Ratto: The Zion Games

The restart plan is a clear nod to the future power of the Pelicans star

Ray Ratto
June 03, 2020 - 11:27 am
Ratto: The Zion Games

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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It shouldn't be difficult to see the heavy hand of starmaking in the NBA's restart plan, at least in terms of the New Orleans Zions. At a time when everything about sports seems artificial and forced, extending the restart to include five Western Conference teams and the Washington Wizards seems like a way to put the Pelicans in the postseason to maximize one of the central tenets of both NBA and television — make the stars starrier.

It also shouldn't be difficult to see the lure of regional television money to help minimize the financial beatings the owners will take when all this ends. Julianna Holt, who runs the San Antonio Spurs, has the lowest net worth, so those games (read: that payment) matter to her in a way that other owners (say, Memphis' Robert Pera or the Paul Allen family trust in Portland) could absorb more easily.

It isn't that this plan is any better or worse than any other, mind you. In terms of competition, the Charlotte Jordans are seven games behind the 16th-best team, Orlando, but with so many teams to pass their chances of (a) running the table, (b) having the Magic lose seven of their last eight  and (c) none of the teams between them going on their own run, the Jordans have essentially no chance. Last Dance that.

But all this assumes that there will be a restart at all, and the NBA has been more skittish than their sporting brethren in trying to plow through the health issues of a multi-team bubble. Major League Baseball is choking on the money of its own restart plans, and while the owners claim their will lose $4 billion playing with no fans, fivethirtyeight.com showed how the owners would likely make as much money as they did last year with much less inventory but far lower expenses.

Frankly, one almost hopes baseball doesn't resume at all, and we say almost only because the players would still end up being victims and blame magnets simultaneously.

But back to the NBA. The current plan, which is expected to be ratified by the Board Of Billionaires Thursday, scratches all the itches the league has without unduly punishing the players and in one case — New Orleans — rewards a traditionally unfashionable team for having a marketable player. One cannot find a way that the league would stretch a single wrist tendon to approve a plan that includes Portland because of Damian Lillard or Sacramento because of De'Aaron Fox or Phoenix for having Devin Booker or Washington for not having John Wall. And it's not like the league has a reason to takle care of Gayle Benson  rather than, say, Ted Leonsis or Bob Sarvere or Vivek Ranadive. This is basically a nod to the future power of Zion and the current power of regional TV money.

Isn't it nice when a plan comes together, as opposed to, say, what the baseball owners are doing — trying to get theirs now and letting tomorrow's game die like the dog it is?

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