Despite a new labor agreement, just ratified by owners and players, it appears the NBA has still not figured out that it is not in the league’s best interests to continue to promote stars over teams.

The league must find a way to raise the profile and prestige of smaller-market teams or risk even more devastating financial problems and conflicts in years to come.

News Thursday night that the NBA killed a deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers to pair him with Kobe Bryant was as surprising as the proposed deal itself.  But it was the right thing to do.

The attempt to send Paul to the Lakers though angered several owners, particularly Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert, who saw this move as unfair to smaller markets and possibly orchestrated by the NBA itself.

Chris Paul

Complicating matters in the Chris Paul almost-trade is the fact that the NBA temporarily owns the Hornets.  Of course the league is looking for an owner to take over the New Orleans franchise, but to make that happen, the NBA had better find a way to ensure that the New Orleans Hornets are competitive and viable.

Trading Chris Paul to the Lakers or any other team at this time certainly undermines that.

Another of the top stars, Dwight Howard, wants to leave the Orlando Magic and move to a more attractive market.  According to reports, Howard now wants to go to the New Jersey Nets.

There is nothing wrong with fortifying the NBA’s largest markets, but what is the league doing to make the smaller markets more inviting to its stars?  So far, nothing.  It’s already looking like business as usual in the NBA, a league where in recent years, only a handful of franchises have made a profit.

If the NFL was run like the NBA it would not be nearly as successful or as highly regarded as it is today.  How is it that one of the top 5 franchises in the NFL can be located in America’s smallest sports market?

Green Bay, Wisconsin is a thriving NFL city with a population of only 100,000 people. But ironically, not far away, Milwaukee, is considered one of the NBA’s least attractive franchises.

If the NFL can successfully sell Green Bay to the public, a much smaller city than nearby Milwaukee, then it is obvious that the NBA has real work to do to ensure that all of its franchises are healthy.

The Colts’ Peyton Manning is a four-time MVP living and playing in Indianapolis.   For years he was also the NFL’s No. 1 product endorser.  The Indianapolis Colts have been a top 10 franchise in both value and prestige.

But just a couple of blocks away, the Indiana Pacers struggle for respectability and profitability.  The disparity between the Pacers and Colts is startling.   There are a number of other markets where this contrast between teams from the two leagues is startlingly true.

So as the the NBA finally gets set to kick off a new season, you would think that lessons were learned and that old unsuccessful habits would not take hold again.  But already there are signs that nothing has changed.


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