One David Stern quote from his conference call with the media Friday showed just how of two minds the league is on the idea of contraction (folding one or more struggling franchises).
“The issue of contraction is one that has to be asked as part of negotiation with players…” Stern said. “But if there are no buyers in markets where teams are for sale then has to be discussed… Are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment?
“But we’re not spending a lot of time on it.”
So we need to talk about it. But not much.
Which means it’s a negotiating red herring. Even if there are serious underlying issues to be address.
Those discussions need to focus on how to keep smaller markets competing fairly with Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and New York. Stern said there would be measures in the new CBA that will allow smaller markets to better compete with larger markets, although he did not specify what those are. Already there are incentives — more money and years — teams can offer to keep their own players. Didn’t work in Cleveland or Toronto.
Another side of this same issue is revenue sharing between owners, which Stern said needed to be more “robust” but was taking place on a parallel track to the CBA talks.
But they’re not going to spend a lot of time on it.
Because, honestly, the other owners don’t really want to spend money to buy out one of their own.
Still there are markets of concern.
Stern talked about the situation in Sacramento, where plans for a land swap to clear the path for a new arena fell through recently.
“My optimism on there being a new building (in Sacramento) has faded completely,” Stern said. “We really tried hard, the Maloofs spent a good deal of money…. And frankly it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t have any more good ideas. Where we flow on that, right now we have a season to worry about.”
Also in New Orleans there is an owner — George Shinn — who is having trouble striking a deal to sell that team.
Contraction of those teams is a great bargaining threat. But not a reality. The Kings moving is very much reality, but not folding. Not being contracted.
The league is booming and its not going cut out markets, particularly markets in the Midwest where the NBA wants to make better inroads. Stern basically directly told reporters from Memphis and Milwaukee the teams are safe.
Frankly, they all are. But we’re going to talk about it anyway.