What would you say about contraction in the NBA?

As we all witnessed with the move of the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, no team in the NBA is safe. With the lockout talk has come renewed talk, at least from the media, about contracting a few select NBA teams. When the "contraction" word is brought up around NBA fans - fingers start pointing in every direction. So, I reached out to our extensive family at SB Nation to find out what our writers think about the teams they cover possibly being contracted. Let's find out what they had to say ...

 

 

Atlanta Hawks:

Jason Walker from Peachtree HoopsContract the Hawks? Why not just saddle a loyal fan base (and bloggers) with 60+ million in contracts for six guys, including a widely criticized max contract for their Five Time All-Star (patent pending), and never, ever allow the team to get out of the second round of the playoffs.... ever. All while always being subjected as a national punchline at any opportunity.

The Hawks have never won the lottery, and the last #1 overall pick was wined and dined at McDonald's to try and convince him not to use his 745 inch vertical to jump to the ABA (former Nugget David Thompson). It didn't work.

In fact, the most famous draft pick in the last ten years was the guy that wasn't picked (Chris Paul) rather than the guy who was (Marvin Williams).

At least when Seattle lost their team to OKC they had a title to soothe their pain ... Atlanta fans have to look back to St. Louis for a title that is most certainly not theirs.

Heck, even Atlanta's best player - Dominique Wilkins - didn't make the NBA's all-time top 50 when he was in the top 10 all time scoring and never being tied to anything negative on or off the court, except being a Hawk.

Aw shoot ... go ahead, drop the Hawks. How could it hurt worse?

Nate's take: Sure the Hawks don't ever seem to go very far, but could we live in an NBA world without the Hawks. Along with plenty of fans, our Andrew Feinstein would probably lose his mind if Dominique Wilkins' team was no longer around. The Hawks are safe.

 

Boston Celtics:

Jeff Clark from CelticsBlog: Because we're the Celtics.

Nate's take: Well said Jeff, well said. But enough with all this "chowda" love already, ESPN already took it too far - did y'all see this junk? The Celtics, like the Bulls, are what makes the NBA the NBA.

 

Charlotte Bobcats:

Ben Swanson from Rufus on FireWhen it comes to arguing that the Bobcats should be contracted, what some gloss over is that contracting or even just moving the team would come with huge financial implications for the NBA. As laid out in the team's contract with the city, should there be a breach in the contract in which the team does not play its home games in Charlotte (whether via relocation or otherwise), the city has a few options, most notably of which include seeking injunction or if the city cannot obtain "injunctive relief," they can recover liquidated damages, which until 2015 is $150,000,000.

The Charlotte Hornets have proven there is a market for NBA basketball evidenced by selling out 364 consecutive NBA games, leading the league in attendance for each of their first seven seasons (1988-1995) - during Michael Jordan's prime, no less. Detractors argue Charlotte can't support an NBA team, pointing to the team's subpar attendance numbers but the truth of the matter is that Charlotte can't support an extremely mismanaged team. The Bobcats have drafted poorly and taken on bloated contracts in the past, but that looks to be changing as understanding the need to rebuild, they traded away Gerald Wallace to help get the young talent of Bismack Biyombo and drafting the talented Kemba Walker. They hired Rich Cho, which showed that MJ was willing to go outside his connections to get the top front office talent. As they move towards trying to build a successful team around young talent and focusing on the future, they've also become better marketed, snatching up more sponsors than ever before. With building a young team that makes smarter decisions in the front office, the city will come around.

Nate's take: I love, absolutely love, Ben's passion for the Bobcats. That said, I would not miss the Bobcats one bit. There is no history there and when the Nuggets play the Bobcats there just isn't a lot of excitement. When I think of either Carolina I just think of the Tar Heels, not really the NBA. But if the team proves, attendance wise and revenue wise, then I'm willing to let the franchise stick around and build some tradition.

 

Chicago Bulls

The Blog a Bull crew probably couldn't stop laughing at my request to submit a serious response. Aw, to be a Bulls fan ... all the titles and memories and the future looks bright with Derrick Rose.

Nate's take: Obviously the Bulls dominated the 1990's and the league can't get rid of such a large market team and the team that had the best player on the planet on it. The Bulls are an NBA mainstay. 

