Thursday, February 19, 2009

NBA Feeling Recession, Too

There has been a lot of talk lately about our rising unemployment rate, stimulus packages, and an overall decrease of capital with the recession in full effect. However, this has mainly been talked about in respect to the common American people who can't afford to keep their houses or need to give up old habits just to save some money. While this is all true the recession has also begun to hit professional sports and most notably the NBA.

NBA teams have had trouble making payroll so the NBA has done their best to bail them out. On February 26, 2009 the NBA borrowed $175 million dollars for 15 teams so they could meet their operating costs. This has also begun to spill over to on the court issues with player personnel. For example, the New Orleans Hornets finished 1 game out of first place in the Western Conference last season but just attempted to dump one of their starters for salary cap relief. The Sacramento Kings traded their second and third best players for cap relief in the same deal and earlier this week traded a 2nd round draft pick for cash and a player whom they will undoubtedly waive.

Moreover, teams like the Pacers are reportedly $150 million in debt. Amounts they see as fixable through cutting back on their personnel spending.

What is even more interesting is that the most sought after player at the trade deadline has not been Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, or Carlos Boozer. It has been Raef LaFrentz who has played 66 games combined in the last two seasons to average around 2 ppg, 40$ from the field, and under 75% from the line. His only attractive quality is as an asset, due to his $12+ mill expiring contract. The NBA has started to become solely a business which can only hurt the league.

When teams refuse to improve their team because they would rather have a large/expiring contract giving them financial relief, there will be fewer and fewer good teams. The talent becomes dispersed throughout the NBA and playoff chases like last year in the West will not be possible. Teams like the Suns have sold away their future in hopes of getting financial flexibility in the present which makes the league less competitive. Something like this was done about 40 years in major league baseball where a manager literally tried to sell his players to other teams to make a profit. The trades were vetoed by the league because the manager who was selling them did not get any real value back for his players. The NBA has to take this stance and not let teams sell their first round picks (Suns with Rondo etc.) or trade away future picks (Kings 2nd round pick for cash trade) solely to keep their finances straight.

Whatever is done, it must result in the NBA becoming less of a business and more of a sport again.

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