No gift that anyone in the NBA receives for Christmas can possibly equal the financial security blanket that CBS just provided with its latest contract.
"Well, I guess we'll all be around for four more years," Bernie Bickerstaff, assistant coach of the Bullets, said with a laugh. He had just learned that the televison network has agreed to pay the league $88 million over the next four years for the rights to carry the all-star game, playoffs and several regular-season games. The current four-year deal, which will expire at the end of this season, paid the NBA $74 million.
"Between this contract and national cable contracts currently being negotiated, NBA teams will be receiving well over $100 million in television revenues during the next four years," Commissioner Larry O'Brien said. "And that's doesn't include revenue that the franchises currently receive from their local, cable and pay television contracts.
"There will be no tape delays in our championship series. And three of the games will be scheduled for prime time."
What the new deal amounts to is that CBS will put almost its entire emphasis on the playoffs, leaving each team complete freedom to sell its regular-season games to cable or pay televison.
"This really helps everybody," Bob Ferry, the Bullet general manager, said. "Now we can market our games and we won't be competing with other league games on television."