Monday, June 2, 2014

Fine, I'll Take It

So, this happened.  And I have to wonder—are we supposed to be impressed by this fine?  Because I'm pretty sure Phil Jackson isn't.

I don't know if Phil was aware that this was a violation of league rules.  I kind of suspect that he was; it doesn't strike me as the sort of thing he'd do without even considering whether it broke the rules.  I don't say that just because I'm somehow impressed with his knowledge of league restrictions.  I say it because this tampering makes sense strategically.

Listen: The Clippers are going to be sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion.  If you didn't hear that correctly, do not pass GO, just return to the beginning of this paragraph.  Two billion dollars.  The Clippers.  I really admire (I won't go so far as to say "love" or even "like") the current incarnation of this team.  They hustle, they want to win, and for once, they have the talent to do it.  They remind me of the Lakers in the late 1990s.  But even the Lakers of the 1990s had some history.  What do the Clippers have?

And yet a Microsoft CEO, whose previous claim to Internet fame was a clip in which he repeated the word "developers" approximately a zillion times, but who otherwise doesn't actually seem insane, felt the Clippers were worth $2 billion.  (Sorry if this grosses you out.)

Against that backdrop, consider what Phil Jackson has to gain by mentioning Derek Fisher's name in advance of the Thunder's ouster from the Western Conference Finals: Fisher now knows that he's wanted, on the short list for the Knicks job.  Is Fisher the best man for the job?  I don't know.  He has a reputation for clutch (built in part upon this shot), he's earned respect from much of the league outside of Salt Lake City fans, and he's done it with seemingly very little in the way of natural physical gifts.  He's not a preternatural baller the way his longtime backcourt mate Kobe Bryant is.  It's quite conceivable that he could turn out to be a successful NBA coach.  Given the Knicks' recent history, that bar is not set excessively high.  Jackson's words have made it a bit more likely that Fisher will lean toward New York than he would have otherwise.

So let's suppose that the Knicks are currently worth as much as the Clippers are, that their current state of basketball inferiority is compensated for by the fact that they are New Friggin' York.  The team finished with 37 wins this past season, a .451 clip.  How much do you think they'd be worth if they finished at .500 (41 wins)?  How much if they finished at .600 (49 wins)?  I think conservatively, the team would increase their net value by at least $10 million per additional win to start with, and each successive win would only increase that margin.  And Jackson's supposed to be worried about $25,000?

Admittedly, Jackson doesn't get all of that increase in value.  That's James Dolan's.  Still, Dolan has to pay Jackson, and he'd be a lot happier about paying Jackson if his team were suddenly worth $100 million more.  The more candidates Jackson has to choose from, the more likely it is that the team will make that leap.  That's the real value of the so-called tampering with Derek Fisher: It makes it more likely that Jackson will have him to choose from.  Nothing in his words binds him to choose Fisher at all.  There's very little downside, compared to that negligible $25,000 fine.

So what's it worth, exactly?  I'll take a look at that in a future post, but for now, I'm confident Phil Jackson knows what he's doing.

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