Quietly, but surely, NBA clubs have been discounting seats for their games in recent weeks.

It’s a delicate, unprecedented strategy – created, of course, by the economic crisis -- and it’s become commonplace throughout the NBA, even in Canada, where the Toronto Raptors are suffering through a lamentable, losing season.

Despite the discounts, attendance figures throughout the NBA are plummeting. Empty seats are sometimes outnumbering those with kiesters in them.


And NBA executives are so concerned, sources tell Metro, they’ve called an emergency meeting, to be held in Phoenix next week. NBA commissioner David Stern has issued a gag order on the meeting but a league exec told Metro: “There’s a fear that our fans can’t afford or won’t keep paying what they’ve paid in the past for tickets. So next week’s meeting is critical.”

Best guess: The NBA soon will announce a decrease in ticket prices across the board.

The NBA’s problems in Canada are unquestionably complicated by the fact that some of the Raptors’ games are carried on TSN2, which is not available on the country’s largest cable carrier.

Rogers is depriving Canadian basketball fans by excluding TSN2 from its menu, and industry sources suspect its motive is at least partly attributable to its desire to see less competition for its own all-sports network, Rogers Sportsnet.

Whatever, it’s a sad and silly situation. And, last Friday, TSN2 drew a mere 18,000 viewers for a Raps-Houston game. That’s pathetic, considering the average Raps game on the original TSN network attracts audiences of about 200,000.

Speaking of Houston, ex-Raps star Tracy McGrady is upsetting Rick Adelman these days.

The Rockets’ coach suspects the 6-foot-8 guard has been dogging it on occasion.

“Tracy’s been very unaggressive at times,” Adelman said. “He can’t keep playing like this or we just won’t be any good.”

The CFL’s first major surprise of the year has come in the first week of the year.

Toronto native Mike Benevides -- despite receiving a multi-year head-coaching offer that sources figured he would gladly accept from the beleaguered Argonauts – has elected to stay on as the B.C. Lions’ defensive co-ordinator.

“Can’t figure it out,” an Argos source said yesterday. “The guy (Benevides) all but officially signed. We’re puzzled. Are we this undesirable?”

CFLers such as B.C. defensive lineman Cameron Wake, Edmonton Eskimos offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo and Calgary Stampeders long snapper Pat MacDonald have been impressing NFL types during recent workouts and may be close to bolting to the bigger and better-paying league.

And Greg Marshall has jumped from his longtime position as defensive co-ordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to become the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ defensive co-ordinator.

Marty York is Metro's national sports columnist as well as an
instructor at the College of Sports Media in Toronto. He can be heard
regularly on Vancouver radio station CKNW with Sportstalk host Dan
Russell. Contact Marty at marty.york@metronews.ca