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Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

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  • Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

    Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

    By Ken Berger
    CBSSports.com Senior Writer
    Jan. 3, 2011
    http://www.cbssports.com/nba/story/1...th-big-markets

    NEW YORK -- Danny Granger sat in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden, his feet in a bucket of ice and his hands digging through a Styrofoam tray of chicken tenders. Suffice it to say that Granger's search for postgame junk food was much easier than the Pacers' search for an established All-Star to play with him.

    The Pacers, a plucky, athletic little team that let a winnable road game slip away in 98-92 loss to the Knicks on Sunday afternoon, are one of the many teams paralyzed by the NBA's inequitable competitive structure. They have no hope of breaking through the ceiling without a top-notch star to join Granger, and they have no hope of getting one of those stars as long as they play 41 games a year in Indianapolis, where no free agent worth his max contract would dare go. It is the inexorable march of a struggling team in the small-market wilderness of the NBA.

    'It's hard to compete with the big-market teams,' Danny Granger says.
    On the verge of a labor catastrophe, the league has become as popular as it's been in more than a decade and also more about the haves and have-nots than ever before. The Pacers could've followed the strategy adopted by the Knicks, Nets, Heat and Bulls last summer and chased free agents, but wisely put it off for another day. What would've been the point?

    "We're not a Chicago or a New York or an L.A., a team that everybody's going to run and go play in that city," said Granger, the Pacers' best player and also the team's player rep with the National Basketball Players Association. "We're in a smaller market and have a smaller fan base than most teams and it's tough to get free agents here. That's why throughout the history of the Indiana Pacers, they've done things through the draft. We had a good system going up until the brawl, but it's tough to lure a free agent here."

    Granger didn't arrive in Indianapolis until after the infamous brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, when the Pacers picked him 17th overall in 2005, but he has a good memory. Go back to the summer of '05, immediately after the current collective bargaining agreement was enacted, and you can't find a single significant free agent who has signed up to play in Indiana. And it's a problem that's hardly unique to the Pacers.

    "It's hard to compete with the big-market teams," Granger said. "I remember we played one team, and between their starters they had like 35 years of All-Star Games or something crazy like that. It's hard to compete with teams like that, especially when they have deeper pockets and they can do different things with the salary cap. You just have to play through it and find a way to win."

    The team Granger was referring to, clearly, was the Boston Celtics, who along with the Lakers have combined to win 33 of the league's 64 championships -- including three straight and six of 12 since the current financial framework was adopted after the 1998 lockout. The Spurs, Heat and Pistons have interrupted the cycle here and there, but for the most part, teams like the Pacers have to be content posing as trees on the side of the highway while the basketball superpowers speed by, barely acknowledging them with a wave.

    "The NBA has progressed so much this year," Granger said. "There's so many things that have drawn interest -- Miami, with everything they've done, Kobe [Bryant] winning another championship, Boston having a great year, San Antonio being old and now playing like they're young again. We've got so many different storylines to draw the fans in and keep everything interesting. And it would be a shame to just see it all go by the wayside if we go to a lockout and lose some fans because of it. It's disappointing, but I think that's what it's going to be."

    This is not to take anything away from what the Pacers have done. Since the franchise hit rock bottom at the Palace, team president Larry Bird and general manager David Morway have slowly and carefully built a young team that has a realistic shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The improvement of Roy Hibbert, the potential of Paul George, and the quick learning curve of Darren Collison are all bright spots for a team that is building the right way under the circumstances.

    "We will make the playoffs," Granger said.

    The success of the supposedly small-market Oklahoma City Thunder is encouraging to teams like the Pacers, but also fool's gold on some level. According to gate receipts data obtained by CBSSports.com, the franchise went from being a low-revenue team in its final season in Seattle to a high-revenue team in its first season in Oklahoma City, with per-game ticket revenue increasing from $457,863 in 2007-08 to $1,122,109 in '08-'09. The Thunder, in fact, are the ideal illustration for the ongoing debate about contracting teams. Oklahoma City is slightly smaller than Seattle, so it's not the size of the market that matters, but the size of the pile of money the team makes in that market.

