First, the good news: the Pistons won an entertaining nail-biter against Allen Iverson and the 76ers, riding monster games from Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko (!) to inch a little bit closer to .500. If you missed the game, jump into the game thread to see what you missed. Now, the bad news ...
We knew the bad economy was affecting ticket sales, but we didn't know exactly by how much. Now, we do, thanks to some solid investigative work by CBS Sports' Ken Berger -- and it's worse than anyone could have imagined.
Average paid attendance is down 3.7 percent in the NBA through the first quarter of the regular season, sending gate receipts plummeting 7.4 percent, according to league documents obtained by CBSSports.com.
Net gate receipts, the money teams make from ticket sales, fell to an average of $828,985 per game, down from $894,823 at the same point last season. Only nine teams were up or flat in average net gate receipts through Nov. 29, while 21 teams saw a decline.
[...] The hardest-hit franchise so far is the Detroit Pistons, whose net average gate receipts are down a staggering 42.8 percent year-over-year, according to the figures reported by teams to the league office. The Pistons made an average of $537,263 per game on ticket sales through their first eight home games, down from $938,833 at the same point last season. The Pistons, located in the epicenter of joblessness, have seen paid attendance slip 22 percent, to 14,821 from 18,993 in the first month of 2008-09.
In hindsight, you have to imagine the Pistons saw this coming. Selling the Shock, giving away Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson away for nothing -- it all makes a little more sense now. (As for the "sign Deron Washington to a partially-guaranteed contract and then cut him" move? Yeah, I'm still scratching my head on that one.)
Also, as much as some have criticized Joe Dumars' decision to spend big on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva last summer, there's a good chance falling league revenue will shrink next year's salary cap even more than previously thought, meaning all that hypothetical cap space teams have been hoarding will disappear.
What are the short-term ramifications? I'm not sure there are any, per se. I guess it's possible the Pistons are a bit more eager than usual to dump salary in a trade, but as everyone prepares for the Summer of LeBron, available expiring contracts are few and far between.
Instead, I think this guarantees the Pistons will continue taking a long-term approach, both in terms of developing young (cheap) players and giving John Kuester plenty of rope (you think Mrs. D is eager to pay someone not to work right about now?). We won't find out just how badly the Pistons have been hit until next summer, when it's time for them to make decisions on several key free agents (Will Bynum, Ben Wallace, Kwame Brown) and negotiate a possible extension for Stuckey.