Tickets for tonight’s game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are selling for less than half what they cost before the season, as the one-time playoff contenders have fallen to a combined 8-26 record.
The average resale price for the National Basketball Association rivals’ first meeting this season -- dubbed the “Panic Bowl” by NBA TV analysts -- has fallen 51 percent to $186 since the start of the season, according to ticket aggregator TiqIQ.com. At $58, the cheapest ticket is about one third the price to get into their first meeting last season.
The contest in Brooklyn comes as the teams, who each play in $1 billion arenas, struggle to live up to the championship expectations of their owners. The Knicks (3-13) are tied for the fewest wins in the league and the Nets (5-13) have lost seven games by double digits.
“Nobody’s paying attention,” ESPN analyst Antonio Davis said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think you can call it a rivalry until these teams right the ship.”
The Knicks, who won the Atlantic Division last season, began with 12-1 odds to win the Eastern Conference title in 2014 and are now at 22-1, according to online sportsbook Bovada.lv. The Nets were 11-2 to win the Eastern Conference prior to the start of the season, according to Bovada. They’re now 12-1.
Tickets for the first meeting between the two teams last season were listed for an average of $486, with the lowest price at $146. That game originally was scheduled as the first regular-season game in the Barclays Center before Superstorm Sandy postponed the contest three weeks. The average resale listing for tonight’s game has dropped from $383 when the season began, TiqIQ said.
“The Knicks and Nets had high expectations before this season and have played well below those expectations,” TiqIQ spokesman Chris Matcovich said in an e-mail. “This lack of production on the court has definitely impacted ticket prices not only for this game, but for upcoming games as well.”
The average listing for Brooklyn’s 35 remaining home games has fallen 17 percent to $189, the third biggest drop in the league this season behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (21 percent) and Denver Nuggets (24 percent), according to TiqIQ. While the Knicks are fourth on the list with a drop of 13 percent, their $279 average remains the highest in the league.
New York has lost nine consecutive games, and seven straight at home, tying a franchise record. Forward Carmelo Anthony, last season’s NBA scoring champion, said the team is still searching for its identity.
“I think we’re playing to lose rather than playing to win right now,” Anthony said after the team’s Dec. 1 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. “When you lose games the way we’ve been losing them at home, on the road, you start thinking a lot. You start playing a little tense. You start playing on your heels.”
Brooklyn during the offseason traded for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, a duo with 25 combined All-Star appearances and an NBA title playing together. The Nets gave up three first-round draft picks in the trade, and have an NBA-high payroll of $101.3 million, according to USA Today, while the Knicks are second at $86.9 million.
“I heard them say on NBA TV that it’s the ’Panic Bowl,’ that somebody has to get traded or fired if they lose that game,” Davis said in an interview. “I don’t think we’re at that point yet, but this is New York, I’ve seen crazier things happen. If the loser, a couple weeks later, announces a firing or a trade, I wouldn’t be too surprised.”
The Nets’ first-year coach Jason Kidd had a bumpy start as well. He was suspended two games this season after pleading guilty to driving while ability impaired and fined $50,000 last week for intentionally spilling his drink to delay a game. He announced two days ago that assistant Lawrence Frank, who ESPN said is making $1 million this year, will have a reduced role with the team. Kidd said the change was a product of the two having “different philosophies.”
“No doubt about it, there is some panic going on in Brooklyn,” NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony said.
The two teams’ early performance has fallen short of the expectations laid out by their owners. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said when he bought the Nets in 2010 that they’d win an NBA title by 2015. James Dolan in October told Knicks coaches and executives that he expected the team to win a championship this season, according to ESPN.
Knicks spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz declined in an e-mail to comment on the report.
Wayne McDonnell, an assistant professor of sports management at New York University, said the slow starts will not affect the value of either franchise, even if the losing continues through the season.
The Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise at $1.1 billion, according to Forbes Magazine’s annual rankings. The Nets are ninth at $530 million.
“Both franchises have a strong brand identity, state of the art facilities that offer a myriad of revenue-generating opportunities and loyal fan bases that desperately want to restore New York City to prominence within the NBA,” McDonnell said. “Other markets might suffer from a disappointing season, but there is a resiliency that exists within the New York sports culture that always offers hope and optimism.”
In the offseason, NBA Commissioner David Stern facilitated a meeting between the two owners to discuss what he called their “shared interests.” Dolan downplayed the rivalry in a September news conference to announce that the two teams would co-host next season’s All-Star game. He said New York is used to having multiple teams vying for support.
“They are nothing but good and fun for the fans, good for business, and I think they push the teams that are involved with them to even greater heights,” Dolan said on Sept. 25. “It’s a good thing, and I expect that will continue to go on.”
Davis, who played for the Knicks in 2005-06, said he wasn’t surprised that fans are paying less to see either team.
“It’s New York City, there’s just so much competing for that fan’s dollar,” he said. “If you’re not a hot topic and you’re not worthy of their money, they can find a lot of other ways to spend that entertainment dollar.”
-- Editors: Dex McLuskey, Michael Sillup
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