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NBAGround >> NBA Relocation Discussion


1/21/11 9:44 AM
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Nanook
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I was on the verge of putting up a poll, but I've had little success with them in the past and will probably fail at my attempt. So, instead I'll just stick to making a discussion topic.

Right now, several teams in the NBA find themselves on very shaky ground with their current markets. It seems as though once again, the league may be faced with relocation and several cities may find themselves without a team.

The million dollar question is two fold.

The first and most obvious is: which teams stay, which teams move?

The second underlying question is, for the teams that DO move, where??

Going first things first, the cities in danger of losing teams, and the teams likely to move. In order of most likely to least likely.

1) Hornets:

New Orleans can't seem to give tickets away, and with the league taking control of the team, it almost seems to be a foregone conclusion their days in the Big Easy are numbered.

Some may cry about the city being in recovery mode, however with due respect, Katrina was nearly six years ago. The Saints have gained their fans back, while the Hornets still sag in attendance figures.

Some markets just aren't meant for basketball. New Orleans clearly just isn't buying into the franchise.

2) Kings:

Arco Arena is horrifically outdated, Sacramento city reps are very reluctant to fund a new arena and the Kings continue to lose money yearly.

On top of things, their attendance has been in the toilet over the last 6-8 years. As a result, the Maloof brothers have grown restless and are now beginning to make noise about relocating.

Something has to give.

3) Pacers:

It seems almost asinine that the NBA could leave a basketball hotbed state like Indiana, until you consider these issues.

A) The Pacers signed their current 20-year lease with the city in 1999, but a clause in that contract allows the team to renegotiate its terms with the city's Capital Improvement Board after 10 years. We're nearing that deadline.

B) The Pacers, members of the CIB and Mayor Greg Ballard's administration have held behind-closed-doors negotiations on that lease, which have centered on the team's push to have the CIB pick up the $15 million operating tab.

C) Negotiations are at a critical stage. The owners of the Pacers want the city of Indianapolis to cover their ass because they can't afford the annual $15 million operation cost.

The City of Indianapolis, after reaching a similar agreement with the Colts want the Pacer brass to cover their own ass as they can't afford to budget $30 million+ annually to run two stadiums.

It seems almost as unlikely that Indiana would be without a professional basketball team as it comes, but if you had told me 10 years ago that the Sonics would be calling Oklahoma home by the end of the decade, I'd have called you punch drunk. Neither side is going to budge on this lease. Things could get ugly and quickly.

4) Grizzlies:

The Grizzlies are for sale. That is no secret. They've been for sale since 2006 and nearly been sold twice. It's clear Michael Heisley is tired of losing his ass and wants out.

Question is, after near miss after near miss after near miss with potential local owners, how much longer is Heisley going to remain loyal to Memphis and keep the bidding only open to people dedicated to keeping the team there?

When you consider the fact that Steve Balmer hasn't kept secret the fact that he'd pay up to $500 million to buy the Grizz with intent to move a team there, and the Grizzlies moving back to their Pacific Northwest roots seems to be extremely logical, how much is a match lit under Heisley's ass to sell?

With that said, potential cities linger and loom.. Question is, cities may be available, but will they be fits? Here's each city with pros and cons. My cities (as is the case with the teams) will be posted in order of best and most likely new location to least likely.

1) Seattle:

Welcome to the no-brainer of the group. Hell, teams have been linked to Seattle almost from the second it was announced the Sonics were moving to Oklahoma City. They have and will continue to be the other team's mistress until we see the inevidible return of the NBA to the city.

Obviously, Seattle's biggest strength in negotiations is the fact that they are a basketball mad hotbed and a city that should have NEVER lost pro basketball to begin with. There will never be a concern with fan support in Seattle, something that really can't be said with the other cities. They also have the owners willing to spend the money, specifically Balmer (which makes me wonder where the hell he was when Clay Bennett started sniffing around). I truly believe no city will get a team before Seattle, they're clearly the prettiest girl at the dance.

Downside? Key Arena is a dump. It was a dump 20 years ago, it's a dump now. Obviously an upgraded home is needed, and the city of Seattle drug feet in terms of helping out before. I wonder if things changed now that the Sonics left. Key sucks, but at worst it could serve as a two-year stop gap. Believe me, if RFK Stadium can go un-used for 10 years, then host the Nationals for a brief time, Key Arena can be used as a stop-gap until a new arena is built.

