The NBA will investigate the
I have a lot of questions about a possible move to Europe, especially when it comes to persuading local fans to buy tickets at NBA prices -- that's going to be a hard sell. And yet my impression is that commissioner
The first is that NBA-ready arenas are starting to appear on the landscape in Europe in London and Berlin, with Rome and Madrid planning to build in the future. If the NBA doesn't move into those buildings, then what is to stop a rival group from creating a European league from scratch to compete against the NBA for audiences and players? The league needs to investigate whether European expansion is a legitimate option -- and if so, to exploit it.
Europe could provide the NBA with an opportunity to grow its business after hitting the ceiling domestically. More than a few team owners would like to see Stern find a way to make big money from his 20-year investment in international basketball. A move into Europe would open the door to new sources of revenue.
The big issue is whether European customers will buy expensive tickets to 41 games per year -- especially to watch a losing team, as expansion franchises need years to develop. But TV revenue could be a major component: Imagine showing live NBA games on prime time in Western Europe several nights per week.
As hard as the league will work to get it right the first time, there are bound to be some failures. Say the NBA franchise in Rome can't find an audience; it may move to another market as more NBA-styled arenas are built in Europe. The story of the NBA is that franchises move from city to city, and it won't be any different in Europe than it's been in North America.
Consider this a healthy development for Boston. Though Boston doesn't have to worry about any of those teams until the NBA Finals, the improvements will enable the Celtics -- despite their league-leading record -- to view themselves as underdogs, which should renew their motivation heading toward the playoffs.
"He has a lot of mileage, obviously, and in the past his knee's bothered him a little bit,'' Popovich said. "So let these guys go on their own a little while. They're going to face some situations now on their own, be in a lot more close games than they would if Kevin was out on that court right now. It's good for
"Assuming that Kevin is going to be OK, and I think he will be, it's a good thing. Guys are in situations that maybe they wouldn't be in normally. And in a seven-game series you're doing all sorts of different things, and if those guys have that experience it really is a bonus.''
Everything is arranged beautifully for Portland. The Blazers have a winning record with the youngest team in the league, and they'll have major cap space in two summers -- leading to speculation of a run at
That's a fair point. But if the NBA goes in this direction, the residual hope will be that moving to Europe will inspire a new generation of players, thus growing the pool of talent.
There would be a lot of problems, including a drain on the talent pool, as Aaron predicts. The American players would inevitably complain about having to play in Europe, and their demands to be traded back to the United States wouldn't be appreciated by the fans in Europe. All of the teams -- especially those based in Europe -- would complain about the travel, and local supporters would detest the ticket prices. But the bottom line is that Stern has been globalizing the NBA brand for two decades in hopes of pursuing this kind of expansion. If he believes he can ultimately create new revenues while growing his business and his sport by moving to Europe, then I would imagine he is going to give it a try.
Most sports leagues outside the United States operate on a "promotion'' system in which teams are promoted to -- or relegated from -- the first division, with the second and third divisions featuring weaker franchises that dream of working their way up. That kind of approach would work quite nicely in today's lopsided NBA. Just exchange five teams from each conference and you'd have the makings of a first and second division, based on the records of teams entering the All-Star break.
(Eastern conference teams are in bold-face)
1. Boston .820
1. Washington .481