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Can small-market owners "win" the lockout? If so, what of the Hornets?

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 *I wrote and posted the following article this morning on HoopDat, a New Orleans sports blog operated by Andrew and I that we periodically link to here as well.*

Tom Ziller is on a roll. I cranked out a post yesterday defending his excellent article about whether or not NBA owners can reasonably expect to make money, and today he has come out with a piece that should help ease the minds of small-market NBA fans everywhere. Read on to find out why he thinks small-market franchises have a great chance to come out as winners in the NBA lockout.

In Ziller's article, he brings up the growing theory that this lockout is not necessarily players vs. owners, but instead owners vs. owners. He lists seven teams (Lakers, Bulls, Knicks, Mavericks, Heat, Trail Blazers, and Nets) that have owners who not only have much deeper pockets than the rest, but also have shown a willingness to spend unlimited amounts of money chasing NBA titles. The rest of the league’s owners either possess one of those two characteristics (either possessing great wealth with no inclination to spend big, or having a willingness to spend but not enough wealth to do so) or neither. There are a couple teams with owners on the fence between these two categories (Ziller mentions the Magic and Celtics as two such teams) but the seven teams mentioned first are the no-doubters.

Here’s where it gets interesting – Ziller makes the very astute claim that each of those seven teams have TONS at stake if the lockout lasts throughout the entire season. To quote him directly:

Jerry Buss can count the number of remaining opening nights he’ll have Kobe Bryant for on one hand; Arison can do the same for the LeBron-Wade duo. Dolan’s shareholders just spent $850 million to rebuild Madison Square Garden. Mark Cuban finally has a championship to defend. Mikhail Prokhorov has one year to convince his superstar to stay (and help recruit a second superstar). Jerry Reinsdorf finally has a true heir to Jordan. The time is now for these owners, for their teams.

This potential desperation from the big-money owners, combined with the players slowly entering panic mode once the lack of a paycheck becomes a reality, should give the small-market owners tons of negotiating leverage. Now, I know what all of  you are probably wondering – how might this affect the Hornets?

From a short-term financial perspective, the Hornets may be completely satisfied with waiting out this lockout, much like most of the other small-market teams; however, it’s not that simple. In order to have ANY chance of keeping Chris Paul in teal and yellow, there have to be games played this season. CP3 is one of the more loyal players in the NBA, but there would be no easier way for him to leave town than if the last season of his contract does not get played. That may not sound very optimistic, but trust me, there’s good news.

The way I see it, this current division between both groups of owners couldn’t possibly be better for the Hornets. On one side, there’s a group of 7-10 owners who will have a great deal of incentive to ensure that at least part of a season gets played. On the other side, the remaining 20 or so owners have all of the leverage, as most are completely comfortable with waiting things out until the big money, big spending owners give in to their demands. Once the owners finally agree on CBA terms, there’s a good chance that the players will be so desperate to get paid that it won’t be long until they give in as well.

If events unfold according to this scenario, not only will there be games played this season, but there will also be a new small market-friendly CBA to go along with it. Of course, none of this guarantees that Chris Paul re-signs with the Hornets, but for New Orleans basketball fans, it’s more important to look at the big picture – there will be significantly less reason for the Hornets to relocate, thus solidifying professional basketball’s place in New Orleans.

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