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Monday, January 5, 2009
Stern: The Forecast is Not Too Cloudy


NBA commissioner David Stern rang the bell to open the stock market this morning (and then the Dow fell 80 points or so, but that's probably not his fault). CNBC's Darren Rovell caught up with him there, and asked him about various different aspects of the NBA's business. Overall, Stern sounded upbeat:

Our attendance is actually up a skosh as of this morning when we look at it. Our gate receipts will probably be about flat, up a little bit in the U.S. We're sharing best practices with our teams as they work hard to provide better value for the fans and get ready for the renewal of their sponsorships and the season tickets. We think that by working hard, providing better value, watching our costs very carefully and prudently, that we'll be able to get through this in pretty good shape.  

You can see reported attendance numbers here. Many teams are doing very well, and at the moment there are not as many teams averaging under 15,000 per game this year (six) as last year (eight).

Although what's different this year is that when you watch on TV, many arenas -- Sacramento, Memphis, Minnesota, Charlotte, Indiana, Philadelphia -- look really empty. Empty in a way, on some nights, that is almost shocking.

The other thing I'd be interested to know: If the League is OK, as a business entity, what about the teams? Surely there must be some owners whose pockets are not nearly as deep as they used to be. That'll surely have an effect.

My bet is that enough owners will be pinching pennies that it'll be a buyer's market for 2009 free agents, and teams willing to take on salary will have rare opportunities -- via free agency, or trade -- to acquire real talent.