 

Cleveland Cavaliers:

Conrad Kaczmarek from Fear the SwordThe NBA should not contract the Cavaliers because Cleveland has been right at the top of the league in attendance for the past decade. Of course, most of this was because they were perennial championship contenders and had the best player in the league. However, the Cavaliers ranked 3rd in the league in attendance last season despite being really really awful. The game against the Clippers that snapped the 26-game losing streak was a near sell-out and was deafeningly loud as the team closed out the victory. The main argument against the Cavaliers will be that many of the tickets were sold before "The Decision", thus skewing the numbers.

If the evaluation for contraction were to occur right now, you simply cannot assume that the Cleveland is unable to support an NBA team without a winning team. The evidence against the Cavaliers is not recent enough to make such a claim. If the lack of competitiveness is the next few years leads to a significant dip in fan support, then it would make sense to look further into the issue. For now, however, the Cavaliers have shown that the city is certainly able to support the team and the franchise has a dedicated owner in place. Dan Gilbert is willing to spend the money to put together a good basketball team and when he has one, the fans in Cleveland pack the Q to full capacity. In my opinion, that is exact profile that the NBA should be looking for in a small market team.

Nate's take: LeBron is gone, time to fold up shop ... joking, joking! Their attendance speaks for itself and how could we live in an NBA world where Craig Ehlo references would become lost and forgotten? I am very glad the Cavs went back to more of a retro looking uniform, I was not a fan of those wacky ones they wore with James aboard. 

 

Dallas Mavericks:

LJRotter from Mavs MoneyballThe league can't get rid of the Mavericks because once you win the NBA Finals, you become part of a secret, untouchable group of teams that, no matter how terrible they were or will be, remain immune to contraction. I'm pretty sure that's written down somewhere. Also they make a lot of money and the world fears the wrath of Mark Cuban.

Nate's take: The Mavs went from a laughing stock to laughing all the way to the bank. The team should maybe think about a name chance to Dallas Cubans or something. Their flamboyant owner, no matter what you think of him, really did what we all want to see out of our owners ... dumping big dollars into the team, building, whatever needs it in order to win a title. Mission Accomplished. The Mavs are here to stay.

 

Denver Nuggets

Nate Timmons from right here, Denver Stiffs: The Nuggets survived the defunct American Basketball Association - whether they went behind other ABA owners' backs in order to do so is another story - and they should survive any contraction talk as well. The 1994 playoff series win against the Sonics and near upset against the Jazz will be remembered by hoops historians forever. The end of the 1990s were not so kind to the Nuggets, but they are back on the NBA map and re-tooling the squad as we speak. 

Nate's take: Nate has a take on his own take? You betcha! The Nuggets certainly are not in the same realm as the Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, and Bulls as far as widespread popularity (eyes on the Nuggs grew with Carmelo Anthony, like him or not), but there is plenty of historical significance in regards to the team and if they were no longer around there would be a giant hole in the NBA books. Seeing the Sonics disappear scares the crap out of me, but the city of Denver is behind the team and the Pepsi Center is still a very fine building. The Nuggets are safe, for now. 

 

Detroit Pistons:

Mike Payne from Detroit Bad BoysWould the NBA even consider dropping the Pistons in a league contraction? Let me take my homer glasses off for a moment in favor of objectivity. I would hope that the league would consider history, revenue and the local market when discussing a contraction. If they talk about wins and losses, Detroit has been on the short end of the stick lately. But despite the team's gross mismanagement over the last several years, its history, revenue and market remain stronger than all but a handful of NBA franchises. 

The Pistons have history - they're one of 16 active franchises to win a championship, and one of a few that have done so three or more times. They've got the revenue potential as well, having been counted the 4th most valuable franchise in the league right before Joe Dumars went all doppleganger on us. After the Pistons record tanked and the economy followed suit, their value plummeted before Tome Gores snatched up the franchise. While the market in Detroit may be depressed, it remains one of the nations largest - with over 5 million residents in the combined statistical area in metropolitan Detroit.

This franchise holds the league record for consecutive sell-outs. We're used to filling stadiums and winning games in Detroit. Once the ship is righted and the winning resumes, the revenue will once again flow like water. Would the NBA ever consider shutting down this spigot? Not in this lifetime. The auto industry was once deemed to big to fail, and look at it now. The NBA would be wise to place a few chips on the future of the once and future king of the rust belt, the Detroit Pistons.

