CBSsports.com(Eye On Basketball)
By: Ben Golliver
LOS ANGELES – A few weeks ago, we noted that Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson is opposed to the idea of the Sacramento Kings moving to Anaheim to join the Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers in Southern California.
On Thursday, SI.com reports that Jackson has expanded on his earlier comments — in which he questioned whether SoCal could support three NBA teams — by noting how unprecedented it is globally to have one market so saturated and wondering whether a Kings relocation would lead to a slippery slope scenario other small market teams would rush to enter bigger markets.
“I don’t see any community, I don’t care if it’s Bombay with 25 million [people], being able to support three teams [in the same market],” Jackson said before the Lakers fell to Golden State in what was their third straight loss. “I know Istanbul does it with three soccer teams, and England does it in London with three soccer teams in the surrounding area, but it makes it very difficult in our community and our television area to do that kind of a thing. It will hurt all the franchises.”
“It’s small markets vs. large markets,” he said. “Are the large markets willing to have another team move in and share their community? Chicago, New York City? [New York] is going to have a Brooklyn franchise now [starting in the 2012-13 season] instead of New Jersey. So that’s inside the subway system. Philadelphia, another major city, another sized city like that, or cities in big metropolitan areas. Dallas, Houston? So it has to affect the major cities that have a monopoly, the top 12 markets.”
Kudos to Jackson for publicly going to bat for his girlfriend’s father. Nobody has more to lose than the Lakers — reportedly up to $500 million in television revenue alone — in this relocation scenario so someone needs to be getting their message out.
While his loyalty is worthy of applause, his logic isn’t. The divide between large market and small market is so significant in the NBA that being third place in a saturated city is more financially viable than being first place in a town. The Kings don’t exist to do what’s best for the Lakers; they exist to do what’s best for themselves.
Any resolution to this team-on-team squabble has to come from the league level, and the obvious solution to narrow that gap is to vastly increase revenue sharing. But that’s money coming out of the Lakers’ pockets too and surely there will be pushback to that idea from Jackson and company as well.
Bottom line: the Lakers will need to give up something if the league is serious about leveling the playing field for all 30 teams and if Jackson’s goal of keeping small market teams in small markets is to be achieved. I can certainly see why maintaining a strangehold on SoCal would be the highest priority for the Lakers, but if their negative comments about the relocation aren’t packaged with some type of alternative concessions, do they serve a purpose other than venting?