2) Louisville:

While not a clear cut bet like Seattle, I'd be just as willing to bet that Louisville would be a hit for the NBA. They've got an NBA ready arena (the KFC Yum Center-- whoever penned that name should be given repeated sledgehammer shots to the balls... but I digress) and sharing time with the University of Louisville would be no issue.

The downside, Louisville is media market 49.. Think about this.. Orlando, at 19, is considered "small market." This makes a difference. Also, the city of Louisville hasn't had a professional sports franchise since the 1800s (MLB). Can it prove to be a major league sports town? Memphis seemed hot once upon a time too.

3) Kansas City:

What Kansas City has going for it is an NBA ready, modern arena that is waiting the opportunity to host a team. Also, the midwest lacks an NBA team between Indianapolis-Chicago-Milwaukee-Memphis and Oklahoma City. Kansas City could serve as the regional team for Kansas (basketball hotbed), Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. KC would also serve as an immediate geographic rival to Oklahoma City.

On the flipside, Kansas City is another of of the "been there, done that" NBA markets that failed before. After the New Orleans re-do that hasn't worked, should the NBA bypass a market where it HAS worked and one where it very well COULD work? Also, let's be honest, the Royals have lackluster attendance, who's to say once the luxury wears off, the NBA team won't be storming to give tickets away too?

More....
1/21/11 10:32 AM
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Nanook
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3a) Las Vegas

In July, it was reported by the Las Vegas Sun that they had a team "under contract" to move to the Sin City if they could somehow get an arena built on the Las Vegas Strip, which would be located at the old Wet and Wild Water Park. The move was/is apparently hinging on the investment group involved striking a deal with Clark County to fund construction of the arena. Make no mistake about it, Oscar Goodman would do backflips over the idea of a pro sports franchise being moved there, specifically an NBA one, and I honestly believe the Maloofs would move the Kings to Vegas TOMORROW (not literally) if he got arena guarantees. It's convincing the voters that is going to be the hard sell.

From my own dealings in Vegas, I can truthfully say that the city is a sleeping giant in terms of being a potential market. The city has always supported UNLV basketball, and I am almost 100 percent certain convincing potential draft picks and free agents to play in Vegas will be one of the easier sells. I think in terms of market potential, they're ahead of Kansas City, Anaheim, Cincinnati and some of the other potential relocation markets, on par with Louisville and just behind Seattle in terms of potential fan base market viability.

That in mind, Vegas I think is boom-bust as a market. The NBA All-Star Weekend festivities were held there in 2007. The crowd seemed lukewarm at best. On top of things, there were 403 arrests in Vegas over the All-Star Weekend, which included four shootings related to the NBA events. The NBA has a hard enough time keeping their athletes out of trouble, putting a team in Vegas might be stoking coals over the fire and setting themselves up for a very public nightmare. Also, with Vegas being the sports betting capital of the world, one can imagine the NBA is going to have their work cut out for them when it comes to a Vegas team and the bookies, trying to work the laws to make it feasable to host a professional franchise there.

Also, as we speak, this isn't Seattle. There is no outdated hole that can serve as a stopgap. Vegas literally has Thomas & Mack Center which is no where close to being suitable to host a professional sports franchise and nothing else. I do not and cannot see Las Vegas agreeing to foot funds like Kansas City did to build an arena that could remain tennant less for an undefined amout of time, and no team in their right mind will blindly move to Vegas without some kind of new arena agreement in hand.

Lastly, let's be honest. Where will basketball (or any professional sports franchise for that matter) factor in when it comes to Vegas residential activities of choice? Not one of their minor league teams has drawing power, the NBA All-Star Game recieved a rather lukewarm reception and when people go to Vegas, generally they don't go to see basketball games.

4) St Louis

As we stand, St. Louis is one of the largest media markets without a professional basketball franchise (Seattle's on that list too). They have an NBA ready arena, that seats over 20,000 which would be more than enough for NBA standards. Also, there's built in rivalries potentially with Chicago and Memphis, if the Grizz remain in Tennessee. Basketball is widely pretty popular and well recieved there as well, I'm kinda surprised the NBA has avoided going back there since the Hawks moved. The reasons behind the Hawks leaving there in 1968 were hardly related to lack of support.

Yet, while St. Louis HAS an arena that could host an NBA team, and has hosted a large number of athletic events, by NBA standards, Scotttrade Center is outdated. 22 of 30 NBA franchise play in newer arenas than Scotttrade, and in a league where "newer and flashier is better," this may work against St. Louis getting a team. When you consider the city is dragging it's feet to build a new stadium for the Rams, I'm sure you can imagine the likelihood of building one for a potential basketball franchise and the Blues is slim.

