Blog Entry

Ten likely candidates for contraction

Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:09 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 1:42 pm
Let's see how many kids' dreams we can crush with contraction just to make the Knicks and Lakers better, shall we? (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

Oh, no, there's (insert problem in the NBA)! Quick, let's contract some teams!

That's pretty much the standard fare from a lot of mainstream basketball scribes. Their proximity to large cities, usually coastal, is something you should try and not look at too closely. It's like one of those 3-D images. Yes, it's a schooner, which is a sailboat, and you still have a headache.

The answer always seems to pop up. "Oh, we don't have enough stars!" Contract! "There's a lockout and the owners want more money!" Contract! "We're out of sandwiches in the media room!" Contract!

There's about a billion reasons why contraction won't be happening. David Stern won't allow it on his watch. Losing games, twice in 12 years? Sure. Losing teams? No way. One thing hurts your fans. The other hurts your business.

But let's say it did, because there are more fans of big market teams than small market teams, and big market teams love the idea, because they get a talent influx. Who goes on the chopping block? Here are teams that would be up for contraction, if we're going to go ahead and kill off sections of fans.
(Franchise valuation data courtesy of Forbes, attendance via ESPN.)

1. New Orleans Hornets: Trying to avoid this conclusion is something I spent a solid hour on. Surely there's a way around this. But there just isn't. The Hornets staged a massive ticket sales promotion in order to try and boost their attendance profile for a potential buyer as well as to satisfy various city and state requirements regarding their lease. The result? They're 26th this season. With Chris Paul having gone to the Clippers, things are going to get worse before they get better. If we absolutely have to chop off a team, you have to start with the Hornets, as much as it pains me.

There are a lot of factors here, but George Shinn's horrific ownership should not be overlooked, nor should two natural disasters in the span of five years. But it's never been a strong market, and if we have to make cuts with our minds and not hearts, the Hornets have to be silenced.

Biggest argument against: Have you no soul? Honestly?

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Such a great playoffs run. But here are the facts. It's one of the newest franchises, with little in the way of successful history (as in, none outside of last season). It's been evaluated as 29th in overall worth by Forbes. Despite making the playoffs last season and being expected to contend for the West this year, they are 21st in attendance, Z-Bo or no Z-Bo.

The Grizzlies are trying to build a new culture of passion and success in Memphis. But if we have to make the cut today, they have to be on the block. If you need me I'll be in the corner gurgling arsenic.

Biggest argument against: Memphis' playoff run shows what can happen if that fanbase is engaged.

3. Charlotte Bobcats: Terrible team. The newest in the league. No success to speak of. Poor ownership. A fanbase damaged by George Shinn's tenure in Charlotte (hey, look, a theme!). The overriding influence of college basketball and its permeating stench throughout any sports discussion. The reasons go on and on. I mean, just look at their attendance.

They're... 14th this season?

That's up from 21st, which really isn't that horrible. And that's why they manage to slide to three. If you took the way the Bobcats have been run and put them in Memphis, New Orleans, or Sacramento, they're toast, first out the door. But Carolina gets basketball. So they slide to third. So... uh... good for them?

Biggest argument against: Decent attendance, run by the sport's biggest icon, awesome mascot.

4. Milwaukee Bucks: We're going to kill off the first team Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor, ever played for? The 1971 champs?

Yeah. We are. Milwaukee is rated last in the league by Forbes in overall value. Despite some promising drafts, they have yet to put together a contending core. Their arena situation is not dire, but it's going to get there in the next five years, and Milwaukee voters are unlikely to come streaming to the polls to help the team out. Killing off a franchise with this much history is pretty horrific, but at some point the dollars and cents have to matter.

Biggest argument against: Championship team, history, good ownership, active fanbase.

5. Sacramento Kings: No one has fought harder to keep their team than Kings fans have. They have staved off their owners feeding vultures from Anaheim. They have scrapped up enough support for a new arena plan coming to vote this month during a recession. They have chanted and made documentaries and brought signs and banners and petitions.

And it still might not be enough.

This may be the best example of why contraction is flawed. Ten years ago, even six years ago, this would be incomprehensible. The Kings were on the verge, the doorstep, had their foot jammed into the entryway of the Finals. The biggest problem with contraction is that we look at it through the lens of the present. "Oh, the Bobcats/Kings/Bucks are terrible." But in five years, those teams could be San Antonio. Or OKC. Or Orlando. Winning will change your bottom line, and losing will change it just the same. But considering the arena situation at present time, the financial situation of the club, and their ongoing attendance issues, it's impossible to leave them out.

Biggest argument against: Here we stay.

Five more.

6. Atlanta Hawks: You want to talk about history, this one's like chopping off a limb. But the Hawks are 28th in value, have been unable to put together legitimate success, and feature one of the most lackluster fanbases in the league. Atlanta may simply be oversaturated for the NBA.

Biggest argument against: It's called the Highlight Factory, for crying out loud.

7. Philadelphia 76ers: You can already hear the sounds of those coastal writers crying out in agony. Start talking about an East Coast team that won a title within the past 30 years and it's a whole different story. But the 76ers come in at 22nd in value, just had the team sold, no real success even if you count the Iverson years that victimized a terrible, terrible Eastern conference, and continually have horrible attendance. They're bottom ten this season, and their team is a handful of games out of first in the conference.

