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If games are missed, don’t expect fans to come rushing back

Sep 29, 2011, 9:59 AM EDT

Empty Nets Arena medowlands AP

Despite all the doom and gloom rhetoric, you can expect to see NBA basketball this season. Not on time — they could reach a deal in the next week that saves the full season, if you think both sides are really willing and ready to compromise — but there will be games. Eventually.

The question is will the fans come back?

Jeff Van Gundy — the former NBA head coach and current ABC analyst — isn’t so sure, he told Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger.

“What’s interesting to me is, when you’re in professional sports sometimes, you get the impression that more people care than really do,” Van Gundy, the former Knicks coach, said. “And you better be careful, because there are other things people can do with their income.”

Right now, everyone is talking football. But come Nov. 1, when the NBA regular season was set to tip of, if there are no games and no labor peace, it will be big news and people will notice. And they will look at their finances, the nation’s finances, and they will be angry. The league will pay a steep price. To strike during a recession like this will bring a more harsh reaction from fans than previous work stoppages.

The NFL could get away with it, that is a different animal, Van Gundy said

“Face it, whether you’re an NFL season-ticket holder and have to buy 10 games, it’s on weekends and Monday nights — it’s predictable, it doesn’t change your lifestyle,” he said. “Even the fans of the worst (NFL) teams don’t complain; they’re coming back, because it’s a weekly tradition.

“But the season-ticket holder in the NBA is different. People split the package. It’s a major time and financial commitment. I’m not trying to be gloom and doom here. It’s just that people don’t have the disposable income they used to have, and it’s not like they’re pining for NBA basketball. I just worry at some point — I know at some point — that some sport will go too far. It just will. Whatever that entails.”

The NBA is on the edge of too far right now, heading into Fridays’ talks in New York. Both sides need to give in come the weekend, otherwise the size of that pie they are fighting over how to divide up will get a lot smaller. Fans will not come back quickly.

  1. bravin4evr - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    David Stern is as big of an ass as Roger Goodell. If Stern allows this season to be canceled everyone will lose more than some games! Look how long it took for hockey fans to come back.

  2. asublimeday - Sep 29, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Amen. The arrogance of the owners and greed of the players is very off-putting. As much as I love my bulls, I’m not going to be stepped on like a commodity.

  3. savocabol1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    You are dead wrong. When the NBA comes back fans will rush to games just like they did in the past. There will be no difference.

    I hope you write an article about attendance when this is all said and done and the games are back on….you won’t though.

    • mogogo1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:54 PM

      Not sure what league you’ve been watching, savocabol1, but it clearly hasn’t been the NBA. Fans haven’t been rushing to games for years–that’s why over half the teams are losing money and most every arena has tons of open seats every game.

      Football totally eclipses the NBA even with many people who consider themselves basketball fans. And there’s always college ball to help fill the void. It also doesn’t help them that everyone openly acknowledges the first few months of the regular season are meaningless.

      • savocabol1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 4:46 PM

        You are entitled to your opinion. But come time for games to start you will see the same attendance numbers in this coming season as you did in the last.

        The NBA as well as the media will tell you that the NBA is coming off record numbers last year. Granted it was because of the Heat drama but that drama isn’t going to change.

      • savocabol1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 4:52 PM

        And just to point out your argument, the NBA is losing money because they are paying crazy high salaries that are doing nothing but going up and up.

        Arena capacity was at or above 90% last year (on average) for the 7th straight year. You are right, fans aren’t coming to the games…….

      • mogogo1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 5:14 PM

        Overall attendance was down last season for the second consecutive season. And they had to severely discount ticket prices to keep attendance from falling even further which is what led to ticket revenue falling over $100 million. These are not positive trends. 90% of your seats being filled doesn’t do much for you if the people aren’t paying hardly anything to be there. Free concerts at the park draw plenty of people, too, but they don’t make anybody rich.

  4. cbaber26 - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    just a thought, the NBA playoffs seem to frag on forever, theyre at least a month long with all of the off days. Is there any talk about making up missed games at the end of the season and shortening the absurdly long playoff schedule?

    • Kurt Helin - Sep 29, 2011 at 8:16 PM

      No. The owners make their money in the playoffs.

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