5) San Jose

- Make no bones about it, Larry Ellison is an NBA owner waiting to happen, and has stated he'd be willing to go for broke to try and bring a team to San Jose. In terms of geographics, it makes perfect sense to move the Kings there. However, while logistics seem simple, everything else is not.

First and foremost, San Jose is in Warrior territory. Keep in mind, Ellison was involved in a public bidding war over Golden State previously, and lost out. Mark my words on this, Peter Gruber and Joseph Lacob will make sure that Ellison does not wind up in their territory.

Also, there's still a slim possibility the Kings stay in Sacramento. If this happens, does the NBA want three teams in the same general vincinity?

6) Chicago

- I've heard Chicago mentioned many times in the last 10-12 years as a possible new home for a relocated franchise.

I just don't see it. I realize Chicago is the third biggest media market in America, and has widely supported the Bulls. I also know they have an NBA ready arena, and could likely get their own.

Yet, is there really demand for a second team in Chicago? We see two teams in New York and Los Angeles, but honestly do the Nets and Clippers get the same support the Knicks and Lakers do? Not by a long shot in my book.

Chicago's better off with just the Bulls. No point in trying to oversaturate the market.

7) Anaheim

- Yeah.. Unless the Clippers move to Anaheim, there's nothing to see here.

The Clippers barely register a glip on the radar in the Los Angeles area, and take the furthest of back seats. What makes you think a third team in the Los Angeles metro area will be any better recieved?
1/21/11 10:34 AM
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Nanook
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Edited: 01/21/11 10:34 AM
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Monsters Ball - My immediate thoughts are that they should disband the Hornets since the NBA already owns them. Then send the Kings back to Kansas City.

They also need to wait for the global economy to bounce back and they don't want to make moves away from places that will be profitable again.

Just having a larger market isn't necessarily a silver bullet either. Minnesota is larger than places like Miami and Orlando but they can't really get a good team there either.


If I'm making the call, move the Kings to Seattle, move the Hornets to Louisville and call it a day.

As is, they are the only two markets I'd be completely sure of success in.
1/21/11 10:38 AM
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Nanook
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Monsters Ball - The biggest issue the NBA faces is players condensing themselves into just a few cities. I don't care if you are in the larger markets, if you stars don't want to stay then why should fans care? At some point I think the NBA needs to come up with a model like the NFL where one guy is a Franchise player and can never move. If the smaller markets can't keep good players they will never be viable.

The NBA doesn't help by constantly bending the smaller markets over in the playoffs so their large market cash cow teams can advance.

David Stern is just horrible and needs to be replaced.


Agree on Stern. He's a moron who needs pushed out the door. I will say, on the small market argument, we could debate that San Antonio has been one of the most successful franchise in his run as commissioner (they've won more titles than the Celtics in that time-- figure that out). I love San Antonio as a city, they can't hold a torch to NYC or LA in terms of public perception. Same with Chicago. More sponsorship promotion can be had in those three, Boston and Miami than can be had in San Antonio. Yet, the Spurs continue to win and keep their own.

As for the "glitz and glamor" cities that players will want to migrate to, this is why I think of the cities mentioned, outside of Seattle, Las Vegas is a sleeping giant in this ordeal.
1/21/11 11:10 AM
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The Destroyer88
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 Great read. Just two topics I'd like to touch on.

Why do you think St. Louis hasn't had an NBA franchise come there? I mean I know any stadium they have right now is outdated but I'm talking within the past 10-15 years. I remember living in St. Louis when Bill Laurie was in the discussion to buy the Grizzlies. The only reason it didn't happen is because the league didn't want the franchise to move from Vancouver to St. Louis. I have to question that decision because Vancouver was a horrible market with declining ticket sales, while St. Louis was dying for a professional basketball team to return after so many years. Not to mention the success that all three of their professional sports teams were having at the time. The Rams with two SB appearances in three seasons. People actually cared about the Blues who had made the playoffs for some 20+ straight seasons. And lets not forget St. Louis' sports team the Cardinals who were and still are pretty damn good shortly after the Big Mac era. It just puzzles me why the NBA would block that deal from happening to not only stay in a bad market but then to move to Memphis of all places.

Also what do you think about the Cavs franchise post-LeBron? Do you see the team sticking around in Ohio trying to rebuild or will they lose so much money after a few years and try to sell the team? I don't like LeBron as much as the next guy but he made that franchise matter and it isn't like you can just go out and pluck another player like him out of college or on the market. Not to mention none of the stars are attracted to that city so I just don't see any upside for that franchise. They'll have to spend the next 3-4 years sucking it up and hope to get good players out of the draft.
1/21/11 11:40 AM
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Nanook
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Monsters Ball - The Spurs won because Duncan came and they will not win like they have when he leaves.


