There isn’t going to be any contraction of NBA teams, it’s a red herring in negotiations.
Why? Because first you need an owner willing to sell his team back to the league, and right now nobody seems willing (although NBA Commissioner David Stern did say on Los Angeles radio today it has happened in the past, just not recently). Even if there was, you’d have to convince all 29 other owners to pitch in to buy the team from the selling owner, by spending $250 million to $300 million at least (say roughly $10 million per owner). Will not happen.
How contraction ends up on the table at all is interesting, because it comes out of the fact that all the owners are not on the same page heading into the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. A small market vs. big market debate on limiting salaries and revenue sharing has started but that is different than consensus.
Stern tries to make it like there is consensus, as he did in a pre-game press conference before the Lakers opener Tuesday. Look at what he said about revenue sharing:
“And actually we have broad agreement by the large grossing teams that this is a fair and necessary subject for discussion and that’s where we are.”
So where they are is that the big market teams — the Buss family and the Lakers, the Dolans with the Knicks, and a handful of others — are willing to talk about it. Not agree to it, not reach into their wallets and fork over money to strengthen competitors. They are just saying everyone should talk about it.
“On top of that with revenue sharing, which is a subject that’s going to be very much at the fore and I’m keeping it there, that’s what leads to discussion if we’re going to give a cut of TV money and we’re going to give revenue sharing — do we need so many teams?” said Stern….
“A team might raise its hand — and has — and said, ‘Listen, if we’re (giving up) $30 million from network television money and… let’s say we’re going to have to pay another $15 million in revenue sharing. That’s $45 million. If (we’re paying it to) a team that’s never going to be profitable, why are we doing that? Why don’t we have a different discussion?’”
And that’s how contraction gets on the table. Some big market owners trying to get leverage in their internal battle with small markets over revenue sharing.
The big market owners see what has happened with revenue sharing in baseball, where the Yankees and Red Sox and other have paid but some small market owners have basically just pocketed the money. The NBA big market owners want re-investment and some value back for what they give up.
We’re focused on the owners here, because Stern discussed it in a press conference a couple nights ago, but there are similar issues on the players’ side. Are the handful of max-deal players out there willing have their earnings cut back so that there can be more of a middle class in the NBA? Or are we evolving toward an NBA where there are a small percentage of guys at the top making huge money because they draw in fans and sell jerseys, then everybody else makes a million or two max? You can bet all the players are not on the same page about this.
It’s complex. Stern seems confident he can get there, that these same people have essentially negotiated the last few of these CBAs and they get the game. Maybe. But Stern works for the owners and I’ve talked to enough people on the owners’ side to know a few want blood, they want to make radical changes in the economics of the game and if that means missing part of a season with a lockout, so be it.
Everyone is not on the same page about that, either.