Tuesday, January 5, 2010
If you could have any NBA job
By Henry Abbott
Which would it be?
People ask me that a surprising amount. It's a silly question: I have the best job I could imagine, and nobody in the NBA wants to hire me to do anything interesting anyway.
But I have come up with the right answer: Owner!
That's the NBA job I want. Your mission is to be involved, but not too involved. To hire the right people and trust them. (By the way, one way to demonstrate your trust is to go on amazing and long vacations.) To be strategic. To be judicious at most times, but occasionally daring as all get-out.
It's also always nice to get to make big decisions unencumbered, which in the NBA only owners and David Stern get to do.
And more than anything, you have to be passionate about the team, and express that passion in appropriate ways to fans, sponsors and basketball staff.
I'm telling you, I would be good at this.
But, alas, no one has yet offered me that job, nor the billions required to force my way in. But if you want to know which NBA job I covet, that's it.
But let's be clear: That job is no bed of roses.
Because along with all that responsibility and power come unbelievably big bills. Unless you're an owner in New York, L.A. or Chicago, it's wicked expensive to run a team. I mean, honestly, I kind of hate, for instance, how much my gym membership costs. It's a great gym and get a lot out of it. An NBA team is like that, only instead of $200 a month for the family plan, it's like you have to pay to construct the entire gym from scratch every week. All the land. All the bulldozers, the foundation, the framers, the sheetrockers, electricians ... the whole deal. And then when it's all done you just sign it over to your injured power forward and start again the next week.
And sometimes you get that money back.
Other times, not so much.
So, consider the Miller family that now runs the Utah Jazz. The team was mainly the passion of their father, who recently passed away. Larry H. Miller's son Greg, who is the CEO of the team, is a guy with a lot of passions. He's really into the Toyota dealership his dad bought that started the family empire. He's into the racetrack the family owns. He's into adventures with his kids, and biking. And, yes, he's also into the Utah Jazz. He swears he is.
But what a tough time to be at the helm of that deal. They are working with a business model where the team has to be more or less economically self-sufficient, and therefore, as you can read at the link above, they have long determined not to spend above the luxury tax line, which makes sense especially as they in a minuscule market by NBA standards.
And, on top of all that, they got kind quadruple-bamboozled last summer. They had opportunities to cut some costs, but sensing a bad economy Kyle Korver, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur all passed up the glory of free agency to opt in to their Jazz contracts. Then the conniving Blazers signed one of their best young players, Paul Millsap, to a front-loaded whopper of a free agent deal that the Jazz had to swallow hard to match. In addition, Matt Harpring -- a key contributor -- was lost to career-threatening injuries.
All that came after giving huge money to Andrei Kirilenko only to determine that, amazing though he may be, he's the kind of guy who needs to play alongside several other highly paid players.
That put them on course to become huge tax payers, around $12 million, even as the team arguably regressed in skill.
That's so much over the luxury tax line that they traded away a promising young guard in Eric Maynor (he had the play of the day last night for Oklahoma City) for a deck chair and a plate of cheese fries, just to shed salary.
Oh, and did I mention that the team has been really disappointing lately? Even though they have more or less the same squad that made the Western Conference Finals a couple of years ago, now they're around .500 and have lost three straight and six of the last ten.
Tough time to be an owner.
And here's where I am convinced that all most fans really want to hear is that you're not looking at the team for profits. You're looking to win. And you will keep putting money into the project, dammit. The owners who don't feel like that? They tend to be quiet and out of sight. (Notice how many owners are quiet and out of sight?)
Anyway, today marks the launch of a blog by Greg Miller. And in his first post about the Jazz, he walks a tough line. Fans are desperate for good news. Will that Carlos Boozer situation finally be resolved with a trade? Is there help on the way? Can you save us, dear owner, by waving your magic wand loaded with cash?
In his blog post, Miller says, essentially, that the team will not be spending its way out of trouble. My summary of his main points:
- I love the Jazz.
- We're spending a lot of money already.
- We're trying to make trades, but trades are hard to make.
- We will not take on long-term bad contracts.
- We see the team as an asset. (This is important -- means it is not just an expensive hobby.)
- We're telling you we're not throwing in the towel. (Isn't that assumed?)
You feeling inspired, Jazz fans?
Looking at things from Greg Miller's point of view, today's one day I'm OK being a blogger, instead of an owner. And if I were Greg? Maybe it's time for one of those killer vacations.