Nate's take: Mike makes some great points above and he was perhaps my favorite emailer. We exchanged some notes about the Nuggets and Pistons and talked about Joe Dumars helping out the Nuggets quite a bit recently (passing on Melo, dealing Denver Chauncey Billups and Arron Afflalo (separate deals)). It would be awful to see the Pistons get disbanded and I don't think it could ever happen. Their fans are passionate and the team is also rich in NBA history with the Bad Boys teams that our Scott Hastings was a part of. 

 

Golden State Warriors:

Nate Parham and the folks at Golden State Of Mind:  The only teams that should merit discussion are small market teams with weak fanbases. We are a big media market with a rabid fanbase. 

But just for the record: #11, 11, 9, 6, 14, 10 - the Warriors' NBA
 attendance ranking the last six seasons. 'Nuff said.


Nate's take: I have to admit, I love watching Monta Ellis play basketball. I'm glad he's not a Denver Nugget, but he sure is fun to watch - kid can really fill it up. Watching that Warriors vs. Mavericks playoff series was one of my fondest basketball memories, that was a great series for the League (not so much for the Mavs, and before Dallas fans feel too bad - just remember I saw my Broncos lose to the Jaguars in 1996). The Warriors have been around for what seems like forever and like Mr. Parham points out ... their fans are nuts for their team. Golden State is safe. 

 

Houston Rockets:

From The Dream Shake crewKeep the Rockets. They've got a great owner whose financial situation probably lends him towards a non-lockout stance. They had two championships in the 1990's that nobody seems to remember. And if you contract Houston, you kill off the Center Tradition. Hakeem, Yao, Hasheem, etc. 

YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THABEET WILL BECOME UNLESS YOU LET IT HAPPEN.

Nate's take: The Dream Shake crew took some jabs about their championships from the fellow bloggers, but I loved those Houston teams. They were great and really fun to use on my favorite hoops game from the original Playstation: Slam 'N' Jam '96! This game was mirrored after the arcade game Run 'N' Gun, where I just dominated people when I was a kid at Boardwalk USA (greatest childhood place ever!). They didn't use real names for the players, but I knew who they were ... Kenny Smith (The Jet) was the man, so was Vernon Maxwell. Anyway, the Rockets are NBA legacy and they must stay. Houston is a big market and they will stick around. 

 

Indiana Pacers

Tom Lewis from Indy CornrowsThe Pacers are poised to be a trending topic among NBA teams and should not be considered for contraction. Favorable factors are finally aligning properly for the Pacers to emerge from the past few years of pathetic play that turned a fan base passive and let them focus on the football team across town. Not only did a spirited playoff appearance last year excite fans and introduce many to young players like Paul George, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert, but with Peyton Manning sidelined and the Indianapolis Colts flat lining, those fans and many others in the area are already begging for an alternative to avert their eyes from the football follies taking place. The Pacers took painful steps to improve their salary cap situation and open up roster spots to build around a young core of players worth watching and it just so happens, the once-boisterous fan base is primed and ready to take a look.

Nate's take: I hated the movie Hoosiers, but Indiana needs professional basketball. The Pacers are starting to come together and the franchise is moving in the right direction again. Another ABA team that has too much history to throw away. The Pacers are here to stay.

 

Los Angeles Clippers:

Steve Perrin from Clips NationLet's look at the basic question of contraction: the premise would be, that for the good of the league, some number of teams would have to go away, because there just isn't enough interest, aren't enough big markets, isn't enough talent (check all that apply). So, for the sake of argument, let's peg the number at two teams contracted. OK, now which two, and how do you decide? One is easy - the Hornets are owned by the league, New Orleans is one of the smallest markets, bye-bye Hornets, sorry Rohan. What about the second one?

Do you lose the smallest market (stop the Jazz music)? The least profitable team (make the Magic disappear)? The team with the lowest valuation (the Bucks stop here)? The worst run team (show the Wolves to the door)?

The real problem is that the you can never get 28 owners to decide on one of their own to vote off the island. Because that precedent is scary to all of them, and they don't want anything even remotely similar to ever happen to them.

