If contraction is on the table for the NBA and its players union, the next couple years will be critical for the existence of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise.
By now, we’ve all heard or read about David Stern’s interview on The B.S. Report, especially his mention of the dreaded C word: contraction. The fact that the players are willing to accept job cuts in the future, something typically a last resort only bargaining chip for any union during negotiations, says a lot about how pessimistic you should be for a reached agreement by October.
Contraction makes some sense for the NBA as a business and a cultivator of elite basketball talent. Fewer teams that routinely finish a year in the red saves the league money, and losing 15-30 (or more) positions means there are fewer Brian Scalabrine, Marcus Banks, and Jawad Williams clones drifting around picking up garbage minutes.
But much like the generalized calls for “government cuts” we’ve seen over the past few years, it’s easy to talk tough about contraction, but very difficult to execute. With their lack of an owner, the New Orleans Hornets look like a leading candidate for contraction, but Stern claims their season ticket numbers are up and their fan base is supposedly growing.
The Sacramento Kings also could be on the chopping block because their owners are broke and the team was as close to relocating as any team in the past decade. However, if the city of Sacramento helps out with a new arena (given the fan backlash the city experienced when relocation was on the horizon, it’s a definitely possibility), the Kings are off the table as a potential victim.
The Charlotte Bobcats are the youngest franchise in the NBA and have also circled the contraction rumor wagons for quite some time. But the mere presence of Michael Jordan in Charlotte could be enough to influence any contraction discussions involving the Bobcats. Plus, we all know how Michael can be if he’s doubted or feels threatened.
That could, unfortunately, place the Milwaukee Bucks right in the contraction crosshairs. The Bucks cost owner Herb Kohl money each year, often average fewer TV viewers than the population of my hometown, and play in an aging arena. Thankfully, a smart front office, retired owner willing to invest in his team, and core of young players stand a good chance of bringing the Bucks back from NBA purgatory long enough to keep them away from any contraction discussions.
Things are as bad, or even worse, for the NBA franchises listed above, and Milwaukee does have one distinct advantage over some of its more impoverished competitors: a historical footprint. One NBA Championship banner doesn’t cement the Bucks’ case for preservation, but that one team, led by Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is widely considered one of the best ever, and Milwaukee was also an integral part of the league’s rise to prominence during the late 70s and 80s.
There are certainly much bigger issues at stake in these CBA negotiations than the long-term possibility of contraction, and it’s entirely possible that the finalized agreement will make contraction unnecessary from a revenue sharing standpoint. But it seems that contraction is a more realistic possibility now than it ever has been in the NBA, and keeping one eye on the future never hurt anyone.
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