Still willing to shell out

The economy is struggling, but Lakers fans don’t exactly pause when dipping into their bank accounts.

Winning leads to everything, including season-ticket renewals, which hit an impressive 98% for the defending NBA champions.

The Lakers had the highest renewal rate in the league, outdoing Boston and Cleveland, which were both over 90%, though exact figures could not be obtained. The league average was 75%.


“Good products can sell even in a bad economy, and the Lakers are a great product right now,” said Paul Swangard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. “Star power certainly drives that market and you arguably have the player of the decade in the lineup. People just don’t want to give up their coveted seats and be back on the outside looking in when the economy looks better and the tickets are tough to come by.”

The Lakers actually hit 99% last season but weren’t disappointed by the slight drop this season. For a franchise valued at almost $600 million, they’re pleased with the 98% commitment from season-ticket holders.

“In this economy, it shows that our fans enjoy the product and have trust in the team,” said Tim Harris, executive vice president of business operations. “They’re willing to support us with their checkbook, which provides us with the tools to go out and put that product on the floor.”

The Lakers did not raise ticket prices for the upcoming season, an obvious nod to the drooping economy. The team typically raises ticket prices 5% to 7% annually.

Ticket prices for Lakers games remained at $90, $115, $155, $220 and $260 for lower bowl seats and $10, $35 and $45 for upper bowl seats. Courtside seats are still $2,600.


Artest’s time

When he played for the Houston Rockets last season, Ron Artest contends he had to play big minutes in order for the team to be successful.

Now that he’s with the Lakers, Artest maintains he’s not seeking to be on the court for heavy minutes.

He averaged 35.5 minutes per game last season with the Rockets. Over his 10-year career, Artest has averaged 34.8 minutes per game. His career high of 41.6 minutes came during the 2004-05 season, when he played for the Indiana Pacers.

“On the other teams that I was on, I needed to be on the floor -- all the time, a lot of the times because there was not another player out there like me to control the game,” Artest said. “But this year we’ve got Kobe [Bryant] and [Pau] Gasol. [Lakers Coach] Phil Jackson has great options where I don’t have to put all the pressure on me or Phil doesn’t have to put the team on my back.”

Artest has been known to not always play within the offense, to pound the basketball. He has been known to force his way inside or to settle for a three-point shot instead of making the extra pass.

“We really don’t anticipate that’s going to be an issue with him,” Jackson said. “It may be choice sometimes, decision-making sometimes, but with all players, they have to make good decisions.” In the first two exhibition games, Artest has looked hesitant at times, unsure of where to be in the offense. But he’s confident that things will work out, no matter how much time he plays.

“The thing about this year is we’ve got Kobe and Gasol, with Kobe spearheading the soldiers,” Artest said. “Gasol is like the general. [Andrew] Bynum is like an up-and-coming sergeant. It’s going to be good.”