Kurt Helin

Image courtesy Golden State Warriors

Warriors fans will need to buy “memberships” to then pay for season seats in new arena

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Going to NBA games — particularly playoffs and NBA Finals games — at Oracle Arena in Oakland is a joy because it is loud and filled with exuberance and love of the sport. It feels more like a college atmosphere (with beer) than it does the more staid feel of many modern NBA arenas. I hope the Warriors don’t lose that when they move into their new arena in San Francisco in the fall of 2019.

What I do know: It’s going to cost some serious bank just to have the right to buy season seats in the new building.

The Warriors are making teams buy “memberships” for the right to buy season tickets — just don’t call them “personal seat licenses.” The San Francisco Chronicle has the details.

The team is calling it a “membership” program, and it will require season-ticket buyers to pay a one-time fee that will enable them to buy their seats for 30 years. In a unique twist yet to be used in any pro sport, the Warriors promise to pay back that fee after 30 years.

Golden State’s ticket plan represents the latest evolution of a business trend that has deep roots here in the Bay Area, where Al Davis and the Raiders were pioneers in selling “personal seat licenses,” and where both the Giants and the 49ers used similar strategies to help finance their new stadiums. The twist the Warriors are stressing is that, unlike PSLs, which required a one-time cost allowing a customer to buy season tickets every year, this plan involves a refund at the end.

How exactly does this work?

If you want to own Warriors season tickets, you would pay a one-time fee for the right to purchase your seats every year for the next 30 years. You can do that in one lump sum, or finance the payments. That’s a big commitment, but the team says memberships will be transferable and can be sold, but only through a marketplace run by the team.

How much are they? The Warriors say about half the memberships will be less than $15,000, the other half scale up from there.

In the Bay Area, there was zero chance the Warriors would be able to get public funding to help them build this new $1 billion arena (as it should be everywhere, but that’s another rant for another time). This is the Warriors’ way to essentially get an interest-free loan to help pay for part of that arena. This is not a plan that will work in every market, but with the money available in San Francisco they can pull it off.

This arena is going to generate a lot of new revenue for the team outside of just this membership fee, and those fattened revenue streams are something Warriors ownership is counting on to help them keep the best — and soon to be the most expensive — team in the NBA together.

Adam Silver on sports gambling: “My sense is the law will change in the next few years”

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This isn’t new ground for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. He has called legalized sports gambling in the United States “inevitable” and advocated in the New York Times for the federal government to put in a framework to control it. He’s not been shy about telling the heads of the other major sports leagues what he sees coming. Mark Cuban has Silver’s back on this one.

The commissioners of the four major sports were all on hand for a panel called “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports” in New York on Wednesday, and Silver’s position hasn’t changed, reports ESPN.

“My sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States,” Silver said when asked about gambling.

He also stressed the importance of in-game wagering to fan engagement, noting, “People want to bet throughout the game … It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans.”

I’m not sure about “the next few years” timeline. I would rather be forced to watch The Emoji Movie than try to predict what the current Congress will do, but with its current conservative makeup legalizing sports betting seems unlikely.

But in the next decade or two… it feels like Silver may be right. The Supreme Court is taking up the case of whether the federal government can block states — in this case, New Jersey specifically — from allowing sports gambling. That could open the door for other states to follow.  Governments state and federal will not see it as a moral issue so much as a new revenue generator — they can tax it. So it will happen. Eventually.

With that Silver is right, professional sports leagues need to be prepared for that reality. The NBA seems to be out in front of that, ready to ride the wave when it crests. For now, they are just paddling around waiting for the right wave to ride.

Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis: “My prediction is John Wall will sign his extension”

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John Wall is one of the handful of NBA players who qualifies for the new designated veteran “super max” contract extension — and the Wizards want to give it to him. A four-year, $170 million extension of his current deal is on the table (it would kick in after the two years, $37 million on his current contract).