If you could do it, the real way would be to get rid of the worst owner. Because who suffers in contraction? The fans of the team certainly suffer, but David Stern and the other owners don't want to be the judges in that particular beauty contest. The players suffer in losing 1/15th of the NBA jobs available, but the players of the contracted team don't suffer any more than any other player really - they go into an expansion draft and the ones good enough end up somewhere else, no different than if they were traded or signed as a free agent. The real loser in this deal is the owner - kicked out of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, a club with only 29 members.

So who do you contract? The Clippers of course. If the owners are going to turn on one of their own, it would be Donald Sterling, who frankly has done much to deserve expulsion from the league over the years. But they won't. Not when the Clippers are profitable and have been for a decade. Not when the Clippers are in the second biggest market in the country. Not when the Clippers currently have the brightest young star in the league playing in that market.

The real answer? Force Sterling out, contract the Kings, give the Maloofs right of first refusal on buying the Clippers. The Kings already have one foot out the door in Sacramento, so that fan base is already screwed. As for the Maloofs, they can't afford the Clippers, but it allows the league to contract the Kings without throwing the Maloofs under the bus quite so directly.

By the way, I actually think contraction is a terrible idea. Content is king, and why would you make a move in 2011 that reduces your content by 7%?

Nate's take: I got to meet Steve when we were in Las Vegas for the SB Nation conference. He's one of those guys who you could just talk sports with for hours and he does an excellent job on his site. He brings up some great points above and takes a serious look at his own team. I actually like his idea quite a bit, sorry Kings fans, and it makes a lot of sense if things don't work out in Sacramento. It would be awful to lose an NBA team like the Kings, but it would also be nice to get rid of Sterling. 

 

Los Angeles Lakers

C.A. Clark from Silver Screen and RollThe NBA should contract the Lakers. No joke, the reason why contraction is even a necessary topic is because teams like the Lakers exist, driving up costs (in salary, in arenas, etc.) for the rest of the league without any of the little guys experience the corresponding benefits in revenue. So if you want a world to exist where we don't have to worry about whether or not Charlotte or New Orleans should be contracted, the Lakers shouldn't exist in that world.
 
But the real world doesn't work that way. You don't punish success because it would make all the failures (or more moderate successes) look better and more viable by comparison. And the Lakers are the most successful franchise in the league (if not by championships, then by every other conceivable metric).

Nate's take: Mr. Clark is another guy who we got to meet in Vegas, another basketball head who you could talk hoops with for forever. Could you imagine the NBA tossing the Lakers out? This post got me thinking about a radical idea. What if the NBA split the league up into market sized franchises and almost re-created the ABA and NBA? You have the large markets in one league and smaller markets in another. If they honestly can't compete on a level playing field then let's stop pretending and try something different. Would it be just awful to watch two leagues that don't play each other? Would the champs play the champs for some sort of title? Can this lockout end already?

 

Memphis Grizzlies:

TLorenzo from Straight Outta VancouverLet's be honest, we all had the Grizzlies pegged as one of the teams most likely to be contracted/moved/locked in David Stern's basement heading into the 2010-11 season. Then, in true reality show fashion, they won themselves immunity with their "epic" playoff run. For the first time in their lives they were the prettiest girl at the party, and that's enough to carry the Griz over the next few seasons. That and the fact that you wouldn't want to upset Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, would you?

Nate's take: The 1994 Nuggets gained some fans during their playoff run against the Sonics and Jazz. The 2007 Warriors did the same thing when they upset the Mavs. The 2011 Grizzlies followed that path and now the NBA world is waiting to see what they'll do for an encore. That encore could make the difference in if the team is kept in Memphis or if they are moved/contracted. Can one small playoff run make up what was dwindling attendance and attention? I hope so, reporters love the food in Memphis. 

 

Miami Heat:

David Dwork from Peninsula is MightierAs badly as some people around the NBA might want it to happen, I don’t think its possible that the league would ever dream of contracting the Miami Heat.  We could be talking apparel sales, television contracts, whatever ways that David Stern and his office are able to make money off of individual teams, I’m sure that the Heat are pulling in a pretty penny right about now.  Sure, if Miami was disbanded then LeBron, D-Wade and co. would go elsewhere and make money for the league, but right now the Heat are a big-time cash cow and will stay that way for a while.  Hey ... why mess with a good thing?

