A number of team owners around the NBA are feeling the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com writes. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, for instance, has seen business fall off precipitously at his restaurants, hotels, and casinos, while Heat owner Micky Arison has had to temporarily shut down his Carnival Cruise Lines.
While some team owners have been hit harder than others by the effects of COVID-19, there’s an expectation that the pandemic will have a league-wide impact on spending this offseason, as Windhorst writes. Some teams may have to make difficult financial decisions that could result in unexpected player movement.
“With few exceptions, no one wants to make long-term commitments right now,” one general manager told ESPN. “You can already feel it coming.”
In addition to the teams that may feel pressure to dump pricey contracts or avoid expensive free agent commitments, some clubs may face financial constraints in the draft. Although selling second-round draft picks remains fairly common, no NBA team has sold a first-round pick since the Nuggets did so with the No. 27 selection in the 2013 draft, according to Windhorst. Some people around the league believe that teams will consider the possibility again in 2020.
“I suspect first-round picks will be for sale in this draft,” a team executive said. “We haven’t really seen that in a decade.”
Here are a few more noteworthy details and quotes from Windhorst’s examination of NBA teams’ finances:
- Warriors owner Joe Lacob has told his fellow owners that he’s exploring a deal with Goldman Sachs to raise up to $250MM to manage expenses, per Windhorst. Sources tell ESPN that other team owners are considering ways to raise capital as well, with some – including the Rockets – pursuing legal action against companies that have denied coronavirus-related insurance claims.
- Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta recently took out a $300MM loan and is more leveraged than many other owners, since he purchased the franchise fairly recently, but he continues to insist he’s not looking to sell any shares in the team. Brokers who have approached him representing potential bidders have been told the same, reports Windhorst.
- Nets owner Joseph Tsai recently sold about 25% of his shares in tech company Alibaba, according to Windhorst. Other owners might not have similar opportunities to raise capital. “I don’t know what will happen, but I may lose $50MM next season,” one owner told Windhorst. “If that happens, I have three options: I could borrow the money, I could sell part of the team or I could do a cash call and me and my partners would have to write checks.”
- NBA rules allow team owners to borrow $325MM against the equity in their franchises. A majority of NBA teams – including the Warriors – have maxed out that credit, sources tell Windhorst.
- Although the Buss family’s pockets aren’t as deep as some of their fellow owners, the Lakers bring in about $200MM annually from their local TV deal and aren’t expected to have any issues re-signing Anthony Davis, writes Windhorst.