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Winderman: The NBA should contract incompetent owners

Oct 11, 2011, 5:54 PM EDT

Image (1) dsterling-thumb-250x250-18407.jpg for post 3716

This can’t be what David Stern signed up for.

NBA commissioner? He’s more like Big 12 commissioner.

The Lakers, Knicks, Heat? Those are his versions of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, teams that want to play big, spend big.

The difference is this isn’t the BCS, and his teams can’t leave for places where the big boys play and pay.

Instead, they’re stuck in the equivalent of a place where the Iowa States, Baylors and Kansas States somehow are calling the shots.

This is where the NBA lockout has delivered Stern.

The problem is he can’t sort his teams into FBS and FCS designations, where those willing to play at a higher level are granted such freedom, while others are allowed to play according to their means.

It has become almost a daily image, that of NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver standing next to Stern and chiming in about creating an equitable system where all 30 teams can contend for a championship.

Yet for all the places this rollercoaster ride of lockout negotiations has taken us, leveling the economic playing field still won’t draw high-profile players away from Los Angeles and Chicago to Sacramento and Indiana. A hard cap won’t provide Minnesota or Milwaukee in dead of winter the warmth of Phoenix or Houston. An onerous luxury tax won’t alleviate the state tax burden in Cleveland and Detroit the way the no-tax burden make Orlando and Miami more attractive.

And beyond all of that, the hardest of salary caps won’t offset incompetent management.

But what will strengthen the sport is eliminating the weakest links, reducing, by simple math, the number of owners who simply have no place in this forum in the first place.

Yes, the contraction reaction.

Currently, not only is the league operating the Hornets, but it is spearheading the Kings’ search for a new arena. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan is earning more from everything non-Bobcats. And the Timberwolves have managed to make themselves matter less than Minnesota’s WNBA franchise.

But it’s not the cities or the franchises as much as the number of teams and the number of owners. Certainly, just a few years ago, plenty of claims could have been made against Miami as a viable NBA market.

No, it’s that amid the bickering from the league’s lesser half of owners, that they can’t make any money, the reality is that in this economy David Stern seemingly can’t find 30 owners willing and able to successfully operate NBA franchises.

But he might be able to identify 28 or 26.

Remove the incompetent, regardless of city, and there might be a workable consensus. And no lockout. Then, relocate, if needed. Even Major League Baseball was able to pull that off with their Montreal-Miami-Washington ownership-switch dynamic.

Right now the NBA is not 30-strong.

And right now, that appears to be the league’s greatest weakness.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at

  1. dannomac21 - Oct 11, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    what an awful point of view. as soon as i saw who he writes for i understood why he wrote it. lets contract the entire league minus the heat so theyre automatic champs!

    • david8726 - Oct 11, 2011 at 6:30 PM

      Your reading comprehension sucks if that is what you got out of this article.

      Ira is exactly right. The NBA was always at it’s absolute best when there were fewer franchises. With 30 teams, the talent pool is diluted significantly from the 1980s glory days.

      There are too many teams in cities that can’t / won’t support the NBA year in and year out.

      The hornets and the bobcats the two most obvious franchises to cut. Neither of those cities have ever supported the NBA enough to justify a franchise being there.

      • vexey - Oct 11, 2011 at 6:37 PM

        That isn’t really fair, this city *loved* the Hornets; we hated Shinn and Bob Johnson.

      • jgib23 - Oct 11, 2011 at 9:46 PM

        Charlotte, the City that lead the NBA in attendance for 8 of the first 10 years they were in the league has “never supported the NBA enough to justify a franchise” ?

        Don’t confuse a market that had 2 of the worst owners in the history of the NBA (Shinn and Bob Johnson) with a bad market. We just haven’t had any hope before MJ bought the team. Attendance has climbed every year since Jordan came on board and “Boob'” Johnson got out of the way.

        Give us a decent team and we will consistently be top 10 in attendance. This place is hoops crazy but, have had terrible basketball for far too long.

    • r19d - Oct 11, 2011 at 8:05 PM

      At the end of the day, the NBA probably should look to Premier Soccer as a guide. Not all NBA teams are equal. Not all owners can afford the best talent, and why should players, fans and other owners who are able to run a successful business be forced to suffer. There’s a reason why Twolves vs. Clips is a lousy ticket, and they will struggle to compete in a truly free market.

      A good owner with a smart gm can always move up to the upper level — just win, baby!

  2. jollyjoker2 - Oct 11, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    The owners are usually billionaires so they obviously has some business acumen. Its stupid to say these guys are idiots. I agree on the the too many teams……,I think that there are too many teams and not enough top flight talent. The only reason the nba was coming back this past year was because the owners stopped the players from going from High school to the pros. It killed the nba as people couldnt connect with some pimple faced kid. Also, if top tier players can move around from team to team to pick the best marketing deal,…it kills certain owners ability to market a winner. I mean seriously, do you want to watch a bunch of nba rejects against top talent pooled in one area.

