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Not enough sweet dreams for NBA hopefuls

May 22, 2001 11:20 AM

And visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

That’s the story of the college underclassmen that have declared for next month’s NBA draft.

But their visions of fortune and fame will soon collide with grim reality. Last year, after withdrawals, there were 25 college underclassmen available for the draft, but only 16 were selected.

This year there are 46 underclassmen from four-year colleges who have signified their availability, but 18 of these have not signed with an agent, and so can retain college eligibility if they withdraw by the week prior to the draft. And copious withdrawals are certain.

The NBA will conduct a pre-draft trial camp early next month and it’s by invitation only. About 60 players, including those from high school and international players, are expected. Collegians who aren’t invited will be getting the message that their chances of immediately joining the league are not good and so they will withdraw.

Further reality is that there is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for every player who is drafted. Only first-round selections get guaranteed money and the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players constricts the amount of money that first-year players can receive.

A few will become wealthy young men, but the majority are best advised to return to school, perfect their skills, and hope for better days to come.

The Three-Year-Olds

Point Given’s victory in the Preakness makes him the current leader of the three-year-old division. But to nail down leadership he’ll have to win the Belmont Stakes June 9. And that will be a stern test.

Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and Preakness runner-up A.P. Valentine are certain to challenge. Aside from the race’s distance of a mile-and-a-half, which should work in their favor, Belmont Park is also their home track.

Look for the Belmont to draw a small field. A couple of entrants will probably come out of the Peter Pan that will be run at Belmont this Saturday. And it’s worth noting that the Peter Pan has in the past been a good prep race for several Belmont Stakes winners.

The New Game

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

The sale of naming rights to various sports venues, seemingly a sweet source of revenue for teams and a sweet way for companies to secure name recognition and plug its products and services, has resulted in a mixed bag.

The NFL St. Louis Rams got a 20-year, $36.5 million deal from Trans World Airlines to have the Rams’ playing site named the TWA Dome. But TWA is bankrupt and out of business, having been absorbed by American Airlines.

The Rams have hired a marketing firm that specializes in such things to re-sell the naming rights. It should be a better deal than the original one that was negotiated in 1995 when the Rams were a lousy team. They have since won the Super Bowl.

But on-the-field success for the team doesn’t necessarily translate into business for the stadium-naming sponsor. PSINet, the firm for which the Baltimore Ravens’ home field is named, has seen its stock plummet by more than 99 percent. The Ravens are NFL champions and they may soon be in the market for a new stadium sponsor as PSINet could be up for sale.

The sharp drop in the value of stocks in Baltimore is typical of what’s happened to other tech firms who got into the stadium-naming business: 3Com Park (San Francisco 49ers), Network Associates (Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics) and CMGI (New England Patriots).

CMGI Field hasn’t even been built yet and won’t be open until next year but the company has already committed $114 million for the naming rights. That commitment was made when the company’s stock sold at $153 per share. It is now worth 75 percent less.

The NHL St. Louis Blues made a deal with Savvis Communications Corporation by which the team, over a 20-year period, would receive $74 million in cash and stock in return for which their playing venue would be named the Savvis Center. But since the deal was completed last August, Savvis stock took a nosedive and the shares the Blues’ owners received, valued at the time at $7 million, are now worth little more than $300,000.

But there’s money still out there. Federal Express, which has a 27-year, $205 million sponsorship deal with the NFL Washington Redskins, reportedly has offered the NBA Vancouver Grizzlies a $100 million sponsorship package as an incentive for the team to move to Memphis. And Reliant Energy has signed a 30-year, $300 million deal to name the new stadium for the NFL expansion Houston Texans.