Flash could catch fire if Jazz are locked out
NBA owners, players and fans will lose mightily if there is an NBA lockout this summer. Revenue streams will stagnate, the promotion mill will grind to a halt, and public interest in a game associated with star power and prestige will wane.
One organization stands to benefit from a widely predicted work stoppage, though. At times forgotten, the minor league basketball franchise based in Orem could receive a significant boost in exposure and income.
A lengthy lockout would impair the Jazz, Salt Lake City and local small businesses. But for the Development League's Utah Flash, the longer the NBA locks its doors, the better.
"If we were the only professional basketball team in the state, I think it would spur the interest of the people," said Flash president Drew Sellers. "I think this is definitely a basketball-oriented state."
Sellers is not hoping for a lockout. But the Flash have worked to build and brand during the past four seasons drawing interest from fans in Utah County but failing to make significant inroads in Salt Lake County and Sellers sees potential in the NBA's temporary pause.
The disappearance of the Jazz would result in increased attention for the Flash. Meanwhile, a prolonged NBA vacation would equal increased opportunity for its minor league system, which will still be allowed to operate even if owners and players go to war while fighting for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The possibility that Flash players will become household names next season in Salt Lake City is highly unlikely. However, the Flash played 25 games in Orem last season, drawing more than 100,000 fans and ranking second in the league in attendance. Sponsorships do not pour in, but they are steady. And after carving out a small spot in a sports market long dominated by the Jazz, University of Utah and Brigham Young University, the Flash still have room for growth. If Al Jefferson, Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward are sitting at home in November instead of running the court, the Flash will be the only pro basketball game in town.
"I hope that we would have some interest from people that typically haven't been interested in the Flash in the past," Sellers said.
Uncertainty reigns in the NBA as a June 30 deadline approaches for a new CBA, and predicting how long a lockout will last and if there will be one is something that analysts are unable to agree upon. However, there is increased certitude for the Flash in the organization's relationship with the Jazz.
Actual and implied familial connections provided both franchises with a strong foundation when the Flash came to life in 2007. Former Flash coach Brad Jones served as a scout for the Jazz and was former coach Jerry Sloan's nephew. Meanwhile, Jazz scout David Fredman served as the Flash's general manager. As a result, everyone from ex-Jazz center Kosta Koufos to current Jazz big man Kyrylo Fesenko spent time in Orem, as one of the NBA's smallest markets shined a light on a minor league team located just 40 miles away.
"[The Jazz] set it up to be a successful relationship because they took us and the D-League seriously," said Jones, who now coaches the D-League's Austin Toros.
The communication between the Jazz and Flash took a hit when Jones was replaced last August by first-year coach Kevin Young. But Sellers, Young and Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor were adamant that the relationship between the organizations is again cemented in mutual respect. Moreover, O'Connor admires what Young accomplished during his initial season the Flash finished 28-22 and qualified for the playoffs while Sellers is open to an increased affiliation with the Jazz.
"The relationship's been terrific," he said. "Hopefully they've been able to generate some interest from the players we've sent down."
Even if the Flash are unable to rely upon the prowess of the Jazz next season due to a lockout, the team could gain ground if the new CBA addresses long-held concerns about a lack of flexibility in D-League player movement. If the NBA institutes a hard salary cap and maximum rosters are trimmed down, the sport's minor league system will gain increased importance. Minimum contracts and a reliable farm system will be at a premium, aiding small-market franchises such as the Jazz and bringing more attention to the NBA's second tier.
"I think with the new CBA there could be a few things that could affect our league," Young said. "I don't know. I'm just as curious as everyone what the new CBA is going to entail. And, hopefully, some things shake out and it affects us in a positive way."
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Reporter Steve Luhm contributed to this story.
The Development League is one of the few basketball-related entities that could receive a boost if the NBA enters a lengthy lockout next season. The D-League will still be allowed to operate during a work stoppage, while a new collective bargaining agreement could produce rules that benefit the league and increase its exposure.
Flash in 2010-11
Record • 28-22 (qualified for playoffs)
Coach • Kevin Young
Top players • Orien Greene, Ronald Dupree, Brandon Costner, Kevin Kruger
Jazz association • Jeremy Evans (10.5 points, 8.5 rebounds in two games)
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor on Utah's relationship with the Flash: "The relationship's been terrific. Hopefully they've been able to generate some interest from the players we've sent down. â¦ Unfortunately, we probably haven't got guys down as much as we wanted to. Jeremy Evans, especially, we would've like to have seen him play down there more, but we had so many injuries."
Anthony Tolliver, Sundiata Gaines, Marcus Williams, Shaun Livingston, C.J. Watson, Von Wafer, Chuck Hayes, Ime Udoka, Smush Parker, Matt Carroll, Devin Brown, Bobby Simmons, Rafer Alston, Chris Andersen, Jason Hart
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