Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hoops: The Vancouver rumour, again

The site's own Andrew Bucholtz has post up at Sporting Madness about rumblings Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is side-eyeing the NBA's financially struggling Indiana Pacers.

Please set aside the obvious knee-jerk reaction — Moving a team from the heartland of basketball to a foreign country? That must be where Gary Bettman got the idea! — since Vancouver returning to pro basketball has been something of a blog obsession.

There likely is nothing to this particular rumour (keep in mind, bloggers have "horrible instincts," according to Jason Whitlock). The point is talk of Vancouver returning to the NBA is probably bound to pop up with increasing regularity, so don't take the easy way out (but we're the snark generation! It's alls we know!) and be dismissive. Several NBA teams struggling and the city has a rising profile and an arena suitable for pro basketball.

Basketball is also pretty big in the province; it probably has the best high school championship in Canada in terms of competitiveness and fan interest outside of the participating teams.

The timing and the tide might be a lot more right than it was in the mid-1990s, when the late and lamented Vancouver Grizzlies were sort of a throw-in along with the Toronto Raptors. Steve Nash's success has also underscored a critical point: The way to stimulate interest in a sport is to have athletes with whom fans see a connection with on the floor. People in Germany might pay more attention to the NBA because their countryman Dirk Nowitzki is starring in the league (hey, what if the Grizzlies had drafted him in 1998?), not because the Sacramento Kings played an exhibition there or something.

Getting back to the point with Vancouver, as someone said 18 months ago:
"... it's not that far-fetched to think Vancouver could accommodate the NBA. The city's profile with Americans is improving and will increase exponentially after the 2010 Olympics. The management team of a future NBA franchise would also learn from mistakes and make sure the players get to know the city better and are put more at ease in a foreign environment. Too often during the Grizzles' run, there were instances of players voicing displeasure with the city, which alienated potential ticket buyers, since everyone knows Vancouver is the greatest city in the world (in fact, that's what everyone in Rome, London and Sydney says too, really)." — Oct. 27, 2007
Anyway, please don't dismiss it out of hand. It is undeniable the national TV ratings for the NBA playoffs have been neglible in Canada. However, pro basketball fandom in Canada is similar to the NHL's following in the U.S. — it's great in the cities where the league operates but you get crickets everywhere else. (And as you know, judging the Raptors on TV ratings is a poor metric.)

You never know. Canada Basketball could certain use another pro team in the country (not to mention a WNBA franchise) to raise the game's corporate profile. The national body is actually soliciting donations on its website to help raise money for young players to go to FIBA tournaments.

Aquilini to bring Indiana Pacers to Vancouver? (Andrew Bucholtz, Sporting Madness)


Andrew Bucholtz said...

Thanks for the link, Neate! You make a lot of really good points about the timing being right, and the Olympic tie-in's a great one I didn't think of. One other key thing in my mind is Nash's (now national) success with his youth basketball leagues. During the Grizzlies' run, there wasn't a lot of basketball infrastructure outside the high schools, but club basketball is huge now in B.C. (and growing across Canada) largely thanks to Nash. The Canucks, Whitecaps and Lions have all found a lot of success by reaching out to club teams with special offers and attracting both kids and parents as a result; there's a great opportunity for a new Vancouver team to do the same thing.

sager said...

There's a guy in Ottawa who's had a lot of success growing club basketball. Used to play some point guard himself.

Dennis Prouse said...

David Stern has acknowledged that the NBA probably made a mistake running out on Vancouver as easily as they did. For all the reasons outlined above, I have no doubt that the NBA could make a go of it there the second time around. With regard to the Pacers, though, I suspect the Vancouver interest will simply be used as leverage to get themselves a sweeter arena deal in Indianapolis.

Anonymous said...

This is great but, just to let you know we have a Pro IBL team that just stated this year. They are called the Vancouver Titans and they play out of the Langley Events Center. Web site now it might not be NBA but hey it's a start, and tickets are only $12 a game.

Mike Radoslav said...

The only thing I could see really standing in the way would be the NBA not wanting to head back to the city, but if Stern admits they left too soon then I'd say the way is paved clear for a troubled franchise to return (doubt expansion would happen anytime soon).

American players disliking the city is a moot point since American players in general dislike Canada it seems (hence the Euro explosion with the Raps, getting players who actually want to be here!).

I'd love to see the Grizzlies return but if it isn't Memphis, it'll obviously be a different name. What was the runner up name for the Vancouver franchise...?

Andrew Bucholtz said...

@Mike: They were originally supposed to be the Vancouver Mounties, but the RCMP shot that plan down. Vancouver Orcas, maybe? Brand synergy, considering they'd be owned by Orca Bay, but their logo might look too much like the Canucks. Of course, they could always go with the Vancouver Lightning to make fun of the Thunder...

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Or even better, the Vancouver Meteors. What better way to prove their superiority to the Raptors;)!