I've been waiting for Forbes to publish their yearly valuation of NBA franchises, which are usually released in December but weren't made available this year until late January. I've also been waiting to see how the numbers are interpreted by members of the local media, and there have been several interpretations over the last day or so. Mike Tokito of the Oregonian wrote a piece in which he does a good job of summarizing the data and observations of the Forbes piece. Ben Golliver, here at BlazersEdge, provided a link to the Forbes article with a quick summary, and his piece has generated a few comments. Django Radonich-Camp also provided some commentary in his piece at the Portland Roundball Society, focusing mostly on how the team has improved their operating income figure from a low of -$85 in 2002-03 to last year's nearly $11 million. I didn't see any piece about this topic at the Columbian website, at Rip City Project, at Bust a Bucket, at Casey Holdahl's blog, at Mike Barrett's blog or at iamatrailblazerfan.com.
To me, the most interesting response to the data was made by John Canzano in his daily column, which was not only available online but also in the print version of Thursday's Oregonian. Interesting not because I agreed with everything that he wrote, but interesting because he did more than just summarize the Forbes data. In fact, John wrote that this data provides Paul Allen with the opportunity to do several things:
- To speak publicly about his vision and intentions for the team
- Raise the player payroll and take measures to become a true contender
In regards to the former, I agree that it's nice when an owner communicates publicly about what he intends to do with his team - it helps to create a bond (however small) between an owner and the fans. Isn't this what Mr. Allen did several months ago in his interview with Mike Barrett? Should Mr. Allen perhaps make himself more widely available to other members of the media (ie, somebody who isn't on the Blazer payroll)? That'd be nice. But I don't expect it to happen all that often. Sure, if Paul Allen were more like Mark Cuban, it might provide a bit more entertainment for us Blazer fans. But it's just not that big a deal to me.
In regards to the latter, John seems to have forgotten something. When he writes, "The Blazers player salary figures from 2010 ($64 million) is at a low point for the decade," he approaches the topic as if Portland's player salary figure this season is the same as it was last year, and that simply is not true. In 2009-10, the Blazers paid out nearly $58 million in salary plus another $6 million in benefits and bonuses. But in 2010-11, the Blazers will pay out between $69 million and $74 million (depending on which incentives are earned by Batum, Camby and Aldridge) in salary plus another $5-6 million in benefits plus the $5.7 million signing bonus paid to Wesley Matthews plus any luxury tax paid out at the end of the year, which could be up to nearly $4 million. And, consider that if the team ends up paying luxury tax, they'll lose out on $3+ million in the annual refund that goes to teams below the tax threshold. Even assuming a 3% increase in revenues this season, all of that would take the team from $10.7 million in the black to anywhere from $1.5 to $14.0 million in the red if all other expenses are unchanged from last year.
John's point is a good one - if the Blazers are making money, shouldn't that be re-invested back into player salary? Absolutely! That's what we want to see as fans. But his column acts as though the franchise will make $10 million again this season, and the numbers argue against that. In fact, it looks as though because the team has already invested in a new contract for Wesley Matthews and extensions for Marcus Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, they'll be back in the red at the end of the 2010-11 season. It's not that John is wrong in his opinion about what should be done with surplus funds, IMO, it's that he seems to have forgotten that such an investment in player salary has already taken place. The surplus is gone.
I do hope that the Blazers take advantage of any available opportunities to improve the team before next month's trade deadline. But I can't in good conscience demand that they take on lots of extra salary in doing so simply because there's a perception that they're turning a profit of over $10+ million this season, because that is simply not true.
[NOTE: A copy of this response was also emailed to John]