Pro Basketball, Hockey in Playoff Mode The NBA playoffs begin this weekend, while the NHL's are already in full swing. Can the Boston Celtics complete an amazing turnaround with a trip to the NBA finals? The Detroit Red Wings had the best overall NHL record, but they're struggling in the playoffs.
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Pro Basketball, Hockey in Playoff Mode

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Pro Basketball, Hockey in Playoff Mode

Pro Basketball, Hockey in Playoff Mode

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And if haven't heard enough about the business of the NBA, here now is Stefan Fatsis of The Wall Street journal, who joins us most Fridays. Hi, Stefan.

Mr. FATSIS: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: Is this whole deal about the Supersonics, some effort by NBA Commissioner David Stern to send a message to other cities about what they have to do if they want to keep their teams?

Mr. FATSIS: I don't think so. I think this is business as usual, frankly. You tell a city what it needs to do, and if it doesn't, then you follow the market elsewhere. There will be a vacuum created in Seattle if this lawsuit fails and the team moves.

Someday, money will call a lesson in new ownership group, the legislature will agree to build a new arena. Another week franchise will look towards Seattle for a new home.

In the meantime, no one's going to be shedding any tears at the NBA's headquarters, it's the way sports operate in any way, in protecting the long-term health of the NBA, Europe and Asia are more important to David Stern right now than Seattle.

SIEGEL: Hmm. But, when we look at these moves that have taken place, one is tempted to say that there is a city council born every minute. Not all the moves you worked out for the cities that have gotten NBA teams?

Mr. FATSIS: No, because of its supply and demand. How many great cities are there for professional sports franchises? There may be enough demand, but that doesn't mean that every city is going to succeed in hosting a team.

Look at the Charlotte Hornets, they moved to New Orleans, David Stern of the NBA got Charlotte then, to build a new arena and get an expansion team, The Bobcats, and they drew just 14,600 fans this season, seventh fewest in the league.

The Bobcats Team Owner, Bob Johnson this week said he was disappointed by the city's lukewarm reception to the team, and that's probably not the best way to lure more fans. New Orleans? Look, New Orleans has other concerns, but the Hornets did poorly at the gate just over 14,000 fans this year, almost 4,000 fewer than last year when the team played all - nearly all of its games in Oklahoma City.

So, will the NBA succeed in Oklahoma City? Long-term, 40 years from now, the way Seattle had a team for 40 years. Who knows?

SIEGEL: Yeah. But it's interesting that the poor attendance in New Orleans came despite the fact that this was the most successful season in the franchise's history.

The Hornets won their division, and tomorrow they start the playoffs as the number two seed in the western conference for a long time this year, looked like there were number one?

Mr. FATSIS: Yeah, and then, to be fair, New Orleans fans did come toward the end of the season. They sold out 12 of the final 17 home games, as the team kept doing well. But, it's no small feat that they finished second in this conference, it is stacked. All eight playoff teams won at least 50 games, none 1-16, this might be the greatest one to eight line-up in NBA playoff history.

There are potentials for upsets in every pairing. The Hornets are led by Chris Paul, he'll finished second or third in the MVP voting. The Lakers have Kobe, of course, and they made that great trade for Paul Gasol. The Utah Jazz had been as hot as any team, they have a 37 and 4 home court record. Phoenix has Shaquille O'Neal, Denver has Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. It was going to be great.

SIEGEL: Okay. Let's put this conversation on ice for a moment here, and I want you talk about the National Hockey League, because they're in the playoffs as well.

Mr. FATSIS: Yes, and this is my annual pitch to watch the NHL playoffs because as the cliche goes, there's nothing like playoff Hockey. It's been three years since the infamous lock out that cancelled the entire season.

The NHL is where it's always been, healthier financially in terms of player contracts, fine at the gate, not drawing anybody on TV.

While playoff ratings are up this year, but that's to a total of less than 300,000 viewers per playoff game on the versus network. We're the night candor for the Washington Capitol's under Ted Leonsis, he told wsj.com's Justin Scheck last week, we've lost the TV war...

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FATSIS: ...and we need to be a leader in digital media, which the NHL's have been trying to do aggressively. They seized team Web sites and last week, created something called, the NHL Network on-line.

SIEGEL: Okay, I'm going to say it, I know you don't like to hear this every year, but I'm going to say; If you have HDTV, you can see the puck, so that's a different sport.

(Soundbite of laugher)

SIEGEL: Anyway, the Washington Capitol's - Ted Leonsis' Washington Capitols are in the brink of elimination.

Mr. FATSIS: They are, they're down three games to one to Philadelphia after a double overtime loss last night. Washington has a great young player, Alex Ovechkin, but the other great young player in the NHL, Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh, he helped his team, the Penguins, sweep the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Hockey, basketball players, we can watch them for the next six weeks.

SIEGEL: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: It says like a good time of year. Thanks a lot. Stefan Fatsis of The Wall Street journal, he talks with us Fridays about sports and the business of sports. Have a good weekend.

Mr. FATSIS: You too.

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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