Nate's take: Rony Seikaly once played there dawg, Rony Seikaly. 

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Frank Madden from Brew HoopTo make an honest case for why the Bucks shouldn't be contracted probably begins by acknowledging that yes, there are a few major factors that would undoubtedly work against them. Playing in one of the league's smallest markets? Check. Year-to-year lease of an old building and no prospects for a new arena in the immediate future?  Mark it down!  A couple decades of mediocrity on the court? Gulp, we got that too.

Yet, I have a hard time believing that it's in anyone's best interest to give up on NBA basketball in Milwaukee. Pointing to a championship 40 years ago or the Bucks' perennial 50-win teams of the '80s seems a bit overly sentimental at this point, but the truth is that Milwaukee has long shown it can be a legitimate basketball town and owner Herb Kohl has never been afraid to spend money.

All too often the cash has been spent in unwise fashion (see Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, et al), but contraction implies a team with no identity, no fan support, and an owner no longer willing to pay the bills. It's true that many Bucks fans have become disillusioned with the franchise after 20 years of consistently poor returns, but the support behind the 46-win campaign two years ago served as a reminder that Wisconsinites are still willing to embrace professional basketball, provided it comes in a likable, at least somewhat successful packaging. If nothing else, you can't accuse us of having high standards, and at the very least Bucks fans know their owner is willing to risk losing money just for the chance to win games.

Sure, Kohl's management of the team can certainly be questioned in terms of wins and losses, but Donald Sterling he ain't. His heart was in the right place when he saved the team from leaving in the '80s, and it's difficult to imagine him giving up now. Besides, if Forbes' numbers are to be believed, the Bucks haven't exactly been hemorrhaging money even with a bloated payroll that regularly threatened the luxury tax in recent years. 

Which is why the notion of simply wiping the Bucks--or any other team for that matter--off the basketball map still seems so bizarre. What are we trying to accomplish again, anyway? The idea that there isn't enough global talent to support a 30-team league seems rather far-fetched in 2011, and paying hundreds of millions of dollars to make one team go away doesn't seem like the most rational, long-term approach to solving the NBA's more fundamental problems. Odds are the league will more effectively solve its red ink problem by a combination of a) cutting the wages of the most well-compensated athletes in all of sports b) riding the league's record ratings to a healthy bump in its next TV deal and c) waiting patiently as the economy (and consumer spending) recover from arguably the worst downturn since the league has ever seen. It's not to say that every possible option for improving the league shouldn't considered, but in the grand scheme of things contraction would appear to be more of a distraction than a real solution.

Nate's take: I guess I should stop saying that basketball writers I met in Vegas are big hoops fans, that's like saying that chocolate milk is delicious, of course it is! But Frank is another guy that knows his stuff and is fun to chat with and it's always good to read his take. It sounds like the Bucks are in a pretty good place, but they do need a new arena. I also like how Mr. Madden outlined the real issues towards the end of his case. The real probably isn't too many teams ... there is definitely enough talent to keep 30 squads. 

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Tim Allen from Canis HoopusSay this for the Minnesota Timberwolves: They may not be winners, but they are certainly entertaining. From the “will he, won’t he” of Ricky Rubio to the face mushing of Michael Beasley, our players can make the front page of ESPN without even playing in an NBA game. Add to that our Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Kahn, who is basically just a walking sound bite. “Manna from Heaven”, comparing Darko to Vlade in front of Chris Webber, the “show of hands” press conference; why would you want to lose this much unintentional comedy? Keep the Wolves, and not only will teams have a couple of easy wins on their schedules (especially once Kevin Love leaves for Los Angeles), but fans will have seasons worth of unintentional comedy.

 

Nate's take: The Minnesota fans are too good to have a team this bad. There is a nice window of hope in T-Wolves land right now with Ricky Rubio coming over and Derrick Williams waiting to team up with Kevin Love and I think the Wolves are safe from any contraction talk, for now. 

