When Blake Griffin recently complained about a lack of a loud home-court advantage during his Los Angeles Clipper games, our Dan Devine rightfully chalked it up to a few reasons.
The Golden State Warriors, the Clipper opponent for that evening, continue to be a rather highlight-filled collection of talents, and they actually won the contest. Warrior fans also often travel well to follow their team, even when the W’s were a losing franchise, braving road trips in the face of what once were very good Kings and Lakers opponents. On top of that, as it has always been, more than any other American city Los Angeles remains pretty well-stocked of people living in Los Angeles that aren’t actually from Los Angeles.
Now it turns out that there could be an even more important reason why Clipper fans are failing to show up for marquee games. Priced out of keeping all of their season tickets, some fans are selling their seats to localized fans of long distance teams. The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke talked to a few recently:
"They have priced me out of going to every game," said JoLai Draper, a longtime devoted Clippers season-ticket holder.
Five years ago, at the beginning of the Blake Griffin era, Draper was paying $34 a game for each of her two seats. Next season she will be paying $60 per ticket.
"Their prices have nearly doubled, but during that same time, my salary hasn't doubled, so I have to figure out a way to make it work," said Draper, a Boeing procurement agent. "If Blake wants to give me $5,000, I'd be happy to keep my seat and cheer for every game."
It's as if Steve Ballmer didn't realize the paradox in paying $2 billion for a team that was always considered Los Angeles' affordable NBA option. He's now trying to recoup a Lakers-sized investment in a Clippers-sized culture, and it's not pretty.
Clipper reps countered Plaschke’s tale of Clipper ugliness by pointing out that Draper’s case isn’t common:
"Most of our fans saw only a 2% to 4% increase in their ticket prices. We are confident that with our low entry-level price point and fair, competitive pricing for a world-class product, we are delivering great value."
Still, the Times reports that Clipper courtside seats will cost more than the same seats at a Los Angeles Lakers game next year. No wonder Billy Crystal has returned to slum it in television.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
For too long, the Clippers were a small market team in a major market city. The move from the ancient L.A. Sports Arena in 1999 barely changed the area’s perception of the franchise, and even a successful run into the playoffs in 2006 didn’t move the needle much.
The ascension of the Chris Paul-led Clips and long-awaited removal of former Clipper owner Donald Sterling not only made the Clippers a team to be reckoned with, but an outfit that you didn’t have to be ashamed to cheer for. Still, even if longtime Clipper fans were allowed to retain their seats at Sterling-era prices, there’s still a healthy chunk of the Staples Center that needs filling up. Laker fans might have their fair share of bandwagon jumpers – just look at the team’s television ratings this year and last if you don’t believe me – but at least they can still sell the place out even with a last place team.
The Clips have no such history to rely upon, and in a town full of industry types that moved from Bulls, Celtics, Grizzlies, Knicks or even Heat country, you’re going to have some cheers for the other side.
It’s just the price of business. Clipper players are figuratively paying for the sins of the previous administrations. Longtime Clipper fans are literally paying for it.
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