The Sixth Man (cont.)
The questions are fabricated, my answers are for real.
If Roger Goodell is willing to take $1 in salary in the case of an NFL lockout next season, then what do you think would be a good salary for me? Is he keeping benefits? What about stock options? A 401(k)? I can't imagine he'll be flying commercial.
-- D.S., New York
David Stern, the big difference I notice between your league and Goodell's, is that the NFL is openly worried about the impact of a lockout next season, while the NBA is looking forward to creating a new financial structure at the expense of a lockout. The NFL is No. 1 in fan support and doesn't want to surrender that platform while inviting the audience to turn negative.
My impression of your league is that an extended lockout will be worthwhile in exchange for the creation of a new revenue-sharing plan that gives owners more control over the players. Many of your owners have paid big money for their franchises in exchange for annual operating losses (17 NBA teams lost money last year, according to Forbes magazine) created by a system that rewards the richest payrolls. Comments from Goodell and his owners suggest confidence that the NFL can negotiate a new bargaining agreement without missing games next season, but I sense your owners are looking forward to an era of financial relief with an understanding it can be achieved only by crushing the players during a lockout.
How will it look if I decide to sign the extension with New Jersey? Will I go down as a flip-flopper? Everybody knows I want to be a Knick. But let's be realistic, I may not have that choice.
-- C.A., Denver
Carmelo Anthony, based on what you told me two weeks ago and reiterated to the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman recently, you want to sign a three-year, $65 million extension before that offer expires in July and leaves you with the possibility of an ensuing offer that could be worth much less than $50 million. If that should happen, you will have to admit you messed up in a very expensive way.
Let's say the Nuggets approach you on the morning of the Feb. 24 trade deadline with two options: They'll move you either to Houston (or another team willing to rent you out in the short term) or to New Jersey. Are you going to turn down the $65 million because it isn't coming from the Knicks?
The problem with your ability to force a trade to the Knicks is that everyone doubts your willingness to forego the $65 million extension in order to sign with New York for much less money as a free agent this summer. You can't make the threat of signing only with the Knicks unless you're willing to see through that threat. And the reason why you haven't made that threat, from everything I can gather, is because you're too smart to throw away so much money.
I understand any hesitation you might have had a month before the deadline about committing to New Jersey, because you could have been hoping the Knicks (or Bulls) would have been able to acquire you. Maybe the Knicks will yet be able to make a competitive offer that satisfies the Nuggets and enables them to trade you to New York.
But I don't believe the Nets have lost all interest in dealing for you. They had good reasons for pursuing you for so many months, and those reasons still exist. If the Nets can push through a trade for the same terms or less than they were offering a couple of weeks ago, when owner Mikhail Prokhorov cut off the negotiations, then Prokhorov will be credited for seizing control of the process.
It's reasonable to predict your point of view will change at the deadline. If the Nuggets make you a take-or-leave-it opportunity that involves committing to the Nets while leaving you no time to pursue further options, are you really going to turn down the $65 million?
What exactly is the future of my team? Is it going to be in New Orleans after this season? Who is going to buy us? Is the next owner going to move the team to another city? Is Chris Paul like to say? I'm asking because I can be a free agent after the season, and I'd like to have some idea of my future prospects here.
-- D.W., New Orleans
David West, there are no answers to your questions. Fans in New Orleans purchased enough tickets to forego an option that could have released the Hornets from their lease this summer, and the state government may be willing to provide a sweetheart deal on a future lease. But the next owner of the team -- which is currently being held by the NBA -- may have plans to move the Hornets to a larger market that is willing to match or beat any offer made by Louisiana to keep them in New Orleans Arena.
I hear speculation from rival teams that the Hornets may consider trading you before you can walk this summer, but I can't foresee the NBA participating in a deal that would weaken the team and hasten its departure from New Orleans. Plus, if you were to go, Paul -- who calls you his closest friend in the league -- would probably be out the door right behind you.