    With every team pricing a bloody lockout into their budgets, the revenue-challenged Pacers won't be a factor at the trade deadline -- just as they haven't been a factor during free agency for years. That's not a knock; it's reality. Indiana has only $37 million in committed payroll for the 2011-12 season, which could translate into $20 million in cap space depending on where the salary cap falls in a new CBA. But until NBA owners figure out how to share more of the revenue being hoarded by the big boys in New York and L.A. -- where the Knicks and Lakers each rake in nearly $2 million a night at the turnstiles compared to the paltry $485,000 or so the Pacers scrape together -- then all that cap space will be worthless.

    "It's not fair, honestly," Granger said. "If everyone in the NBA and the owners all commit to this league to keep it going, you've got to share revenue. How can Milwaukee compete with Los Angeles? It just can't. It never will. I don't care if they sell out every game, L.A. is going to get mounds and mounds of more money. That's what I think the big chip should be in the bargaining process."

    Unlike the NFL, which splits gate receipts 60-40 in favor of the home team, NBA teams do not share most local revenues. A revamped revenue-sharing plan was a major component of the players' proposal, along with an offer to lower the players' guaranteed share of revenues from its current level of 57 percent.

    But that proposal has sat on David Stern's desk in his Fifth Avenue office for more than five months. Why? Well, why let a little labor strife ruin the good story of soaring interest and TV ratings? Plus, if the owners are so hell-bent on getting a work stoppage to force the players' hand, why bend over backwards to negotiate? But more to the point of the Pacers' role as mere deckhands on the Titanic, league owners stubbornly do not want to include the players in the process of devising a new revenue-sharing system -- seeing it as an owner-owner issue as opposed to an owner-player issue. But there could be a way for the players to legally challenge that in a way that would be almost as interesting as the Lakers vs. the Heat in the NBA Finals.

    The players could try to set a precedent by becoming the first sports union to push for a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board on the notion that revenue sharing is not a mandatory subject in collective bargaining. I'm not a labor attorney, but it seems obvious to me that if the owners' response to competitive imbalance and financial inequity is to slash player salaries by $800 million, then a sound argument could be made that the flawed revenue-sharing model is affecting the players' pay -- and thus should be required grounds for negotiation with the union.

    "You can make the argument that revenue sharing, at least indirectly, has an impact on wages and terms and conditions of employment, and has a direct impact on the ability of smaller market teams to be able to pay player salaries," said Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University Law School.

    Like the unions representing Major League Baseball and the NHL, the NBPA may not need to push the issue to the courts, but could attempt to use it as a bargaining chip, Feldman said. Even if the owners refuse to collectively bargain how they divide their profits, the players could at least use the issue to get other concessions and make it "part of the bundle of compromises," Feldman said.

    Until then, revenue-starved teams like the Pacers -- and stars like Granger who are stranded on them -- will just have to keep swabbing the decks. They should whistle while they work and enjoy the show, including another championship of the haves vs. the have-mores in June.

  • #2
    Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

    The revenue sharing would certainly help the pacers.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

      This article is just depressing and it makes me sad to know it's true. Revenue sharing would be nice for the smaller market teams. Let's hope and pray it happens one day.
      Last edited by odeez; 01-04-2011, 01:58 AM.
      Avatar photo credit: Bahram Mark Sobhani - AP

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

        Honestly when I read articles like this and sit down and think it threw, I really often wonder why I even follow the NBA.

        The decks are so stacked against small market teams that unless you get lucky like the Spurs and manage to get the # 1 pick twice and both times are able to draft franchise big men there is almost no hope.