Agree but in some sense respectfully disagree.

Titles, yes sir. You're absolutely correct, Duncan made them a title winning team.

However, the Spurs have made the playoffs in 19 of the last 20 seasons. They've never missed in Duncan's 13 year career, however they had a pretty nice run BEFORE Duncan. Long term, he's the base of the franchise, but the way that franchise is run, I see them staying a consistent contender. I think they're the best run franchise in the NBA, both on the court and in the scouting department. Keeping that, they'll win.

It goes back to the same problem... if stars stay or leave. If Duncan would have left years back when the Magic were wooing him then where would the Spurs have been then?


You bring up a pretty good question. Would the Spurs have won a title and been where they are now if his last minute "I'm going to Orlando" change of mind not happened? I doubt it.

Smaller market teams need a way to keep their stars. Teams invest too much into players. Cities invest too much into teams.

Look at Orlando. They have the most state of the art arena in the NBA now. They call it The House that Dwight Built. What happens if Dwight opts out after next year? This on top of Shaq having left once before. Who will want to go to games any more if even the players don't want to be in Orlando?


I think Orlando's a different animal. This may seem obsurd, but they survived Shaq screwing them for the Lakers and Penny Hardaway bolting town. I think they COULD hypothetically survive with fan support if Howard were to leave. I think Orlando is a city where people would want to play, the sunshine, the beaches, etc. Granted, it's no LA, but it's not NBA gravelands like Cleveland, Minneapolis, Memphis or Toronto, where people go to start, then get out at first chance.

I think what we saw with the "Super Team" in Boston, then later Los Angeles and Miami was the beginning of a pretty bad trend where teams will go three deep, and surround the rest of the team with rookies and fill-ins. Yet, I think teams like Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Orlando and other "non majors" will sustain success by carrying a "development and depth" pattern. Basically, those two teams, Portland and a few others are doing it now.

It's more or less slowly becoming baseball with a salary cap.

I'm telling you, I'd love absolutely nothing more than to see the Thunder and Heat meet in the finals, and the Thunder sweep them. Team hoops at their finest.
1/21/11 12:09 PM
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Nanook
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The Destroyer88 -  Great read. Just two topics I'd like to touch on.

Why do you think St. Louis hasn't had an NBA franchise come there? I mean I know any stadium they have right now is outdated but I'm talking within the past 10-15 years. I remember living in St. Louis when Bill Laurie was in the discussion to buy the Grizzlies. The only reason it didn't happen is because the league didn't want the franchise to move from Vancouver to St. Louis. I have to question that decision because Vancouver was a horrible market with declining ticket sales, while St. Louis was dying for a professional basketball team to return after so many years. Not to mention the success that all three of their professional sports teams were having at the time. The Rams with two SB appearances in three seasons. People actually cared about the Blues who had made the playoffs for some 20+ straight seasons. And lets not forget St. Louis' sports team the Cardinals who were and still are pretty damn good shortly after the Big Mac era. It just puzzles me why the NBA would block that deal from happening to not only stay in a bad market but then to move to Memphis of all places.


Great point.

With the NBA's relocations as of late, it's not so much a matter of the fact that they were DONE, it's WHERE they were moved to.

Relocation is such a dilligent process. If done right, you can build a new successful market without having to dilute the league with too many teams. The problem is, if the new market fails, then you get stuck with an "oops we fucked up, time to try it again" which really puts the franchise as a whole in a tough spot because players won't want to sign there regardless due to the upheaval and turnover. Instability can kill any great market. Look at the Bobcats now. The state of North Carolina is a hoops hotbed, yet the Bobcats are so piss poorly run that there's almost become a tepid outlook there about the team. And this is a team that hasn't moved.. I also think the tepidness is due to the fact that George Shinn bent them over, but I digress.

However, let's look at the last three relocations in a whole..

Sonics to Oklahoma City (I was really against the idea of the Sonics moving out of Seattle. The city of Seattle loves basketball, supported that team to the core, but had people running the show that took their standing in the city for granted. Subsequently, I think the city took the SONICS for granted and it led to a very messy public divorce. Oklahoma City has proven to be a very good basketball market, as they showed they were capable of being when the Hornets played there post-Katrina. However, really the NBA should have moved one of the struggling franchises, like the Grizzlies or just kept the Hornets there. To be fair, I honestly and sincerely believe that the original intent was to do just that, but they didn't want to tread on the city of New Orleans. Either way, Oklahoma City has proven to be a great market, but it came at the expense of another strong market.)

