The Charlotte Hornets might move after next season, but NBA Commissioner David Stern sounded a pessimistic note Wednesday about the chances of the Hornets or any other team moving to the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
The Vancouver Grizzlies have applied for NBA permission to move to Memphis next season after considering several cities, including Anaheim, as a new home. Stern suggested the NBA would rather see its franchises operate as the lone major league team in a smaller market rather than as just another team in a larger market like Southern California.
Stern cited NBA success stories in Portland, San Antonio and Utah, where there may be fewer corporations than in Orange County but where the one team in town need not compete with other major league franchises in selling lucrative luxury boxes and club seats to those corporations.
"I think that's very important in our analysis of Memphis," Stern said.
Although Pond executives have long touted Orange County as a separate market from Los Angeles, and a wealthier one, the media market is the same, and an NBA team in Anaheim would fight the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, Kings and Mighty Ducks for attention. The Grizzlies believed they would have earned more broadcast revenue in Anaheim than in Memphis but would have faced the challenge of finding radio and television stations willing to air some--much less all--of their games.
"Frankly, being the seventh team into a market that is saturated means that difficulties [will arise]--I don't think so much with getting attendance at times, but television, which is increasingly important," Stern said.
Tony Tavares, who oversees the Angels and Ducks as president of Disney's Anaheim Sports division, said he believed Orange County would support an NBA team but said Stern was correct in his assessment of the media market.
"That's why the focus really was on [Clipper owner Donald] Sterling coming down here," Tavares said. "That would have eliminated the biggest challenge somebody would face here. He's got his radio and TV deals already done."
In 1996, the Clippers rejected an offer to move to the Pond. They joined the Lakers and Kings in the new Staples Center in 1999.