This shortened basketball season has seen tighter playoff races and fewer injuries, but Deputy NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reckons the 66 game season is not here to stay. The reason for this is money, while the NBA looks set to perform better financially this season, Silver believes clubs and players will both lose out.
The season was cut short after players and franchise owners failed to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. Such was the delay that the agreement was not made until Thanksgiving weekend. The disagreement was sparked by around $650 million losses over the previous two seasons. Good news, however, is that the losses have been cut significantly this season despite a reduced schedule. Silver says that “we will make money for the next season, for the 12-13 season.”
To make up the game deficit the number of games each team played was cut from 82 to 66. In order to do this, each team has to play an extra two games a month, making their schedules more packed than usual.
Despite playing more games per month, though admittedly less overall, player injuries for All-Star players are down from 43 last season to 35 this season. Commissioner David Stern has also described the season as a “barnburner” as the compressed schedules have made it more difficult for teams to pull away in the race for the playoffs. This means less games are being seen as dead rubbers and their outcomes are counting for more. This kind of entertainment can only be good for the game, though with this much excitement players and fans alike might have to compare life insurance.
Still, Silver, who negotiated the bargaining agreement last November, thinks that the 82 game season will be back next season and will be here to stay. Silver is quoted as saying that if a season is cut, “we cut our revenues significantly as well. Players would make less, so no, and I think it’s not optimal to play a condensed season in this fashion. I think both we and the players’ union recognized that going in, but it was a compromise on both our parts to maximize the amount of salary players would get this season and to have as authentic a season as possible, sufficient number of games for competitive reasons.”
The league are still exploring new ways to increase revenues. One of the ideas being mooted is having shirt sponsors for each team or for the league as a whole. Up until now, basketball uniforms have been advertisement free, but it is a common occurrence in other sports such as soccer. NBA franchise owners have been given demonstration shirts as examples, but Stern and Silver would not predict when advertisements might appear on shirts.
The larger soccer teams in Europe, such as Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus have signed significant deals. Only last year, Liverpool, who are owned by the same Fenway Sports Group who own baseball’s Boston Red Sox signed a deal worth about $140 million deal with Standard Charter, a London bank.
Commissioner Stern is convinced that the NBA is moving in the right direction in terms of finances. He said “we reported on the improved profitability of the league; the improved – what we expect – profitability going forward, and generally, the success of the season that we are in with increased licensing, sales of products. Everything has been on the uptick, and as I said before, far better than we had reason to hope for but we are extremely pleased and feeling good about it.”
While finances keep the teams going and keep the players in the NBA, making it the best basketball league in the world, for fans the excitement of the competition is utmost in their thoughts. This season has been a tight and gripping contest so far. With the regular season coming to an end soon things are relatively quiet on the eastern front with Chicago, Miami, Indiana, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando and New York already qualified for the playoffs. This leaves Milwaukee with the task of overhauling Philadelphia’s three game lead with four games left to play.
The Western Conference is far more open. San Antonio, Oklahoma, the Lakers and the Clippers, plus Memphis and Dallas have already qualified. This leaves four teams fighting it out for the last two places. Denver top the list with a 34-28 record with four to play, while Houston are the outsiders with a 32-31 record and three to play. Sandwiched between them, however, are Phoenix and Utah who have identical 33-30 records with three to play. Expect this one to go down to the wire.
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