Contractions are painful; if you don't believe me, ask your mom.
And today's news from Ken Berger , that the NBA is open to the idea of contracting its less successful franchises, is painful for the NBA and its fans on a number of levels.
In another staggering development Thursday, CBSSports.com learned that salaries may not be the only area cut as the NBA tries to gets its financial books up to speed with the explosion in popularity the league will experience this season. A person with knowledge of the owners’ discussions said the league “will continue to be open to contraction” as a possible mechanism for restoring the league to profitability. The owners’ ongoing talks about competitive balance, profitability and revenue sharing have included the notion of whether teams are operating in “the best available markets,” the person said, and whether reducing the number of teams from the current level of 30 would help improve the product and the bottom line for the league.Contraction brings so many negatives. For the city, a loss of history, pride and identity. For the organization, a loss of, well, everything, including the office supplies, which will have to be liquidated on Craigslist. For the league, contraction is a major blow to its overall image and long-term prospects, hard facts running counter to plans for international expansion and global domination jingoism. Despite all of the pain and Seattle-style heartache that would result in any city that saw its NBA team folded, a strong argument for cutting off the foot (contracting struggling franchises) to save the leg (avoiding a lockout) can be made here. It's no secret that the NBA's business model isn't working and that it adversely affects owners in small markets, who are, in turn, most likely to want to take a hard line with the players, because they 1) have less to lose and 2) have more to gain. Need proof? Look at the league's latest proposal , which aims to shave off $750 million or more off total player salaries, an astonishing figure. Those kind of demands dare the players to walk and are so dramatic that they could only arise from a contingent of owners who aren't invested in, or profiting from, the current system. Owners pushing the player pay envelope are operating in their own best interests, first, and the league's second. So it's only right for the league, if it is audacious enough to publicly demand these concessions from the players, to take a long, hard look in its own house to make sure everything is in order. An honest appraisal of its ownership groups would find a wide variance in commitment to excellence and profitability. On one end, you have the Los Angeles Lakers, global brand with fistfuls of championship rings, more than 1.6 million followers on Twitter and untold merchandise sales. On the other, you have someone willing to turn over the keys to the car to David Kahn. Instead of trying to find a solution that's in the best interest of every owner along that continuum, it would seem from the outside that a compromise with the players would be easier to reach if the league's poorest, least profitable ownership sisters simply weren't at the table. Perhaps, then, this early contraction talk is a nudge for certain owners who might be on the edge of relocation, selling their franchise or reconsidering their financial commitment to their team. Something like, "It's about to get rocky, guys. Do the rest of us a solid and parachute out now while you have the chance." Am I a gung-ho advocate for contraction? No, not particularly. But am I in favor of contraction if it means that a labor stoppage can be avoided, or minimized, and an easier path to a successful business model for all can be found in the future? Definitely. The long-term global benefits to the league for keeping the product on the court - in terms of continuity, fan loyalty and image - far outweigh the costs of losing the game in a few courts across the country. In the end, basketball and those who play it cannot be made the scapegoats for a system that is too large and inefficient for its own good. The NBA owes it to the game and its players, past, present and future, to establish the best business climate for the product. And if that doesn't include the David Kahns, Michael Heisleys, or Donald Sterlings of the world? So be it. Coaches love to say that basketball is a team game, bigger than any individual player. We shouldn't forget that it's bigger than any individual executive or franchise, too.