Critics of the way the NBA distributes revenue are starting to emerge. Small-market owners, worried that their sport will develop the sort of economic disparities that trouble Major League Baseball, are starting to speak up on the subject.
The Jazz’s Larry Miller now has gone on record about the letter he and seven other small-market owners sent to David Stern asking the commissioner to institute revenue sharing of local TV revenues and possibly gate receipts.
Nobody’s in a panic, he said, nobody’s franchise is in danger of going under.
But he acknowledged the problem is getting worse quickly, and that something needs to change within two or three years.
He said in May that the Jazz lost $25 million in the past two seasons, though a return to the playoffs this year could close a lot of the gap.
Miller signed the letter in September, along with Charlotte owner Bob Johnson, Indiana’s Herb Simon, Memphis’ Michael Heisley, Milwaukee’s Herb Kohl, Minnesota’s Glen Taylor, New Orleans’ George Shinn and Portland’s Paul Allen.
The Seattle Times printed excerpts of the letter in November, which displeased Stern.
Miller said: “We feel we’re maximizing our revenues every place we can. But from an operating standpoint, our cash doesn’t pay the players year-to-year.
“We are competing with franchises that have five times the financial resources that we do.
“Nowadays, things almost have to be perfect for us (to make a profit) ...
“The problem is, the disparity is getting so wide now. We probably take in $18 million from our (broadcast) contracts. I don’t know exactly what New York and New Jersey get, but it’s over $100 million....
“(The letter was) probably our most forceful message yet that ‘we don’t feel like you’re listening to us as carefully as we’d like you to.’ ... (The bigmarket teams) want to let sleeping dogs lie, understandably.
“Teams aren’t going to go down the tubes if we don’t do something tomorrow. But we need more than a band-aid. I’d say it’s critical we get something done in the next two to three years.”
Stern told the Charlotte Observer that, “I would say that if we don’t continue to tweak the revenue sharing system, that there could be teams that were performing at peak and still having trouble making ends meet.“
The bottom line: Economic problems were bound to surface in a league that pays players about $5 million per season and charges fans $50 a ticket.
The Knicks’ Steve Francis went home to Washington for a Christmas Day charity event, then his flight got fogged in and he didn’t make a Dec. 26 practice, for which he got fined.
Francis apparently never has heard of Hertz or Amtrak.
This is the second time he’s had an issue like this. After his trade last season, he went back to Orlando to “pick up some clothes” and didn’t make it back in time for the next game.
Guess he’s never heard of Macy’s, either.
Francis wants out of Knicksland, but including this year, he’s owed $48.7 million for three seasons.
He’s admitted he now plays below the rim, and that plus his salary makes him virtually untradeable until the 2008 trade deadline.
RIGHT PLACE FOR AI
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he thinks Allen Iverson went to a perfect spot for his style of game.
“Of all the places he could have gone, I don’t think there’s a better place (than Denver) for him…
“I’ve long believed … that there’s no better home-court advantage than here when they run. No air, legs go by the fourth quarter.
“For whatever reason they got away from it. When Doug Moe (was the head coach) they ran, No. 1, and when they got it in halfcourt they ran the passing game, so you never could stand still.
“You wanted to quit in some of those games. You were exhausted.
“George (Karl) is doing the same thing. Doug’s on the bench (as an assistant), so there’s no coincidence.
“And Iverson fits that to a T.’’
Awvee Storey, the former ASU player who made the NBA with the Wizards and is now in the minor leagues, is in trouble.
Storey allegedly punched teammate Martynas Andriuskevicius, whom the Bulls recently assigned to the National Basketball Development League’s Dakota Wizards, in a practice.
The 7-foot-2, 240-pound Andriuskevicius, 20, spent a night in intensive care in Bismarck, N.D.
“He has a skull fracture, severe concussion and a two-centimeter hematoma on the left side of his brain,” Andriuskevicius’ agent Herb Rudoy said.
“They’ve been monitoring him because they’re concerned about seizures.
“From what I’m told, when he got hit unexpectedly, he went out cold instantly and fell right back on his head.”
The 6-6, 225-pound Storey has been suspended indefinitely while the NBA and NBDL investigate.
There’s also been a police report written, according to detective Dean Clarkson. But Clarkson said Andriuskevicius does not want to press charges, making an arrest unlikely.
“Awvee’s a terrific kid,” said his Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein. “They had an altercation in practice, and it’s really unfortunate.”
The case can be made that the Heat’s Antoine Walker is the worst player who gets regular minutes in the NBA.
He is shooting 40 percent from the floor, and getting a lot of shots blocked.
He’s shooting 23.5 percent from 3-point land, which is a career low, and 37.5 percent from the free throw line, which would even be a career low for Shaq (but not Ben Wallace).
All that translates to an 8.3 points a game scoring average, which is almost six points less than his previous low of 14 a game in his season with Dallas.
Pat Riley is finding that it’s best to play Walker in the first half for a few minutes, then blame either “matchups” or “the situation” for not playing him in the second half.
The PA announcer sometimes conveniently forgets to announce his entry into games because the home fans would just boo him.
“The only person I’ve ever had that hasn’t been a worker in the fortunate times I’ve been coaching is probably Shaq. He’s the one guy that didn’t really like to work.”
LAKERS COACH, ON HIS FORMER PLAYER, WHO REPLIED BY CALLING JACKSON “BENEDICT ARNOLD.”
A winner again
Nuggets coach George Karl recently ran up his 800th win over the Sonics, a franchise that averaged 59 wins when he coached them.
“I would like to have another Seattle in my career, and my hopes are that Denver will become that.
“Seattle was a team that taught me what you have to have to be a championship team. Milestones mean that I survived the dangers of being fired and never hired again.”
Did you know?
Young gun: At 21, LeBron James became the youngest player to score 7,000 career points.
Big, Bad Atlantic: This year’s Atlantic Division may be the worst since the Midwest Division in 1975-76. Back then, the Bucks won the division with a 38-44 record, while the Pistons were next at 36-46.
Bench star: Ben Gordon is now averaging more than 20 points off the bench for the Bulls. If he wins the sixth-man-of-the year award, he’d be the third such winner to average 20. The Suns’ Eddie Johnson in 1989 and Ricky Pierce for the Bucks in ’90 are the only winners to do so.
The woes of the Kings’ Mike Bibby continue.
He’s at 36.1 percent overall and 25.4 on threes. And no one has an explanation.
Bibby has taken a number of stances on his shot, from citing the thumb and wrist injuries that lingered for so long to the current lack of confidence that he can snap his wrist on release without fear of pain. Mostly, he has kept his analysis simple.
“My shot just ain’t going in right now,” he said.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
The Cavs’ Anderson Varejao, who appears to have some sort of agricultural crop growing from his head, has been compared to “Sideshow Bob” of The Simpsons.
Now this: “I was in the airport in Chicago and someone came up to me and asked if I was (Florida’s Joakim) Noah,” Varejao said.
“I didn’t understand. We have different hair. He keeps his in a pony tail.”
The Suns, who have struggled to beat the league’s top teams, can establish themselves with wins at the Pistons today and at the Bulls on Tuesday.