January 11, 1980
The NBA is thinking about expanding again, and yes, the proposal will get stiff opposition from Red Auerbach of the Celtics.
An expansion committee decided yesterday in New York to recommend to the National Basketball Assn. Board of Governors that Dallas be invited to become the 23d franchise for the 1980-81 season. Celtic owner Harry Mangurian was a member of the committee, whose proposal will be voted upon Feb. 2, the day before the NBA All-Star game at Landover, Md.
But Auerbach, the Celtics' influential and volatile general manager, said yesterday that he doesn't think the NBA needs another expansion, if, for no other reason, than it will "dilute the product".
"We had the merger and it didn't do what it was supposed to do," said Auerbach. "The salaries didn't go down, did they? We got some money, but that didn't change anything. Instead of bringing in somebody new, I'd rather we take care of our own people who are in trouble."
The expansion committee selected Dallas, a franchise group headed by Norman Sonju, and said it was the only city ready for an NBA franchise at this time.
The expansion formula would be similiar to other years. Dallas would be allowed to select one player off the roster of the present 22 clubs, and would be given the No. 11 spot in the upcoming draft. Each exisiting club would be allowed to protect seven players. There had been rumors that Dallas would come in demanding a No. 1 draft choice in order to make their franchise competitive immediately. Obviously, the committee had ideas of its own.
Futhermore,the committee stressed that Dallas must meet some specific conditions if its application is to be approved, one of which is completion of a new arena, already under construction.
"This doesn't mean that Dallas has been voted a franchise," said Auerbach, who was waiting to confer with Manguarian late last night. "It is just a committee recommendation and they will still need 17 votes by the owners. I'll know more after I talk with Harry.
"Expansion is no good. Look what happened to the National Hockey League. The product is so diluted you don't know who is playing, anymore. You want to see New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Chicago. Who wants to see Edmonton?"
Auerbach says a more serious objection to expansion than "diluting" is that the addition of another franchise could alter the so-called voting block of the powerful "Old Guard," currently a coalition of eastern clubs and their allies in Los Angeles and Chicago. A story in the New York Times last Sunday revealed an informal Dec. 7 meeting in New York attended by representatives of New York, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles clubs. The purpose was to discuss possible voting as a block on issues such as profit sharing on local and cable television, and gate receipts. With four new clubs in the last three years, all from the American Basketball Assn., and now a proposed fifth one (which would put three clubs in the league from the state of Texas) Auerbach is not sure the voting balance as it now stands can be maintained.
"It's the votes that count," said Auerbach, "and right now, you need only six. If you vote in an additional team or two, that changes everything around. It is like pushing a school committee up from seven to nine members to get more votes. Naturally, the new members would be expected to vote with the people who supported them.
"The cable television is a complicated issue involving a lot of clubs, not just on the east coast. Some cities have more television than others. I've never been in favor of sharing gate receipts. The cost of doing business in each city is different. In some cities, the ballclub is the only game in town. Their advertisting is less, even the cost of opening the building. I've never been in favor of shared gate receipts and I don't like more expansion. Let's help Utah, where they've lost a ton of money. Let's help Golden State. Not somebody outside."