How to build an NBA arena. This comes from Magic president Alex Martins, who presided over the design and construction of the new 18,500-seat Amway Center in downtown Orlando.
"It starts far ahead of putting the shovel in the ground. The research and design started 10 years ago. We visited and studied just about every arena facility in North America, and some outside North America. We wanted to structurally determine what kind of sight lines and seating bowl we were most interested in from a fan perspective, primarily for basketball, although our charge was to create a building that was flexible enough to host any event. We also wanted to find the best elements that were out there in terms of fan amenities. We wanted to know what to do and what not to do, what worked and what didn't work.
"It wasn't until we combined all of that research together that we engaged an architect. We selected Populous, and one of the first things we did with them -- along with our partners, the city of Orlando -- was to go up to New York and data-dump all of the research we'd done. We discussed what our priorities were, what we wanted this building to be, all of the design elements.
"That was step 1 -- the research and development. Step 2 was to develop the right team of professionals who have done this kind of thing before. That meant bringing together the right architect, the right construction manager, the right program manager -- someone from their industry who knows all of the shortcuts and where all of the bones are buried so they don't get buried in our building.
"Then it was a matter of building it and living with the challenges of building anything. Everything looks great on paper until you have to get out there and build it. The worst thing we did have was a crane that collapsed because a cable snapped, but nobody was in its way. Construction had just started in the upper bowl, but it was minimal damage and it didn't delay us at all.
"One of the ideas we picked up from another arena was the kids' interactive zone and play area in Phoenix [at the Suns' US Airways Center]. We implemented that in our building and we believe it's as good as any play area for kids in the country, and we've gotten rave feedback on it.
"For a restaurant, I would point to the Toyota Center in Houston as our benchmark for the manner in which they exposed their multi-tier restaurant into the bowl area. It provides visual access so you can be eating dinner and watching the game. That was one we really loved, it was something we wanted to duplicate and we put our own touches on it.
"For our seating bowl, I would have to point to Conseco Fieldhouse (in Indianapolis) because Conseco, more so than any other NBA facility, has unique sightlines that were especially designed for basketball. We could have an NHL team in our building -- it's designed for that, it's prepared for that -- but I don't think anybody would tell you it would have the best sightlines in the NHL. But most people would tell you we have some of the best sightlines for the NBA because it was designed for that, in the way we pinched in the corners behind the basket, and in the grade and steepness in the middle and upper sections -- you really feel as if you're on top of the action.
"Denver's Pepsi Center had this concept of a bar that anybody in the building could have access to, and while you're at the bar you had that visual access -- so you could be standing at a drink rail and not miss any of the action live. We found that intriguing because one of our principles was to develop the arena for all levels of ticket buyer. That's how we developed the Budweiser Baseline Bar -- people will buy a $5-10 ticket but stand at the bar and they've improved their position, because the far is finished in a way would see a club-level bar.
"In a lot of these buildings in warm-weather climates they tried to work with outdoor spaces. We saw that most warm-weather cities tried it, and what we found is they weren't being utilized and a lot of them were abandoned over time. Most of them were outfitted with barstools and high-top tables. We felt we had to make it compelling for people to utilize the outdoor space, that we had to give it a high-end feel so it would compete not just with other spaces in our building but it would also compete with some of the best club-level environments in downtown Orlando. We feel that our Gentleman Jack Terrace is the equivalent of a W Hotel rooftop-type bar. It is an open-air environment with swanky furnishings and a great view of downtown Orlando, and it's one of the most popular spaces in the building. People have stayed there late after games.
"Our goal was to not only build the premiere facility in North America, if not the world, but to make sure we were prepared to operate it that way as well. One of the unsung components of how we have had early success was our decision to engage Walt Disney World to do customer service training with every employee in the building -- every ticket-taker, every concession worker and every Magic employee went through the customer service module with Walt Disney. Of everything, I get comments on, the No. 1 element is how great the service is and how radically different the touch points are compared to the staff from the old building."