Wall has yet to sign it. He said at the time it was offered he wanted to talk about it with his family and see what the Wizards did this offseason. He’s not unhappy, he just wants to be sure before he locks himself in with Washington through his prime.

Washington owner Ted Leonsis told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post he thinks Wall will sign.

Maybe, but there’s not a lot of motivation for Wall to sign right now. Wall can bet on himself that he will make the All-NBA team again next year — there’s a deep class of guards but if he stays healthy he stands a good chance — at which time he’s still eligible for a designated veteran “super max” contract extension that would be five-years, roughly $200 million (and would kick in after the one year on his current deal).

That delay would also keep pressure on the Wizards to find ways to improve the roster. Washington is largely capped out and didn’t make any major moves this summer other than re-signing Otto Porter to a max extension (they matched a Brooklyn offer sheet). Washington is good, likely the third or fourth best team in the East, but a notch below Cleveland and Boston right now. Wall wants to push them to get another star and help Washington move up into contender status — he pushed for the Wizards to chase Paul George and have him replace Porter (a deal that was never going to happen, but you can see what Wall is thinking about being one star player short).

Ultimately, I think Leonsis is right, Wall will sign. It’s just a matter of when. Does he take this deal now, or wait until next summer and do it?

Blake Griffin says it’s “realistic” he will be fully cleared for training camp

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Lost in the fact that Blake Griffin signed a five-year max contract to stay with the Clippers this summer was the fact he had foot surgery just after the season ended.

This was no minor surgery either, the surgery was to repair the plantar plate for the big toe of his right foot, the plate that connects the toe to the ball of the foot. Griffin tore his midway through the first round of the playoffs and his season was done. While traditionally recovery from that surgery lasts three months or so, there were rumors at Summer League that Griffin could be out longer, maybe into the season.

That’s not what he told Jovan Buha of ESPN, although Griffin was careful not to put a timetable on himself.

Griffin spent most of the press conference talking about how he never wanted to be anywhere else but Los Angeles.

The Clippers did as good a job as could have been expected recovering from the Chris Paul forced trade, plus losing J.J. Redick in free agency. They retained Griffin, signed Danilo Gallinari, and in the trade with Houston got Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell. They already have an elite center in DeAndre Jordan locked up. That could be a playoff team in the West.

The question is how many healthy games the Clippers get out of Griffin and Gallinari, two guys with injury histories. It looks like Griffin will be there at the start of the season, and the Clippers hope during training camp, because this is a lot of new faces to fit together in a new style.

Suns hire NBA veteran James Jones for front office position

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James Jones spent 14 years in the NBA, was a trusted sidekick of LeBron James and with that has been to seven straight NBA Finals had has three rings. It’s been a good career, one where he was back in the Finals with the Cavaliers last season.

Now he’s stepping out of that uniform — and into a suit. Or, at least a pair of khakis and a Phoenix Suns’ polo shirt.

On Wednesday the Suns announced that they have extended the deal of general manager Ryan McDonough, and created a new role in the organization for Jones, the new Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“James has a wealth of experiences that will greatly benefit our organization,” McDonough said in a statement. “He is a three-time NBA Champion and has been one of the top executives with the National Basketball Players Association over the past few years. We welcome ‘Champ’ and his family to our Phoenix Suns family.”

Jones has a good basketball mind and can help the Suns evaluate both players in the league now and college guys coming up. At the press conference announcing the moves the Suns as an organization preached patience and development, things Jones can help with (if they stick to that plan, the Suns don’t always stick to the plan).

Also, make no mistake this is part of the “we’re going to make a run at LeBron next summer” potential in Phoenix. The Suns often swing for the fences, have the ability to have max cap space (moving Brandon Knight or Tyson Chandler for an expiring contract would help), and they can boast a good young core of Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Alex Len. I wouldn’t move the Suns to the top of the list of likely LeBron landing spots, but Jones may at least get them a meeting. The Suns are smart to put themselves in position to go after him, and if not him pitch other big time free agents next summer — Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and more.