In a season that began with so many expectations, the injury-ravaged Timberwolves are on their way to missing the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.
Only 70 percent of their 10,000 season-ticket base has renewed for next year when the team is increasing prices after slashing them to bargain prices three years ago. And that’s with offering 10 percent back next year if the team doesn’t make this spring’s playoffs.
The Wolves recently began a “Get Closer” campaign to sell new season tickets with a series of off-beat television commercials featuring Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Greg Stiemsma as well as a promise to make those buyers more a part of the family through a five-level membership program that will offer everything from viewing parties and town-hall meetings to road trips and dinner with owner Glen Taylor, based upon the buyers’ level of commitment.
Wolves President Chris Wright last week discussed the challenges of selling tickets for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2004.
Q: Having a third of your season ticket holders not renew seems like a lot. Is it?
A: Our research said it’d be about that, given we’re increasing prices. We’re right where we thought we’d be. A lot of the seats we’re losing are in the upper level. We sold so many of those $5 seats three years ago and they went to $14.
Q: This question is from a guy in a newspaper industry that has given its product away for free on the Internet for years: How do you wean fans off ticket prices you cut in some cases to cheaper than a movie ticket?
A: It’s hard, but we still have 1,000 seats in the lower level for next season that are $20. There’s a piece of me that says that’s still a great buy for consumers. It’s probably one of the cheapest seats in the lower level for any NBA arena, but it is very, very difficult once you have lowered prices to take them back up to average NBA levels.
Q: Will you be back in the ballpark with these price increases?
A: I still think we’ll be below NBA average. This is the 15th-largest marketplace in the country and with 30 teams in our league, we should be at average. And we’re not there yet.
Q: You say you’re raising prices by an average of 20 percent. Do people believe that getting 10 percent back next season is a good deal?
A: In the end, it was a smart move for everybody to be in this together. The fans really believed this was a team capable of reaching the playoffs and our players and we believed we were capable. It goes back to the campaign: Get Closer means we all have a little bit of skin in the game, and we’re prepared to go down that path together.
Q: A 70 percent renewal rate is almost a third of your season ticket base lost. Will the revenue generated from the price increase offset that enough?
A: Yes, especially since the vast majority of our renewals is in the lower levels. We feel very comfortable with that.
Q: How important is to get Kevin Love and everybody else back on the floor in these final weeks to prove there’s a reason for fans to hope next season?
A: It’s really important the guys get back and pretty meaningful for our fans to see the guys run out there so people understand those players are going down the path Ricky has come back from.
Q: Have you heard from any season-ticket buyers concerned that if they get any closer, they’re going to end up with a pulled groin or torn ACL?
A: I haven’t been down that path yet.
The Miami Heat won its 21st consecutive game Friday night in Milwaukee. That’s the third-longest winning streak in NBA history. A look at the others in the top four:
33: 1971-72 Los angeles Lakers
Coach: Bill Sharman
Regular-season record: 69-13
Playoffs: Won NBA championship
The streak: From a 110-106 victory over the Baltimore Bullets on Nov. 5, 1971, to a 120-104 loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 9, 1972.
Did you know? Elgin Baylor had retired and Wilt Chamberlain was heading that way, but with Jerry West dishing assists and Gail Goodrich scoring 26 points per game that season the Lakers surpassed Milwaukee’s record of 20 consecutive victories set the year before and just kept going.
22: 2007-08 Houston Rockets
Coach: Rick Adelman
Regular-season record: 55-27
Playoffs: Lost to Utah in first round
The streak: From a 111-107 victory over Golden State on Jan. 29, 2008, to a 94-74 loss to Boston on March 18, 2008.
Did you know? The Rockets lost Yao Ming to an injury midway through the streak but kept going for six weeks with Tracy McGrady and rookies Luis Scola and Carl Landry playing major roles alongside rock-solid Shane Battier.
20: 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks
Coach: Larry Costello
Regular-season record: 66-16
Playoffs: Won NBA championship
The streak: From a 111-105 victory over Golden State on Feb. 6, 1971 to a 110-103 overtime loss to Chicago on March 8, 1971.
Did you know? The Bucks rode second-year star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and veteran Oscar Robertson for more than a month and then won it all in just the franchise’s third season
WOLVES WEEK AHEAD
Sunday: 6 p.m. vs. New Orleans (FSN)
Monday: 7 p.m. at Memphis (FSN)
Thursday: 9 p.m. at Sacramento (No TV)
Friday: 9 p.m. at Phoenix (Ch. 29)
Player to watch:
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
An underrated big man who’s on a tear for Memphis, which has recovered from the Rudy Gay trade and won 14 of 15 games entering the weekend.
« I’m not talking about injuries again. »
Wolves coach Rick Adelman after learning that injured star forward Kevin Love must wait another two to three weeks to get clearance for contact play