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Top draft picks may boost Cavaliers’ bottom line

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Steve Chiotakis: The NBA draft is tonight. And the Cleveland Cavaliers get first dibs. The Cavs have struggled on the court and in the stands since their superstar, LeBron James split for Miami. But with a top name coming — some see the team’s financial fortunes getting better.

From station WCPN in Cleveland, Eric Wellman reports.

ERIC WELLMAN: Last July when LeBron James uttered those now infamous words…

LEBRON JAMES: And this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…

He not only took his talents to South Beach, he also took a quarter of the team’s value — more than $80 million according to Forbes magazine. The Cavs dispute that figure, but it’s clear that not all is well in Cavs land. In one year the team went from having the best record in the league to one of the worst, and toward the end of this season there were a lot of empty seats in the arena. The Cavs declined to talk specifics, but they insist there has been no steep drop off in ticket sales for the upcoming season. Still it was not hard to find a disgruntled season ticket holder.

IRV BERLINER: There were a lot of games you just went to and you thought this was ridiculous.

Attorney Irv Berliner has had season tickets since the 1970’s, but he’s decided to drop two of his four seats, saving $12,000. He says clients just aren’t interested in going to games anymore.

BERLINER: While in the LeBron years, I could call somebody and say we’re playing the worst team in the world and it’s at 3 a.m. and it’s in a snow storm — and people would go, that’s OK, I’ll come. Now I could say we’re going to play the Celtics and it’s 7 o’clock on a Wednesday and they’d say, I’m kind of busy.

If fans aren’t going to the games, they’re also not buying as much team merchandise.

Nate Cannell is the regional manager of the sporting goods chain Cardboard Heroes.

NATE CANELL: As expected, thinks weren’t exactly up to par with the previous seven seasons.

But there are signs that things might be turning around for the Cavs. In the month since they locked up two of the top five draft picks, they sold more than $2 million in tickets.

Tad Carper is Senior Vice President of communications for the Cavs.

TAD CARPER: The team still ranks in the top tier of the league across numerous business platforms.

So far the Cavs have been hush-hush about who they plan to pick in the first round of tonight’s draft. Irv Berliner, the season ticket holder, says he wants to see improvement before he gives the team any more money.

In Cleveland, I’m Eric Wellman for Marketplace.

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