Can The Charlotte Bobcats Survive the NBA Lockout?


In one of my previous posts, I ranted and raved about the NBA Lockout and how much of an issue I think it is.  Alright, I’ll admit, it’s every post for the past few weeks.  The loss of games has me going nuts.  I’m not proposing solutions because, honestly, I don’t care who wins or what the salary system looks like after all of this, I just don’t want to miss games.  My simplified reasoning for this assertion is, I don’t think that the Charlotte Bobcats can handle losing games.

I don’t think the team will fold, I don’t think it will move, I don’t even know fully if it will lack success in the years following a lockout.  What I do know, what anyone who follows the team knows, is that the Bobcats aren’t doing that well and a work stoppage and missed games would be devastating.  Starting out behind the eight-ball in a way and then floundering just above the bottom for years has the Bobcats in an unenviable situation.

When you show up to the next Bobcats game, the team will look completely different.  Not just the roster, but with a long layoff, Tyrus Thomas could go from being a bean-pole to being Boris Diaw’s body double.  Boris Diaw might go from not looking that great to being a weasing pile of can’t-catch-your-breath that can’t play more than 20 minutes and certainly no more than 30 in any 48 hour period.

I joke, but the whole team has been overhauled.  9 people, some integral and some personal aquainances have been let go from the organization.  The team and the players haven’t had contact since early June and for a coach who has only been in place since Christmas of last year, that’s a major issue.  Two highly drafted and touted rookies haven’t been to the arena since the day after the draft and I’m not sure if either has signed a contract.  The (likely) best scoring option in Corey Maggette hasn’t even been to the arena as far as I know; his introduction was via conference call.  The new general manager hasn’t met any of the returning players.  It would be difficult to start out next season well with a regular off season but one where the players aren’t even shown on the team’s website?  You gotta be kidding me.

Other than the on-court issues, the Bobcats’ place in the Charlotte-metro landscape is the most troubling.  If you ask 10 random people on the streets of Charlotte, Mooresville, Davidson, Salisbury, Rock Hill or Gastonia what they think about the Charlotte Bobcats, you’ll likely get a whole bunch of “Don’t know any of the players.  They came in when no one wanted them.  Ripped off the city and the tax payers have to foot the bill for an arena they didn’t want.  Oh, Michael Jordan owns the team but he’s never there.”  That whole concept of the team is so far from what I think of it, as a junkie, rabid fan and blogger focusing on the team that I don’t know where to start correcting them.

I was in a clothing store that advertised itself as “Hip Hop Fashion for Men’s and Ladies” last week.  They had an assortment of hats for sports teams but I had to ask the guy “Where are the Bobcats hats?”  True, this is Greenville in the Eastern part of the state and they didn’t have any Hurricanes hats either, but the owner and his employee laughed and said “No one cares about that ____ down here.”  I told them about my site and the name and they laughed, although neither English nor Spanish are their first language.  The weird thing was, they had new Charlotte Hornets hats.  I don’t know if they’re some kind of throw back, or they had them wrapped up for the past 10 years and they just looked new or what but they were on display, on the bottom shelf, down in the corner, yeah look past the 15 different verities of of Yankees hats, yep, there they are.

We barely get the games on TV up here in the Triangle and if you aren’t on Time Warner Cable, you probably don’t get them at all.  The games are shown on a special channel, listed on the guide under “SPEVT” and the block of time is just “Special Event:  Tune In for Extended Coverage.”  The games are only in standard definition, and all standard definition games are shown in some kind of letterbox style that Steve Martin explains at the beginning of every game enhances the aspect of the broadcast or something.  So if you watch the game on an HD tv, the standard def is letterboxed and if you watch a standard def channel on an HD TV it cuts the sides to make your 16:9 ratio look like 4:5 or whatever it is and before you know it you’re getting a 19″ picture on a 42″ tv.  It’s just ridiculous, so people aren’t going to put themselves through that, why are they going to hit up the NBA after an extended lockout?

I saw someone say that the Bobcats, the ownership and shareholders and front office, I guess, is supposed to be looking to gain.  As one of the teams not doing well, they need to come out winners in this lockout and in the new CBA.  But I don’t know if the hurt put on them by the lost games and the long break could be replaced by any gains made in the new CBA.  When you think about it, the Bobcats and every other team that missed the playoffs quit playing in mid-April.  It’s hard in a normal year, without vast improvements or a hot rookie (please be that Kemba and Bismack), to draw fans early in the year.  Figure the season starts a month later than it should, that’s almost 7 months layoff.  If it’s after Christmas as David Stern’s gut threatened, it is closer to 9.  Unless you’re like me – a junkie for the stuff – you a) probably aren’t reading this and b) aren’t really going to care when the NBA starts back up, if it starts back up.

If you look at the tv ratings from year to year, you see that they dropped a whole point when the last lockout happened.  The ratings continued to drop until 2006 when they

started a slow climb and then last year jumped 30%.  If you think of a 30% jump as a bubble, sort of like the housing or credit one that has burst all over the United States Economy, the lockout is the pin that bursts it.  The ratings might dip by that 30% and lose another point like they did after the ’98-’99 lockout and all of a sudden, NBA on ABC ratings are down around 1 or even below?  The NBA might come back from that, but teams that already don’t have a national presence, like the Charlotte Bobcats, will struggle, unless they’re propped up by their big brother franchise owners in New York, Chicago, Dallas and L.A.

I don’t mean to be doom and gloom, but by no doing of their own, the 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats start out behind the 8 ball in so many ways.  The lockout shortens time with the coach in his first full offseason with the team.  The starting line-up is overhauled, and there will be 3 new big time contributors in next season that weren’t here before.  The ratings already suck, they’re going to suck worse.  My cable company, if it weren’t the title sponsor of the arena, might have jetesoned the lowly “SPEVT” channel that I have to hope they show the game on.  (By the way, sometimes they forget to flip the switch until mid-way through the first or second quarter).

TV ratings are sort of the only way we can judge impact.  Last year, the Bobcats were very proud of the sponsors they brought in for in-arena signage and everything else as well as a boost in season ticket sales.  You won’t hear much if they lose those this season.  Teams don’t put out press releases that say “Season ticket sales drop by 25%,” well, unless your team is run by George Shinn and you’re trying to move out of Charlotte, New Orleans or wherever your orange comb-over takes you.

It’s disappointing, that if things are as bad as they say, that the only way to fix them are to cancel blocks of games and fight in board rooms.  It’s not just disapponting, really, it’s somewhat heartbreaking for guys like me.  People like my boy Marty, the bartender, who knows what I’m having before I get to his bar and LaShonda, the usher who hugs and high fives at the end of wins and pats us on the back when we hang our heads after a loss.  It sucks for the 6 people who were laid off at the beginning! of the lockout, who I had become friends with.  It sucks for all the Marty’s, LaShonda’s and front office personel around all 32 teams and the league office itself, who don’t get paid millions, but make enough to pay the bills and now have to find other ways.  If they find other ways to make money, will they be back whenever I get to go back to Time Warner Cable Arena?  I don’t know, but I hope so.  Maybe they’ll be burned just like the casual fans, never to return to the NBA, but might give it a passing glance down the road, if and when it returns to prominence.

Andrew Barraclough is Senior Editor for, a Charlotte Bobcats Blog on the Fansided Network.  Follow him on Twitter @therobertogato and Like the site on Facebook.