 

New Jersey Nets:

Nets DailyPretty simple: They have the richest owner in the league and a year from now, they'll own their own brand-new building in the most populous borough of the most populous city in the country

Nate's take: I think David Stern is licking his chops when he thinks about the Brooklyn Nets. Safe.

 

New Orleans Hornets

Rohan of At The HiveThe Hornets have very randomly had a highly productive summer. Over 9,000 season tickets were sold - more than any other NBA team over the last three months. A fifth million-dollar corporate sponsor in Chevron, joined Cox, Ochsner Health, 7-UP, and Entergy. And if that wasn't enough, Marco Belinelli is even "working on becoming complete player." It's all happening. The Hornets currently need minority buyers to dive in alongside Gary Chouest, and with the momentum created by ticket sales and lucractive business tie-ins, they will have done a pretty impressive job of marketing themselves to prospective investors by summer's end, even if Marco Belinelli the Complete Player is more farcical than Derrick Rose the MVP, zing!

But in any case, my defense of The Hornets rests less on these recent developments and more on my own romanticized concepts about Sports and Life and other abstract nouns that Grantland would capitalize and then insert obnoxious footnotes about. To vote for the Hornets is, if you think about it, to champion the ineffability of the human spirit (if you think about it). To contract them* is to announce one's soullessness. The next logical step would be a Lakers vs. Celtics Finals every year, forever, in Cowboys Stadium, with Manchester United, the New York Yankees, and LeBron James sitting courtside. 

The End.

* "Doesn't this apply to every other small market team?" asked nobody.

Nate's take: Getting Rohan to respond to this piece was like pulling teeth out of a toddler's head with a pair of pliers and zero anesthetic. He's probably asked to defend the Hornets on a regular basis, so I could understand if he had a lack of excitement to once again defend the Bugs. Being owned by the league isn't good and this team is the main reason we are having this contraction talk in the first place. The spotlight is on the Hornets as Stern can dangle contraction so long as the NBA has to "babysit" this club. But as Rohan points out, there may be some positive moves for NOLA's squad.

 

New York Knicks:

Seth from Posting and ToastingThe league ought not to contract the Knicks because, no matter how they're faring, they are an NBA stalwart. They've got a ton of history, a huge fanbase, and they play in one of the biggest markets on the planet. Also, Renaldo Balkman just finished construction on a tepee in Central Park in which he can play Canasta with neighborhood rodents. He'd be very disappointed if asked to leave.

Nate's take: Balkman is living in a tepee? Melo is there? Contract 'em! Jokes! We all know that Stern would never contract his Knicks. They are safe, but can they form the super-team they'll need to compete for a title in Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire's primes? 

 

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Zorgon from Welcome to Loud City: The Thunder should not be contracted because they are the newest team in the NBA, and a team on the rise. They fill up the arena nearly every night and have fans who come regularly from out of town. They just reached the Western Conference Finals and their popularity has only grown since their entry into the league. By contracting the Thunder you get rid of one of your strongest assets and a team that could be very close to contending for an NBA title.

Nate's take: They beat the promising Nuggets in the playoffs in 2011, contract 'em! Ha ha. The Thunder are a promising team, but they are also were born in a very controversial way. What happened to the Sonics is part of the reason why I wanted to reach out to all our SB Nation writers - if the Sonics could be taken away (a former NBA Champion in 1979) then any team could be moved or dissolved. Oklahoma City has been a success in terms of packed arenas, but it also serves as a warning to all fan bases. Zorgon points to the popularity of the Thunder, but I can't help but wonder if the same buzz would surround the team if they weren't so successful on the court. 

 

Orlando Magic:

Evan Dunlap from Orlando Pinstriped PostAt first blush, contracting the small-market Orlando Magic might appear to make sense, especially if one considers the real possibility that Dwight Howard will depart in free agency next summer. But Orlando has two distinct advantages over other small-market teams when it comes to contraction. The brand-new, publicly financed Amway Center, which is widely recognized as among the finest pro sports venues in the country, is the biggest, as it increases potential revenue streams for the team (which was deep in the red at the embarrassingly outdated Amway Arena). Teams that get mentioned most in contraction talks--your Sacramentos, your New Orleanses, your Milwaukees--tend to come from a small market and play in an obsolete facility; they may also have owners who are unwilling to spend.

