- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 22, 2000

It certainly isn't easy marketing a team like the Washington Wizards, a franchise buried so deep in a tradition of losing that if any Wizard were voted to the NBA All-Star team, it would be a scandal worse than Florida.

But there may be a way to convince people that coming to watch the Wizards play might be the best bargain in the NBA through the time-honored practice of speculation. If you come to a Wizards game, your ticket could wind up being worth five times what you paid for it.

Using an economic method that places the most value on tickets when the home team wins, Wizards tickets for home wins are worth more than any other in the league more than the Lakers, the Knicks or even last night's visitors to MCI Center, the Portland Trail Blazers, who defeated the Wizards 104-94.

For example, going into last night's schedule of games, the Lakers had a home record of 4-1 in five home games. If you attended all five home games and paid an average price of $88 a ticket for each of those games, your total so far is $440. Divide that number by the number of games the Lakers have won at home four and the value of a ticket for a Lakers victory is $110.

Going into last night's game, the Knicks had a 3-2 record at home. Five Knicks games at Madison Square Garden, at an average price of $91, means it cost a total of $455 for those home games so far. Divide those three wins into that figure, and a Knicks ticket for a home win is worth about $151.

Portland had a 3-1 home record for a total of $280 based on the average price of a $70 for a Trail Blazers home game, so a Portland victory was worth just $93.

None of these tickets comes close to the value of a Wizards victory at home. Before last night's game against Portland, the Wizards were 1-4 at MCI. Five home games, at an average ticket price of $60, comes to $300.

I think you can do the math in your head on this one.

So those few people who came to MCI last night had a ticket worth potentially $300, the current going price for a Wizards win. So the Wizards should pitch their tickets on the basis of winning home ticket value your $60 ticket might actually be worth much more if they win.

Now, no one will pay $300 for that ticket, but that's beside the point. In our economy, what something is worth seems to be more important that what someone will actually pay for it.

Heck, before the Wizards got their first home win Saturday night over Boston, you could say that a Wizards ticket was like one of the MasterCard commercials priceless.

This, of course, is a preposterous formula but no more preposterous than actually expecting people to shell out $60 a ticket to come to MCI. It's a marketing job that is getting nearly impossible. The old standby of come watch the great visiting team isn't cutting. The Trail Blazers are one of those great teams, and, as usual, there were empty seats everywhere last night, though the announced crowd was 14,413.

Any voodoo economics they can come up with to deflect attention from what people are really paying for should be considered. By the fourth quarter last night, the fans were booing Juwan Howard with just five points in the game every time he touched the ball. When Howard had a dunk with three minutes left, they booed even louder.

Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton would like nothing more than to see the value of those Wizards home wins drop in price. And he remains confident that as the season goes on, they will. "Anytime you have a new system with new players, there is going to be some adjustment time," Hamilton said before last night's game. "Our focus and effort has been there, and I think we will continue to improve.

Many times so far this season there have been stretches early in the game in which the Wizards would dig themselves a hole, often through turnovers. Before last night, the Wizards had given up more points in the first quarter 285 combined than any other quarter.

This time, the effort and focus were there in the first quarter. The Wizards matched the Trail Blazers 26-26 and outrebounded the bigger team 10-9. But this time the Wizards peaked in the first quarter and lost it in the second (Portland 36, Washington 29) and fourth (Portland 20, Washington 15) quarters. When it was all over, the Wizards had a 3-9 record.

"Each time we made the slightest defensive mistake, they made us pay," Hamilton said after the game.

Speaking of paying, that Wizards winning ticket value is now $360.

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