Biggest argument against: Erasing what Moses Malone and Julius Erving did should be a federal crime.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves: 27th in value, 24th in attendance despite all the excitement. The only reason this team gets put so high is out of practical considerations. Basically, despite killing Kevin Garnett's prime and bobbling the next All-Star they landed in Kevin Love, their owner is close friends with David Stern and one of the heads of the Board of Governors. You see that guy getting his team lopped off any time soon?

Biggest argument against: Rubio? Rubio.

9. New Jersey Nets: Is there enough room in New York for two teams? Of course. Is there room for two fairly terrible teams? Additionally, if they can't get Dwight Howard, they should just pack up and go home, anyway.

Biggest argument against: They will always make money because they will play in New York now, and Prokhorov may come after you.

10. Indiana Pacers: No NBA championships (3 ABA). They are 25th in value and dead last in attendance, despite being a top five team in the East. The Pacers have simply been unable to capture the city's attention since The Brawl. Maybe that just did too much damage, combined with the emergence of the Colts. Yes, it's a historic team, but without any championships since the ABA. And with the Fieldhouse eventually needing a new home and all the money the city has spent on sports and event facilities, hard to see it coming through.

Biggest argument against: 8 points. 9 seconds.


In the end, any of these teams could become the Spurs in the next ten years. Or the Blazers. Or the Jazz. Or the Magic. It takes ownership, a little luck, and the subsequent success. Get that, and you're good to go. But we never see that when we talk about contraction. We only see the benefits for the Bulls, the Lakers, the Knicks. And we forget that while there are more fans in cities than towns, having an NBA nation makes the game that much stronger. But if we have to do the deed, those are the teams that should get the axe.

Since: Sep 18, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:42 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

Hornets really outhustled themselves this year, look at the product, they are lucky to be anything but last in attendance, they raised prices, gutted the team, still dont have an owner, and the players that they have only play 3 quarters

As an organization, the hornets by far are the most deserving to get canned

But i would say that there are teams in much bigger cities which still have poor attendance are the ones that are more deserving to be cut becuse the town refuses to support the product, period.

Atleast in new orleans we take care of the team when they entertain and take care of us, any time that team is winning we are watching, the nba is not a charity and as fans i dont think we should be expected to give pity money so that a team that places inferiority on the floor every night is supported.

Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:37 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

The Clippers should have moved out to the Honda Center and been the "All-American" team in contrast to the Kobe/Gasol cholo-fave Lakers.

Since: Oct 3, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:33 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

Just a quick recap:

Hornets, no titles. Grizz, no titles. Bobcats, no titles. Kings, no titles. Wolves, no titles. Nets and Pacers, no titles in the NBA. Bucks and Hawks have 1 title each and none in the past 40 years.

Sixers have 3 titles and the third most wins all-time in NBA history, and they play in one of the biggest media markets in the US.

Matt I like most of your work but you're a smacked ass on this one. Did you think the Celtics should have contracted when their attendance was down prior to the Big 3 trade?

Since: Oct 3, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:18 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

You have to be one of the dumbest sportswriters in the world to even suggest the 76ers contract. They do not belong on this list. If the Sixers build a winner the fans will come out.

Since: Jul 30, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:17 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

The Kentucky Colonels and Virginia Squires are at the top of my list.  Wonder why they weren't mentioned.  No brainers, if you ask me.Foot in mouth

Since: Mar 13, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:08 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

the hawks pacers and sixers
not only are in contention in the east as they are all in the top 5

but all of them have storied pasts

this author clearly doesnt understand the past OR the present in the NBA

Since: Aug 8, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:04 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

How can you put the Nets on the list and leave off the Clippers? Is LA big enough for two teams? How about one wildly successful one and one that has been a doormat for a lifetime? LA has one team and that's all it needs. The Clippers are just tenents paying rent when the Lakers aren't there filling seats and making the real money for the Staples Center. 

Since: Jan 29, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2012 3:44 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

Cleveland still has an owner who is filthy rich and doesn't mind throwing his money around.  Also Dan Gilbert has a new casino opening in downtown Cleveland in a few months which will bring much more revenue to the city.  The Cavs may be pretty bad at the moment but they are an up and coming team already with Kyrie Irving.  Despite having mostly crappy sports teams in Cleveland the fans still are die hards that support their teams no matter what. 

Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2012 3:38 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

What about Cleveland?  Rapidly depopulating market.  Biggest star walked away without compensation.  What kills the Bucks is the north shore/north suburban orientation of the Bulls, thus no chance of seeing the bucks represented as well as the Pack in Chicago's far northern suburbs.  The Pacers should entertain a move to NW Indiana to be sort of a "White Sox" to the Bulls "Cubs".

Since: Mar 22, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:36 pm

Ten likely candidates for contraction

You say you used ESPN for the stats on attendance this year?  ESPN shows the Wolves at 15th in the league, not 24th (and I believe they still hold the season-record for attendance from 1990).  KG is as responsible as anyone else for "killing his own prime" by demanding the largest contract in NBA history, handcuffing ownership from picking up more talent (although they were a Sam Cassell injury away from winning it in 2005).  And how have they "bobbled" K-Love?  He's one of the top players in the league, paid like it, and is surrounded by some great young talent.  The team is exceeding expectations this year.

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