Orlando is indeed a small market by NBA standards, but it has the Amway Center, and an exceptionally wealthy owner; indeed, it was Rich DeVos who okayed the $118 million contract Otis Smith gave free-agent forward Rashard Lewis in 2007... after Grant Hill's $93 million deal expired. Criticize the wisdom of those signings if you wish. Just don't call Mr. DeVos cheap.

Another edge Orlando has over most other small markets is its location. Though the team will surely be dreadful if Howard leaves, the ability to attract quality free agents (money, warm weather, no state income tax) ought to prevent the Magic from dwelling in the cellar for too long. Orlando is what Bill Simmons once termed a "destination" free-agent city due to those factors, along with Miami, New York, and Los Angeles.

Nate's take: A young franchise, born in 1989, but a quite successful one. Will two game changing centers depart this team (Shaquille O'Neal in 1996 and perhaps Howard as Evan points out)? Orlando is a small market team that isn't afraid to spend big market money. But fans in Denver and Cleveland can sympathize with Orlando's ability to retain the big time players. If Orlando loses Howard, it'll be just another blow to the small market teams who couldn't figure things out with their superstar player. The destination city will usurp all the headlines and it'll look like a win for a historic franchise ... life goes on for teams like the Magic. Orlando will get the right to keep on playing though, they are safe.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Michael Levin from Liberty BallersIt would be anarchy in Philadelphia. Even non-Sixers fans would grunge up their Seattle SuperSonics hipsterness and Philly can once again feel treated like the ugliest stepsister of New York (uglier than Boston!) - something we haven't been able to feel since the Phils won the Series in 2008 (and again in 2011). Let the Santa Claus Booers reign again.

Nate's take: I tend to think of the 76ers as the lovable losers - they haven't won a title since 1983 (I was just 1 years-old), but they have come close with a Finals appearance in 2001, thanks to Allen Iverson and Company. The Phillies have been the darlings of the city lately and the Eagles have a promising team - somehow the Sixers have been almost lost in the shuffle on a national scale. It would be weird if Charles Barkely's original team was no longer around, they are safe in their cushy market.

 

Phoenix Suns:

Wil Cantrell from Bright Side of the SunThe Phoenix Suns should not be contracted. They are a 43-year old franchise, and during that time have compiled a 1,954-1,540 record (56% winning percentage), have amassed 29 playoff and 2 finals appearances. While they are in the midst of a rebuild and have missed the playoffs two out of the last three years, the franchise is huge in AZ and abroad and will no doubt "rise again!"

Nate's take: It would be interesting to hear Robert Sarver's thoughts on this lockout, but I doubt he'd want his team taken away from him - although some Suns fans probably would be in favor of him being replaced as owner. Wil points to the Suns strong history and we all remember the exciting playoff runs with Steve Nash ... felt like yesterday. The Suns are safe.

 

Portland Trail Blazers:

Dave from BlazersedgeContract the Blazers and thousands upon thousands of crazed, unshaven fans will rip your head off.  That is all.

Nate's take: There might not be a more rabid internet fan base than the one in Portland, or those who follow the Blazers I should say (we have lots of readers outside of Colorado here, same has to be true in Oregon). After reading The Breaks of the Game I understand a lot of the Blazers history and their connection to the city. Like Dave points out, take them away and you'll have real problems. 

 

Sacramento Kings

Tom Ziller from SacTown RoyaltyThe NBA should contract the Sacramento Kings, because cities that will sell out 11 straight seasons of almost unanimously bad basketball just as a thank you to the league grow on trees, because communities that rally to get a building constructed with no help from the team owners -- in fact, with hostility from the team owners -- are everywhere, and because Sacramento is a low-rent town full of yokels and whizzadoodles, amirite?

Nate's take: As Ziller points out, the problem with the Kings is not the fan base. The Kings are in an interesting situation. Owners with money problems who think their solution is to move the team - should they be allowed to move their team? They did pay for it ... but what about the fans? If the stadium is going to be financed by the taxpayers then shouldn't they get some sort of say in what happens to the team? Or perhaps a majority say in what happens to the team? It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Kings, will they get the same fate as the Sonics? I sure hope not.