        Depressing


        Basketball isn't played with computers, spreadsheets, and simulations. ChicagoJ 4/21/13

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

          It's definitely a sobering article.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

            Yep, its articles like this that make me seriously contemplate the amount of time and interest I commit to the Pacers and NBA basketball. It seems we are stuck in a failure by design scenario.
            House Name: Pacers

            House Sigil:



            House Words: "We Kneel To No King"

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

              Originally posted by indianapolismarkus View Post
              With every team pricing a bloody lockout into their budgets, the revenue-challenged Pacers won't be a factor at the trade deadline -- just as they haven't been a factor during free agency for years. That's not a knock; it's reality. Indiana has only $37 million in committed payroll for the 2011-12 season, which could translate into $20 million in cap space depending on where the salary cap falls in a new CBA.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                Wow, that was a depressing read.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                  Anybody have any thoughts or info on the owners' attitude towards a 60-40 revenue sharing scheme? Are they unified in opposition? Mixed bag of attitudes? Open to it as a last resort if it gives them leverage on the player salary issue?


                  [~]) ... Cheers! Go Pacers!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                    Just a few points:

                    -Clippers, 76ers, Wizards and Warriors play in relatively big markets and have gotten small market results because of poor ownership/management.

                    -Teams like Utah and Phx have been very competitive in small markets. Jazz are a perennial playoff team despite playing in a city that most young millionaire athletes would put at the bottom of the desirability list. These two franchises are basically what the Spurs would have been minus Tim Duncan.

                    -Miami in the late 80s and early 90s was basically what the Memphis Grizzlies are now: an expansion team not doing anything or going anywhere. They weren't the desirable FA destination they are now. They were going nowhere until Pat Riley got onto the scene in 1995. Also, the big market Chicago Bulls may as well have been the Chicago Cubs until Jordan arrived on the scene.

                    The biggest problem the NBA faces in terms of competitive balance is that, in a league of about 450 players and 30 teams, there are a group of about 12-15 players that are so much better than all the rest. And going further than that, the 1-5 players are probably a good deal better than the guys ranked 6-15. There are lots of players, but only a few that actually matter, and there aren't enough of them to go around.
                    Last edited by d_c; 01-04-2011, 04:12 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                      Originally posted by d_c View Post
                      Just a few points:

                      -Clippers, 76ers, Wizards and Warriors play in relatively big markets and have gotten small market results because of poor ownership/management.

                      -Teams like Utah and Phx have been very competitive in small markets. Jazz are a perennial playoff team despite playing in a city that most young millionaire athletes would put at the bottom of the desirability list. These two franchises are basically what the Spurs would have been minus Tim Duncan.

                      -Miami in the late 80s and early 90s was basically what the Memphis Grizzlies are now: an expansion team not doing anything or going anywhere. They weren't the desirable FA destination they are now. They were going nowhere until Pat Riley got onto the scene in 1995. Also, the big market Chicago Bulls may as well have been the Chicago Cubs until Jordan arrived on the scene.

                      The biggest problem the NBA faces in terms of competitive balance is that, in a league of about 450 players and 30 teams, there are a group of about 12-15 players that are so much better than all the rest. And going further than that, the 1-5 players are probably a good deal better than the guys ranked 6-15. There are lots of players, but only a few that actually matter, and there aren't enough of them to go around.
                      You are looking at this from a win-lose point of view, when it is just as much a money issue. I don't know the financial situation or history of those teams, but win-lose record isn't always telling of how difficult it has been. Utah has done it almost completely through drafting and consistency. All of their best players came to be on that team either though the draft or trades. The same can be said about the Suns. Also there will always be bad management, and no amount of money can make up for poor management. That is a completely separate issue. When you look at the teams that have good management, it is those with money that constantly dominate over those less money. Typically those with less money only win championships by getting lucky in the draft and drafting a future top 25 player of all-time.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                        Originally posted by Eleazar View Post
                        You are looking at this from a win-lose point of view, when it is just as much a money issue. I don't know the financial situation or history of those teams, but win-lose record isn't always telling of how difficult it has been. Utah has done it almost completely through drafting and consistency. All of their best players came to be on that team either though the draft or trades. The same can be said about the Suns. Also there will always be bad management, and no amount of money can make up for poor management. That is a completely separate issue. When you look at the teams that have good management, it is those with money that constantly dominate over those less money. Typically those with less money only win championships by getting lucky in the draft and drafting a future top 25 player of all-time.
                        Free Agency hasn't been the huge boon in franchise building that people have made it out to be.

