Good news, LeBron James: Phil Jackson's significant other totally co-signs your thoughts on contraction!
In a feature piece posted on the Wall Street Journal's website , Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president for business affairs Jeanie Buss said that she believes the NBA may need to consider contracting franchises, focusing on those that are struggling financially.
As a result, Ms. Buss even mentioned in an interview with the Journal that the NBA should consider getting smaller by folding some of its weaker franchises in poorly performing markets.
“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.”Jackson made somewhat similar headlines in December when he said he wasn't happy about the NBA stepping in to purchase the struggling New Orleans Hornets. Jackson's comments were more directed at relocating the Hornets rather than folding them, though, so Buss goes further here.
In a sign of what Ms. Buss will be in for over the coming months, an official with the 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.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James, of course, caused a national media tidal wave in December when he said the NBA should consider eliminating some teams so that it could get back to the league's glory days of the 1980s.
It's understandable that an executive from a large-market, highly-profitable, luxury-tax paying team would view contraction as a step in their best interest and in the best interest of the league. It is somewhat surprising, though, that these comments would be made publicly, as team executives are usually loathe to comment on hot-button CBA topics for fear of fines from commissioner David Stern's office, and many view negotiating in public as detrimental to the overall cause.
What's even more interesting is that Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jeanie's father, said in November that he would support increased revenue sharing, a policy that would obviously make things easier financially for small-market teams and, by extension, make contraction less likely.
Where does this leave us? Well, it's the first public internal fissure in ownership's position, as small-market owners league-wide obviously cannot support these comments. The Players' Association made a thorough effort to bring James back into the fold after his contraction statements; it will be intriguing to watch how the league office and the NBA's other owners respond to Buss's declaration.