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Riddles of the N.B.A.

On his CNBC blog, sports-business wizard Darren Rovell calculates how much the first overall N.B.A. draft pick is actually worth, at least in terms of his first year, measured by increased wins and increased attendance. The answer? Quite a bit. Rovell shows that in the past 11 years, the team with the No. 1 pick had an average attendance increase of 11%. Only one team actually lost attendance (and, surely not coincidentally, lost more games too) in the season after getting the No. 1 pick: the 2000 N.J. Nets, who chose Kenyon Martin. I don’t know what the Wages of Wins boys would make of Rovell’s analysis, but it’s well worth a look.

Maybe, since we’re on the subject of the N.B.A., someone can answer this question for me: Why do N.B.A. sportswriters sit courtside? I’m sure they’re happy to sit there — but why is this the common practice? Do they really need to be so close to see the game? To me, it doesn’t seem as if their game coverage benefits from or even reflects this physical proximity. Baseball writers don’t get to sit behind the dugout, though they might prefer it. Football writers, like baseball writers, are in a press box high above the field.

Sure, you could argue that in baseball and football you need to sit up high to see the whole field, but do N.B.A. writers really need to sit so close?

I went to a few Knicks games this year (blech!) and was astonished to see how much prime real estate was occupied by the sportswriters — including at midcourt, several rows deep, to the extent that the coaches and bench players are exiled to the far ends of the court, some of them sitting even beyond the baseline. Isn’t it more important for the players and coaches to have better seats than the sportswriters?

It may be that the N.B.A. equivalent of a press box would be a luxury suite, which pulls in too much revenue to surrender. But still: why are the Knicks (and, I presume, other teams) willing to surrender so much prime-seat ticket revenue instead of putting the writers a little further from the action?

FWIW, I like sportswriters; I used to do a bit of sportswriting; so I’m not angling to get the N.B.A. writers booted from their excellent seats. But if someone can give me a satisfying answer to this riddle, I will happily take you to a Knicks game next year — if, that is, I bother to renew my crummy seats, and if the team manages to get less crummy itself. Which means I probably won’t be taking you to a Knicks game. But I’ll still be appreciative.