NBA’s small-market franchises finding road to success can be an obstacle course

The big market-small market tension that exists in the NBA played out publicly and privately last week.

Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan said the league needs and wants the New York Knicks in the playoffs. The NBA fined him $25,000 for “detrimental public comments asserting bias.”

The morning after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors in a play-in game, a small-market front-office executive watched ESPN. As he told the story, back-to-back segments aired on the Lakers-Warriors game, then highlights from other sports, a small snippet about Memphis-San Antonio – the other play-in game from the night before – then more Lakers-Warriors leading into the next show, which started its program with Lakers-Warriors.

The executive isn’t naïve. He knows LeBron James-Steph Curry is the top story. But, he wondered, couldn’t Spurs-Grizzlies get just a little more love from the network that televised the game?

Those are just two examples – anecdotal and conjecture – of the plight small-market teams face. But it goes deeper than that.

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