Hornets to New Orleans (At the time, Charlotte wanted rid of George Shinn, George Shinn wanted rid of Charlotte. The divorce needed to happen. However, the NBA REALLY dropped the ball in the relocation. New Orleans failed miserably as an NBA market before and not all that long ago. Louisville would have made a much better market for them.)

Grizzlies to Memphis (Again, another failed move because of the market. This one was a little different, they went for the "only horse in town" approach, hoping Memphis would buy into the team like San Antonio did the Spurs and Orlando did the Magic. Also, the corporate $$$$ really made that deal happen for Heisley. St. Louis would have been the better market by far, but they had nothing to compete with Fed Ex IMHO.)

Also what do you think about the Cavs franchise post-LeBron? Do you see the team sticking around in Ohio trying to rebuild or will they lose so much money after a few years and try to sell the team?


My first immediate response, stated not ten seconds after LeBron announced he was going to Miami was "the Cavs just got diagnosed with an incurable illness, and will be gone within 5-10 years". I'm sticking with that view. I just can't see how ANY franchise, let alone one that was on as shaky of grounds as Cleveland was before James got there, can sustain financial viability after losing him. Now, you have to replace a larger than life star, and frankly who the hell is going to want to sign in Cleveland?

James I don't like LeBron as much as the next guy but he made that franchise matter and it isn't like you can just go out and pluck another player like him out of college or on the market.


Love James or hate him, he brought that franchise to a higher level of prominence in the 7 years he played there than they seen in their entire 33 year franchise history prior. The Cavs have had some good players over that time frame, but ask a casual basketball fan in Phoenix or Austin, TX to name one player pre-LeBron, and chances are you're likely to get a blank stare. The hardcores would be able to probably shoot off Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Craig Ehlo, Ron Harper and Larry Nance.. Yet the casuals? Good luck.

Also remember, the Cavs damn near moved to Toronto in the mid-80s and also toiled with possibly relocating to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Buffalo. Next time around, I don't know if they will be as lucky.
1/21/11 5:19 PM
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quick
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Part of me thinks it is pretty ballsy for a losing franchise, like the Kings, to be asking the city for a new arena. The fact that they may well move because of it is even worse. If owners make the moves to put together a good product then I think cities will reward them for it. Hell SA had, relatively, just built the Alamo Dome, but after the 99 title they went ahead and agreed to build the Spurs a new arena.
1/22/11 12:38 PM
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WALES1
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London.....
1/23/11 8:20 AM
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NICK MANNING
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Would love to see the Kings move to Vegas. I moved here recently and think an NBA franchise would do well.
1/23/11 3:01 PM
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Floppy Divac
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 I hope the Kings can stay in Sac, or at least somewhere in northern California if they've GOT to move.  And Arco was awesome, from the second row behind the commentators.  Maybe not so awesome in other spots. 
1/23/11 8:04 PM
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kanotoa
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I would like to see the Lakers moved to Alaska personally.
1/23/11 8:12 PM
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dangerboy12
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 San Antonio is a good example. All a city needs is 2 legendary big men to fall in their lap via the lottery and they can turn their franchise around.
1/23/11 9:36 PM
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dangerboy12
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 good point

They could have and should have kept shaq, no matter how much it would have cost them.
1/23/11 10:19 PM
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Tommy Gunnz
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great thread
1/24/11 2:42 PM
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CRBMoney14
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Come back to Vancouver!
1/25/11 2:20 AM
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PTM2020
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Tommy Gunnz - great thread

 
1/25/11 8:39 PM
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CRBMoney14
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Thinking about relocation makes me wish their was relegation in North American sports.

No matter how impractical you tell me it would be, I still think it would be sick
1/25/11 9:31 PM
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deus ex machina
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Edited: 01/25/11 9:50 PM
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I've been seeing posts on slickdeals for Nets tickets. $2-$3. $120 courtside. I doubt they've been selling out, even at these prices. It's bullshit and the fans are the ones that suffer.
1/27/11 11:21 AM
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leglockfan
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The reason why the Grizzlies will not move anytime soon is an agreement with the city that cannot be broken for like 10-15 more years or something ridiculous like that. The only way to get out of that agreement is certain attendance/sales failures and that wouldn't happen where local business' would pick up the tab to keep the agreement in place. That's why Heisley can only sell to someone willing to keep the team in Memphis.
 

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