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Let the speculation begin: NBA contraction on the table

NBA Commissioner David Stern dropped a bombshell today: the league would be open to contraction as a way to bring down player costs — to the tune of $700M+ — as the league’s owners struggle to find a financial model that works. But Stern, who usually has a decent ear for public relations, may come to regret bringing up the subject.

He made the comment in a preseason conference call. Of course, contraction is an evil concept: it bruises fans of team that don’t draw very well and casts a pall on everything. The timing is crappy: right on the verge of the league’s opening weekend, a time when everyone’s record is equal and there’s still hope among fans whose hearts are sure to be broken later in the season. And we’re guessing that the sales teams at every team with attendance issues — Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers, among others, whose long-term survival had been questioned in recent years anyway — will be bombarded with comments and questions, queries that the sales folks simply will not be able to answer.

So while contraction may make some business sense when looked at on a ledger sheet, it makes little sense when it comes to public relations. Stern, who is usually smarter than this, may have gone a little too far in order to scare the players into accepting a new bargaining agreement. Fans shouldn’t be considered collateral damage in the financial fighting between players and owners.

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