Is the wine glass half full or half empty with WNBA finances?

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Television ratings are up. But the numbers are still small. Attendance is down. But sponsorship dollars are up.

 

Looking at the WNBA finances, it’s how you look at the glass of Chardonnay – half full or half empty.

 

The Sports Business Journal took a look at the league heading into the start of the playoffs this week and found a mixed bag.

 

Average attendance for the 12-team league through last Wednesday was down 3.7 percent to an average of 7,679 fans per game, compared with last year’s average of 7,971 through the same date. The 2009 average includes teams in Detroit and Sacramento, markets that are no longer in the league…Comparing only the 11 teams that played in both 2009 and 2010, average attendance was up 0.5 percent heading into the season’s final games this past weekend, WNBA officials said…

 

The WNBA this year signed new league partnerships with Jamba Juice, Coca-Cola and Pirate’s Booty snack food and doubled its number of team marquee deals, which include jersey sponsorships, to four…”Over the past two seasons, our teams have been diligent in improving the business model,” [WNBA President Donna] Orender said.

 

On TV, the WNBA as of last week was averaging a 0.2 cable rating and 263,000 viewers over 17 games on ESPN2, compared with a 0.2 rating and 234,000 viewers for nine regular-season games on ESPN2 last year.

 

So the ratings are up to about half of what an NHL game draws (and they get ripped for their ratings). For comparison, ESPN drew a 1.1 rating last season on its regular season NBA games, or about 1.65 million viewers. Playoff ratings were through the roof, the best the NBA had seen since the Jordan era.

 

The WNBA finances seem to be improving, along with the economy. It’s not going anywhere, which is good for women’s sports and in that way good for our culture. But it also remains a niche sport played when most Americans are thinking about baseball, golf and NASCAR as their viewing options.

 

Of course, the WNBA is not on the edge of a lockout, so they have that going for them. Which is nice.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

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That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.