    • livingsacrifice86 - Oct 11, 2011 at 7:54 PM

      Isn’t the league popular because of names like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony etc? Players that either came straight from high school or only played 1 year of college ball…

      • jollyjoker2 - Oct 11, 2011 at 11:21 PM

        There are not that many of them or the league would be in great financial shape. Also, I am not sure I want to wait and watch some nba high school kid sit on the bench for 3-5 years before he is worth a salt. That includes Kobe and garnett who came out at 18. They did squat. Bird, Magic and Jordan estabished themselves in college as ncaa champs so people had an idea of what they can do. Lebron? give me a break. He shoots the jumper with stone hands. Its a poor product.

  3. savocabol1 - Oct 11, 2011 at 7:34 PM


    • savocabol1 - Oct 11, 2011 at 7:38 PM

      What a terrible article. So your saying they should contract the Knicks owners right? Or how about the heat post championship and pre big three? No your not. Instead you are laying blame on terrible owners in small markets (and the clippers) because free agents are being driven to large markets.

  4. sdelmonte - Oct 11, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    And how on Earth do you contract the Knicks?

    • philtration - Oct 11, 2011 at 9:18 PM

      What have the Knicks done for the last 40 years?
      Of course they are not going to contract the team playing in the biggest market (even though they have not won anything for 40 years)

      The world does not owe your town an NBA team and if you can’t support them then you missed your chance.
      Go to the games or stop crying about it.

  5. Gordon - Oct 11, 2011 at 7:55 PM

    Amen! I’ve always thought there are just too many teams & too many bad owners. There are not enough viable markets. Stop rewarding bad markets/teams (Atlanta, Charlotte, Jersey, Toronto, New Orleans, Clippers).

    • rebe1tor - Oct 12, 2011 at 1:28 AM

      How is Toronto a bad market team, plus how was the NBA rewarding Toronto?!? You can get by on the bad team, but that’s mostly because Americans still don’t know much about Toronto. They think its more north than other NBA teams, or that they don’t have the same tv channels, or water that tastes different. Oh, and I’m so sorry your kids have to learn the metric system, like the rest of the world, instead of the useless imperial system.

      • rebe1tor - Oct 12, 2011 at 1:30 AM

        Oh, and I guess players haven’t figured out they don’t have to bring weed across to a different country, and that they can buy it in Canada (hey, who knew Canada had weed :) ).

  6. heat24 - Oct 11, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    Bout time someone said this!! Thank you Ira!

  7. slowclyde86 - Oct 11, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    Hey genius (David)…the article talks to contracting incompetent owners, not necessarily those with low fan support. Your point might be valid, but not when criticizing someone else’s reading. Ridiculous.

  8. castillo_ken - Oct 11, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    Maybe the NBA should think outside the box and be more like Soccer. Have a 28 team NBA league with 14 teams in the East & 14 teams in the West. Then you have a relegation league which can include some new expanded cities like Seattle, San Diego, Cincinnati, Anaheim, Tampa, St. Louis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or Indianapolis to name a few. You can now have the weakest two teams from each division relegated and the top two teams from the NBA second division elevated to the NBA. It’s worth a try hey there are teams that should not even be in the NBA.

  9. akismet-9bfac212a93c64c2c1abe56138b8286a - Oct 11, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    Ira’s right.

    I don’t see how a fan can side on the owners on this one. The owners are the employer and the players are the employees. Look at it this way, the owners are basically telling the employees to take a pay cut because management isn’t making enough money due to whatever excuse they can use; bad market, bad contracts, basically bad decisions. The players don’t decide how much they make without the owners agreeing to it and what’s more, the players have little say in other aspects of operations.

    Here’s another perspective, if the players are the employees, do you think that teams would survive if the players didn’t exist? Of course not. It’s the players that bring in the revenue, not the owners.

    Bottom line is, if your market sucks and you’re not making enough money, then close up shop and find somewhere else or something else to invest in.

    Nothing burns me more than a bunch of millionaires deciding not how there isn’t enough money, but how to spread it around.

    • jollyjoker2 - Oct 11, 2011 at 11:30 PM

      The players may bring in revenue but the owners build stadiums and provide jobs. That’s how it works in america. These players couldnt run a lemonaide stand without the owners. The owners can’t dribble and make commercials. Its a fair trade off. I tell you what, if I was an owner and had that kind of money invested in a team, I dam well better be making a return on my money. In some of these arena’s, they are nearly giving tickets away to fill seats. That’s what happens when your talent base is not that deep and the disparity of the teams are too far apart. If you think as an owner I would allow a player to go whereever they want for the best sneaker and billboard contract than I would ask that the players kick in to contract the league or they can sit.

      • critter69 - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:53 AM

        “the owners build stadiums”

        They do?


  10. madnova - Oct 11, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    Awesome idea. I’m sure the owners crying poverty will lineup to buy out a few fellow owners with money out of their pocket–because the owners aren’t leaving the league without getting paid for it.

    And then the lockout can end, because nothing will smooth relations with the players like eliminating jobs.

  11. cosanostra71 - Oct 11, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    I have no problem with getting rid of owners like Donald Sterling and Robert Sarver. What a bunch of losers.

    • madnova - Oct 12, 2011 at 2:03 AM

      Sterling wouldn’t be one of the owners axed for being incompetent–The Clippers turn him a profit pretty regularly.

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