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Monday, May 17, 2021

Pacers invisible at bargaining table

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We have seen it numerous times by now. All that less than dramatic footage of NBA owners entering the fancy hotel where the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement are being held, smiling and waving to the media as they scurry by.

While only a NBA junkie like myself would care, you see Mark Cuban, Jerry Buss, James Dolan and various other owners coming and going. But what you will not find is anybody representing the Indiana Pacers darting in the lobby and that seems more than just puzzling to me.

Not that long ago the Pacers brass drew the line in the sand declaring financial insolvency regarding their lease with Conseco Fieldhouse and how they needed additional revenue streams just to be competitive in this market.

The Capital Improvement Board unwisely (in my opinion) ponied up the money and Pacers owner Herbert Simon, the 316th richest man in the United States (according to Forbes magazine) seemed content.

Now with the lockout ongoing and uncertainty abounding, it would seem logical to this country boy that the Pacers would indeed have more than just marginal interest in what will undoubtedly reshape how the NBA does business with the players moving forward.

With a league issued mandate prohibiting the teams from conversing about the situation, it is tough to get any opinion from those who run the Blue and Gold, but one person in the front office did tell me under the condition of anonymity that like a lot of smaller market franchises they were for the most part regulated to a wait and see position in regards to any agreement that the league puts forth for ratification.

The question of why the Pacers are not more vocal about their respective position on the matters at hand seems one that is logical and bears answering. Sure, not every owner is present and while there is no doubt information updated to them on a regular basis, why wouldn’t they want to take a hands on approach to the negotiations?

I get the fact that the larger market teams rule the roost, but they too need the votes of the smaller fish to confer on a new agreement. From basketball related income, to the salary cap, and the length of guaranteed contracts, there are watershed decisions to be arrived at, and the Pacers should be in the thick of things insuring that the deal fostered includes their fingerprints as well.

Depending on whom you ask, it is less than clear who is currently running the franchise. Sure, it’s supposedly Larry Bird when it comes to personnel decisions, but Bird himself made it clear at the end of last season that it was solely up to Simon to determine how much is spent. That being said, doesn’t it lend to reason that what you can spend and how the new system will work would be crucial to the club before the deal is brokered rather than afterwards?

Look, there are no doubt some very bright people in the organization, but why allow your colleagues in other markets, most of them larger, to tailor something that on the surface seems to be one size fits all, but in realty may be too tight around the collar for many.

One thing is for certain; this deal will include out options for the players as well, so what occurs in terms of business dealings prior to that inevitable occurrence will set the tone for the next deal as well.

While it is a matter of when the deal is struck and not if, the Pacers should be front and center in these negotiations to assure those who pay the taxes that are funneled to their checking account are in turn given results regarding the club’s profitability and not excuses. So go ahead Mr. Simon, crash the party on behalf of those who unlike myself, plunk down money for tickets and sodas. Stroll through that hotel lobby and make yourself heard. At least be there and offer your business acumen in person to those at the table. The fans expect that and more importantly, deserve it. Please speak up before it is too late.

Danny Bridges, who thinks small market NBA teams will cease to exist by 2020, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.


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