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Lakers’ Jeanie Buss will not rule out contraction

Jan 20, 2011, 8:15 PM EDT

Jeanie Buss

Contraction talk has become the cockroach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks — it will not die. No matter what.

This time it was Lakers Vice President Jeanie Buss. Yes, she also shacks up with some guy named Phil Jackson, but make no mistake she runs the business end of the Lakers and is the team voice in ownership meetings.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she sounded every part the big market owner.

“I would hate to see us lose teams, but I think contraction is something we have to consider,” Ms. Buss said. “We may be in some markets we shouldn’t be in.”

The Lakers are one of the big market teams that, if there is going to be serious revenue sharing, are going to be giving, not getting. Same with the Knicks, Bulls and a number of other big market teams.

With that they don’t want to be throwing money down a well, they want some return on that investment. That means two things.

One is contraction, or as Hoopsworld’s Eric Pincus put it “serious and smart relocation.” The big market owners do not want to be throwing money into markets where the team will never be profitable. Hence some concerns about New Orleans, for one.

The other is some kind of assurances that any money given to small market owners is invested back into the product and not just pocketed (as has happened in Major League Baseball). That has led to talk of restrictions on the money such as meeting benchmarks of ticket sales.

As you might imagine, Buss’ comments were jumped on by the player’s union.

In a sign of what Ms. Buss will be in for over the coming months, an official with the NBA’s players union seized on her statements and said the issue of contraction was “clearly dividing the owners.”

“If the owners are not on the same page it will make it that much more difficult to get a collective bargaining agreement,” the official said.

Dividing might be too strong a word. But they’re playing some hardball with each other as well.

  1. jstrizzle - Jan 20, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    Good teams usually become big market teams. Everyone talks about the Lakers being a big market team but the Clippers are the same market. Superstars make for big market teams. How about each team can only offer 1 max contract or something so we don’t get a situation like the heat. That is 3 people that make for sellout crowds all on one team.

    • hnirobert3 - Jan 21, 2011 at 7:52 AM

      Yeah, because the Bulls would’ve been great with either Jordan or Pippen and not both, or breaking up the 80’s Lakers and 80’s Celtics…

    • secdominance - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:45 PM

      lets not allow multiple top free agents to go to one team…now if they’re traded there that’s entirely fine. That’s probably what you meant and I don’t agree with that sentiment. There’s already enough restraint of trade which greatly benefits the owners

  2. philtration - Jan 20, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    How about just admitting that some places are not going to support a team.
    Why did they need to put a team in Minnesota?
    Why move one team out of Charlotte and then replace it with another?
    Who thought that an NBA team in Memphis was a good idea?
    Why give another team to New Orleans when the last one ran away to Utah?
    When are the Kings going to admit that moving to Sacramento was a bad idea?

    You can eliminate 4 teams right now and never miss them.
    Less teams means less watered down crap clogging up the league.

    • jstrizzle - Jan 20, 2011 at 10:38 PM

      I may be biased as a minnesota fan but they support a team just fine. Past management has worked hard to push fans away. Even as a team with only 10 wins they still get 70-80% attendance. That is better than what memphis pulls in and they are doing a lot better. If the T’wolves got a competitive team they would be sellout.

    • hnirobert3 - Jan 21, 2011 at 7:54 AM

      I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Blow up the following teams: Toronto, Charlotte, Memphis, Sacramento and NJ. Put Houston in the East and the conferences will even out.

    • dmo84 - Jan 21, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      What’s wrong with Minnesota? They have a professional hockey team(sells out every game), baseball team(new stadium), football team, and university right in the city of Minneapolis. The Wolves have all that competition and still draw better than a lot of teams. When the Atlanta Hawks were as bad as the Wolves they were drawing less than 7,000 a night. Should you put Atlanta on your list for contraction? Even though I disagree that Minnesota should be one of the cities contracted I do agree there are too many teams in the NBA. The product is almost becoming unwatchable for me.

    • wfon1 - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:06 PM

      Not familiar w/ the Minnesota situation, but all great points.
      I would also like to know who thought an NBA team in Memphis was a good idea too!

  3. sknut - Jan 21, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    For whatever reason the NBA isn’t kind to small market teams save San Antonio , it seems players want to play in the big spotlight even though if you win you will be in the spotlight. Its something Carmelo should think about just ask Step Marbury what happens when you get your way and leave a good situation cause your not mature enough.

  4. heyooooh - Jan 21, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    Once David Stern gets to her, she’ll pulla LeBron and claim she doesn’t even know what the word “contraction” means.

    • wfon1 - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      Please dont compare Lebron to anyone in the LAKER organization.

      • secdominance - Jan 21, 2011 at 6:45 PM

        thats right. Lebron has more talent than any of them

      • ihavecomment - Jan 23, 2011 at 3:14 AM

        Yup, the Decision on ESPN proves that, that he is so full of it.

  5. petermcd88 - Jan 21, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    1. Charlotte, Memphis and New Orleans are not markets that can consistently make a profit. The popularity of Duke and Carolina does not mean that people go to 41 basketball games in Charlotte. If you look at the demographics of people who live in those areas they are completely different. The same for Memphis, just because they have a great college program does not mean they will ever be able to support a pro team. NO is not a basketball town and the only time they got consistent crowds was in OKC.

    2. Minni is a sports town that loves their teams so I think contracting that franchise would be bad for the NBA.

    3. Teams like San Antonio and OKC keep their star players because they build their teams the right way. If Cleveland drafted well or bought late first round picks like those teams to cultivate a roster of young talent built around Lebron he would have stayed.

    4. Making rules like only 1 max contract per team only leads to unintended consequences and loopholes. Loophole number 1 is the case of the Heat where no player technically has a max contract. An unintended consequence would be penalizing a team like the Thunder who have drafted and developed to max worthy guys. Keep in mind there used to be no max contract and the existence of a max contract probably allowed the Heat to get this done. If Lebron can get 40 million on the open market there is no way he takes 15 million.

  6. philtration - Jan 22, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    What’s wrong with Minnesota?
    Well… the Lakers left years ago.
    The North Stars left for the Hockey hot bed of … Dallas Texas!
    The Vikings are on the verge of bailing for L.A.
    The Twins owner offered his own team up for contraction not long ago.

    Not exactly a good track record for professional sports in Minnesota.

    I don’t want to see one good player on each team and have a league full of .500 mediocre teams.
    Get rid of the dead weight and have a better product on display every night.

    • dmo84 - Jan 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM

      Not a good track record, are you kidding me. The Lakers left over 50 years ago, but after they won 5 championships. The North Stars left a few years after playing the Penguins for the Stanley Cup. In the 30 plus years I’ve been a Viking fan they have never gone more than 3 to 4 years in a row without making the playoffs(plus 4 NFC championship games). The Twins won 2 World Series in 5 years. I don’t know why the Lakers left(way before my time), but the other teams you mentioned were/are all looking for new stadiums. There has never been an issue with fan support or attendance. The Wild have sold out every game in their existence, have one of the best stadiums in hockey, and are one of the most profitable franchises. The Twins have one of the best stadiums in baseball, plus they signed Joe Mauer to the third larget contract in baseball. I will argue your point all day that Minnesota can support all pro franchises(including the Wolves). But when it comes to the Wolves(as much as Iove em no matter what), the franchise could be contracted and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. They have got to be the must unlucky snake-bitten team in all sports. They never get lucky in the lottery, they are constantly getting screwed by the refs, and David Stern absolutely hates them. Like I said in my earlier post, the NBA(especially the Wolves) are becoming unwatchable for me.

  7. sdboltaction - Jan 23, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    She’s pretty hot.

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