Nielsen ratings for the Clippers and Lakers in the Los Angeles market were down double digits percentage-wise over their first 20 games versus the same period last season.
The Lakers averaged a 2.25 rating for those games on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, down 28% from the 3.14 at the start of last season. The Clippers averaged a 1.24 on Prime Ticket, down 16% from the 1.47 they achieved early last season.
The Lakers' ratings are near the historic low of 2.11 they averaged all of last season, the worst on record for local Lakers telecasts and a 54% drop from the 2012-13 season, when they averaged a 4.63.
There was one good piece of news for the Clippers: Their ratings in the highly coveted 18-34 demographic were up a staggering 41% over the first 20 games of last season. The Lakers were showing a decline of 13% in the same demographic.
The Lakers' ratings drop could be explained in part by the team's 8-17 record, which is worse than its 12-13 start a year ago. However, superstar Kobe Bryant has played in every game; he did not make his season debut last year until Dec. 8 and played in only six games before sitting out the rest of the season.
The Clippers' ratings decline seems a bit more puzzling given their 113-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center on Monday gave them a 17-7 record, a slight improvement over their 15-9 start a year ago. This represents the next-to-last season of the team's contract with Prime Ticket, which pays the Clippers $25 million to $30 million a year.
A Fox spokesman declined to comment on the Clippers' ratings.
The Lakers are in the third year of their 25-year, $5-billion contract with TWC. The ratings for the network's “Backstage: Lakers” episodes have doubled from the same period last season, from .07 to .14.
“Lakers fans continue to tune in for live games, pre and postgame shows and original programming on Time Warner Cable SportsNet,” said Mark Shuken, senior vice president-general manager of TWC Sports Networks. “We know that Lakers fans are passionate about the team and will be for years to come.”
Room for one more?
“Hey, count me in for everybody,” Rivers said. “We're looking at everything.”
O'Neal, an 18-year veteran who spent last season with the Golden State Warriors, would give the Clippers an element of defensive toughness that is missing on their second unit. O'Neal, 36, has career averages of 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds.
The Clippers have the maximum of 15 players on their roster, meaning they would need to cut someone to add a free agent. Reserve guard Jared Cunningham is the only player with a non-guaranteed contract.
Clippers reserve center-forward Spencer Hawes sat out his second consecutive full game because of a bone bruise in his left knee.
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