 

San Antonio Spurs

Jollyrogerwilco from Pounding the RockThe San Antonio Spurs should not be contracted because after earning the best winning percentage in all professional sports over the past 15 years by winning 70% of their games, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are getting old and will soon retire. Which means that the rest of the league will have a better chance of beating them

Nate's take: My sister was just in San Antonio on business. She said the Texans were talking about their Spurs, no surprises there. Spurs fans are passionate about their team, as it's the only professional franchise in S.A., and the support they get will keep them safe.

 

Toronto Raptors:

Adam Francis from Raptors HQShould the NBA contract Canada's only NBA team?  It's an interesting question.  On one side, we're talking about a club that has one of the worst franchise winning percentages in the league, and doesn't look to be turning the corner soon. Curling draws more viewers nationally than the team, and it gets dwarfed media-wise by hockey, especially their brethren Maple Leafs.

Yet, the fan base that does follow the team is extremely ardent, and attendance has never been much of an issue for the Dinos. The club is also one of the more financially successful teams in the league.  It placed 10th in terms of value based on Forbes' rankings of NBA franchises last year, and is just one of 10 teams that generated more than one million dollars in gate receipts on average per game. Add in a strong Canadian dollar, a bottomless pit of management money thanks to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Raptors' ownership group, and the club is on solid economic ground.

Add in the fact that David Stern has always been big on expanding the game outside of the U.S., and that well, Toronto IS White Vegas, and I'd say that Toronto shouldn't be one of the first clubs to come up regarding contraction talk.

They're by no means immune though, and should the team continue to erode the loyalty of its fans by putting together sub 30-win seasons, and going along without marketable stars, things could change quickly.

Nate's take: The Raptors and Grizzlies both came into the league in 1995 as the NBA expanded into Canada (for those of you who have been in a cave, the Grizz were originally in Vancouver). Only the Raptors remain and should be safe because if NBA executives love traveling to Toronto as much players they should be safe. 

I have heard talk of Vancouver getting another shot - so if contraction is real talk then expansion isn't likely ... it'd be an existing team being uprooted. Who would go? Yikes.

 

Utah Jazz:

Basketball John from SLC DunkThe only reason the Jazz should be in jeopardy of being contracted is if the league is collapsing. Why else would you get rid of one of the most competent franchises in the league? They've been a model of how to make a franchise successful despite being in one of the smallest markets in the league. The fans support the team in good seasons and in bad. Loyalties and homerism aside, how many other franchises would swap teams/players right now with the Jazz? 10? 15? 20? The fact that even a couple came to mind indicates that the Jazz should be far away from contraction talk.

Nate's take: Not the ideal place for free agents, the Nuggets also struggle in this area, but a well run franchise that is undergoing some major changes. No more Jerry Sloan or Deron Williams, but the future doesn't look bleak in Utah either. The Jazz, who once upon a time were in New Orleans (1974-1979), are safe.

 

Washington Wizards:

Mike Prada from Bullets ForeverBecause Michael Jordan once played for us.  You wouldn't want to contract a team Michael Jordan once played for, would you?

Nate's take: I really wish they'd switch back to the Bullets name. Another historic team, in a great city, and with a bright future. The Wiz are safe. 

 

We don't know the extent of what NBA teams are facing as far as this whole revenue mess goes. But we do see that franchise values haven't plummeted either, according to Forbes. There shouldn't be talk of contraction as there is easily enough talent to fill 30 rosters. Stern was talking about expanding the NBA to Europe in 2008, and now the league has used or at least mentioned the possibility of contracting, at least, the New Orleans Hornets during this lockout.

Lost in the talk of who will get more millions is the question of what role do the fans play? We see teams get uprooted and arenas get built with large amounts of taxpayer funding. It's a funny position as we see things like public schools continue to get the shaft in funding, but taxpayers get suckered into donating money to line billionaires and millionaires pockets. People pay for arenas to be built, to watch a game be played ... and just like that ::snap:: they can be taken away.

Basketball is around to provide us with entertainment and in rough economic times we shouldn't be forced to think about the possibility of our teams being taken away. Keep our NBA the way it is now and figure out a way to make things work. Easier said than done? Glad I'm not the one who is being tasked to do the real thinking.  

 

 

 

Nate_Timmons on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons
ntimmons73@yahoo.com 

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