The Lakers announced a curious renewal deadline for season-ticket holders that has some conspiracy theorists wondering whether the team is trying to get Los Angelenos to pony up big bucks before knowing just what kind of product they'll all be watching at the Staples Center in 2015-16.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the Lakers issued their annual renewal request to season-ticket holders with a due date of May 18 — the day before the NBA lottery. What's the big deal, you say?
Well, the Lakers currently own the NBA's fourth-worst record with four games to play, meaning they will likely have an 81 percent chance of landing a top-five pick in the lottery. Of course, there's also a 19 percent chance of selecting sixth or seventh, in which case the pick transfers to the Philadelphia 76ers, since L.A. previously only ascribed top-five protection to the lottery pick in a deal for Steve Nash (the Phoenix Suns later dealt the pick to Philly in a three-team trade for Brandon Knight).
In simpler terms, Lakers season ticket-holders will have to decide whether to renew before learning whether the team will own a top-five pick or no lottery pick at all in the June 25 draft. Weird, right?
Well, not exactly. In a 2014 L.A. Times piece, we learned the Lakers moved their renewal deadline up two months in 2014 to — you guessed it — the day before the draft lottery. While their 2014 pick was secure in the top 10 a year ago, the new deadline had at least one high-paying season-ticket holder calling the organization "toxic from top to bottom" for requesting payment before free agency played out. If you'll recall, the Lakers were trying to woo Carmelo Anthony and other big names to L.A. at the time.
Except, that fan and his fellow co-conspirators are missing one rather vital point the L.A. Times mentioned in passing last year: The Lakers still had the latest season-ticket renewal date of any team in 2014. The Dallas Mavericks, for example, set a renewal deadline of March 18 for the 2015-16 season.
Teams have gone to great lengths in order to explain just how detailed the renewal process is on their end, as the Lakers did to the L.A. Times last year. It requires confirming each season-ticket holder's status, offering upgrades, granting those requests, and then booking new season-ticket packages.
"The world is changing, and as it does, so do the way companies, and not just sports teams, do business," said John Black, team spokesman. "We need more time to implement new technology for the upgrade and renewal process, and we're agreeing to the league's demands that we fall in line with all other NBA team renewal deadlines."
That doesn't make much sense, since the Lakers apparently completed the process two months later without the benefit of digital technology in the past, but that's beside the point. The Lakers aren't doing anything differently than any other team. Could they have picked a better date than THE DAY BEFORE THE LOTTERY? Sure, but the Lakers' decision-makers haven't exactly been drawing rave reviews as it is.
Regardless, a top-five pick won't transform a 20-win team into a title contender all by himself. The Lakers also have a boatload to spend in free agency, so whether season-ticket holders had to renew 24 hours before the lottery or 24 hours after, they still wouldn't know what to expect in 2015-16, especially with Kobe Bryant's health concerns and a coach who seems to be at war with his current players. Such is the life for fans of rebuilding teams, and Los Angelenos may just have to get used to the idea.
Besides, the Lakers had a top-10 pick last summer, drafted Julius Randle seventh and lost the rookie to a broken leg 14 minutes into his first career game, so the L.A. faithful should know better than anybody that nothing is guaranteed. Season-ticket holders simply have to decide for themselves: Do I feel comfortable continuing to support the Lakers with the off chance they turn it around next season?
If the answer is no, then don't renew, and your tickets will go to the next person on the waiting list for season tickets. And you'll be free to root for another team. I hear there's another one in L.A. in need of some new fans. Then, watch as the Lakers land the No. 1 overall pick. Ah, conspiracy theories.
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