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Fans For Fair Play
Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project

Friday, June 25, 2004

Loss Leaders and Leaders In Losses 

If you're a New Jersey Nets fan, you've gotta be wondering what's going on.

If you're thinking of becoming a Brooklyn Nets fan, some nasty truths are emerging to make you think twice.

This week the papers here in New York have been rife with rumors, substantiations from unnamed sources, and, with yesterday's NBA draft, actions that show where the Nets front office is at.

"Front office" is understood to mean "G.M. Rod Thorn being told what to do by Bruce Ratner."

We can't say this enough: Bruce Ratner cares nothing about basketball, about the Nets, or even about the arena he wants to build on top of peoples homes and businesses in Brooklyn. His only interest in this unholy trinity is to seduce politicians, Brooklynites despearte for jobs and homes, and sports fans into backing his 17-tower office/retail/residential complex.

For Bruce Ratner, the Nets are a loss-leader -- a necessary expenditure to make his real intentions a reality.

In the past week, it's been reported that:

* The Nets would trade their first-round draft choice to Portland for $3 million and ex-Net Eddie Gill's contract. (That indeed happened last night, with the Nets keeping the $3 mil but planning on not picking up Gill's contract.)

* The Nets may not sign the team's brusque, exciting heart, Kenyon Martin. A free agent, Martin is seeking upwards of $85 million this summer.

* The Nets may trade the team's superstar, Jason Kidd, whose $103 million contract certainly galls basketball neophyte Ratner, especially with the Nets still on the hook for $88 million of it. (Actually, a $103 million contract should gall anyone, but for reasons different than Ratner's.) The reason for trading Kidd? To free up cash for resigning Martin.

* Richard Jefferson, another star, is due for a contract extension on August 1. The Nets might try to eke out more cash by refusing to pick up Jefferson's extension.

* Kerry Kittles, due to make $10 million this year, was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft earlier in the week. This draft was to provide a roster of players for the NBA's newest team, BET founder Robert Johnson's Charlotte Bobcats. Often teams leave high-paid stars unprotected in these drafts, confident that a new franchise can't afford the contracts -- and in the process, protecting their lower-salaried players. So the Nets' Kittles move wasn't so unusual. But if the Bobcats had taken Kittles, Ratner would've been ecstatic -- and some thought they might have, given Johnson's deep pockets and proclivities toward making a splash.

Where, exactly, Ratner's gonna get all the money for this cornucopia of contracts, is anyone's guess. With a lame duck franchise stuck out in Jersey with the second-lowest average attendance last season, half of which was before it was announced they might leave for Brooklyn, and all sorts of other operating deficits, it would be difficult for someone who actually cares about the team to right this all-of-a-sudden sinking ship. For diletante Ratner, it could be beyond his reach.

Ratner's lenders and investors are getting nervous. If the NBA owners care about their own interests, we should see beads of sweat starting to gather on their foreheads as well.

Between intense, growing community resistance and the cash-bleeding Nets, Ratner's learning that there's a direct connect between loss-leaders and being the leader in losses.

* * * * * * * *

Still not too late to call the NBA and let them know what you think of Ratner's plans for Brooklyn. The NBA's phone number is (212) 407-8000, just ask for Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik. If you wanna write them, their e-mails are dstern@nba.com and rgranik@nba.com

It looks like the owners' vote on whether to approve Ratner's purchase of the Nets is scheduled for this Wednesday. We'll see. Call and write now.
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