself is beautiful. When I spoke with Hornets’ guard Chris Paul at a preseason game in KC, he remarked that he “couldn’t believe how nice the arena was.” Everyone that attends an event there is stunned it’s so nice and even more amazed it has not regular tenant, outside of whatever Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers/Nickelback merchandise-fest is in town.

The public funding issue is going to be a problem anywhere in this country during the recession, but somewhere like Indiana with traditional Midwestern values is going to be even less likely to pony up for some new owner to build an arena he can charge more for to see a team that won’t be good for some time.

The Pacers are an institution. But this situation become representative of the changes going on in modern arena structuring.

UPDATE: Some interesting numbers on a few other arenas. The new Amway Center for the Magic will only feature 56 suites with 10 specialty suites. Similarly Charlotte features 67 suites, but does feature another 60 “lodge boxes.”

Additionally, a commenter points out that Conseco features two hosptiality suites, making for a total of 71 suites in Conseco to 72 at Sprint Center. It’s easy to argue that moving from Indiana to KC would be a lateral move, and a costly one at that.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.