                        The only real earthshaking moves in free agency in the modern era have been Lebron and Shaq, and almost Tim Duncan (who very nearly went to a small market Orlando team).

                        Also remember that in the highly anticipated free agency class of 2000 that big market Chicago, who had cleared tons of cap space, came away with only Ron Mercer and Brad Miller.

                        And when it came down to it, small market Sacramento and Indiana were able to pay to keep their franchise PFs when those guys were up for free agency. Webber and Jermaine got their ~$120M contracts from their home teams and it wasn't like some big market team in NY was just able to offer them whatever they wanted like the Yankees do.

                        Money in the NBA is definitely an issue, but the way some people are talking about it makes it sound as if the league's income inequality is like that of MLB or, worse yet, Division One level European soccer.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                          When Ken Berger of CBS Sports called our Pacers "a plucky... little team" that hurt. Yes, there is many teams paralyzed by the NBA's competitive structure and we can hope that the new CBA will help fix it.

                          The big market teams make nearly $2 million on home games and the small market teams make less than $500,000. If you multiply that by 41 games, that is a $61.5 million difference. The top teams making four times as much money is ridiculous. A revenue sharing like the NFL does is much better with the home team making 60% and the road team given 40%. That would make the big market teams keep $49.2 million and share $32.8 million. The little market teams keep $12.3 million and get more than $8.2 million from sharing.

                          That is still a $37 million dollar difference from big market to small but $24.5 million better. A 50-50 split would be too logical.

                          Ticket sales are only about a third of the total revenue. Right now the top earning teams only share $1.1 million and no team receives more than $5 million. The teams under the luxury tax got less than $4 million last year. The luxury tax should be a dollar for every ten million over. So teams like the Lakers that are more than $30 million over the cap would pay more than $60 million in tax.

                          The system the NBA is under is sad. The CBA is going to get changed but how and when? We may have another 50 game season next year, if we have a season at all.

                          Indiana has suffered enough. The Pacers future lies in this negotiation because we all know that Herb's family are not fans.

                          Come on Stern! Stop looking like the evil guy from Saturday Night Live that says "Yea, that's the ticket."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                            Originally posted by d_c View Post
                            Just a few points:
                            -Clippers, 76ers, Wizards and Warriors play in relatively big markets and have gotten small market results because of poor ownership/management.

                            -Teams like Utah and Phx have been very competitive in small markets. Jazz are a perennial playoff team despite playing in a city that most young millionaire athletes would put at the bottom of the desirability list. These two franchises are basically what the Spurs would have been minus Tim Duncan.

                            -Miami in the late 80s and early 90s was basically what the Memphis Grizzlies are now: an expansion team not doing anything or going anywhere. They weren't the desirable FA destination they are now. They were going nowhere until Pat Riley got onto the scene in 1995. Also, the big market Chicago Bulls may as well have been the Chicago Cubs until Jordan arrived on the scene.
                            I quite agree with your examples but isn't the logical conclusion here that you need both a big market and good management to be a desirable free agent destination? Utah and Phoenix while perennial playoff teams aren't exceptional in attracting free agents. And while it's not always easy to get good management, it's still easier than changing the size of your local market. Take the Warriors for example. With new ownership, new management, and hopefully new results in the near future, Golden State could turn into a premier free agent location pretty quickly.

                            Originally posted by d_c View Post
                            The biggest problem the NBA faces in terms of competitive balance is that, in a league of about 450 players and 30 teams, there are a group of about 12-15 players that are so much better than all the rest. And going further than that, the 1-5 players are probably a good deal better than the guys ranked 6-15. There are lots of players, but only a few that actually matter, and there aren't enough of them to go around.
                            Yup. And the whole point is that those top 15 players can pick and choose where they want to play. Every team who can would be willing to offer the max for these players, and they would still be mostly underpaid at that. That's where other factors like market size and management becomes important, and that's where small market teams are particularly disadvantaged.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Granger looks on as Indiana tries to keep pace with big markets

                              If anyone still actually questions why the NFL is, head and shoulders, better than the NBA, just read this article.

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