CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers anticipated a significant drop in attendance this season, and the final numbers bear that out — although they could have been much worse.
The team entered its home finale Wednesday ranked 19th in the league and ended the season averaging 15,927 per home date. That’s about 4,200 less than they drew per home date last season when the Cavs finished fifth in the NBA. Stretched over a full season of 41 home dates, it’s a drop of about 175,000 fans for the season.
It’s certainly a significant figure, but the Cavaliers still outdrew three playoff teams — the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers.
“Our fans have been unbelievable,” coach Byron Scott said. “Almost every arena we go to … I just shake my head. Memphis is in the fifth spot in the Western Conference and didn’t have even half the fans we have. It boggles your mind at times, but it makes me want to work harder to make sure we get a winner here again and we will.”
By comparison to the rebuilding Cavs, the contending Indians are last in baseball in attendance by a significant margin. Through their first six home dates, the Indians entered their home game against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday averaging just 16,705 fans — about 4,000 less than any other team in baseball.
Six games isn’t much of a sample, but it’s enough to identify the projected size of the season-ticket base. Despite being closer to a title and playing in a venue twice the size of Quicken Loans Arena, the Indians are only drawing about 1,000 more fans than the Cavaliers drew for the season.
“Our fans have obviously been very patient and very supportive,” Scott said. “And we appreciate that.”
Despite the lockout and condensed season, NBA TV averaged 337,000 viewers per game telecast, an increase of about 33 percent over last season. The league has also boasted about ratings increases on TNT and ESPN/ABC.
Moreover, the final attendance figures should settle right near the 17,323 the NBA averaged per game last season, proving the lockout didn’t do as much damage as feared.
“It is better to be lucky than smart,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month prior to a Cavs-Nuggets game in Denver. “We had a great year last year. People were really excited and wanted more. I had to admit it, but there are a number of our fans who don’t realize there is a season until Christmas Day, anyway.”
This season started on Christmas Day, but Stern said the league hasn’t given any thought to starting a full 82-game season on Christmas in the future.
Scott will fly to Los Angeles on Saturday. It will be the first time he gets to meet his granddaughter, Kayla, who was born earlier this week. He said he thought about flying straight from Memphis to Los Angeles for the birth, but he wouldn’t have made it in time. … Scott on Kyrie Irving winning the Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year award: “No surprise to me.” … Zydrunas Ilgauskas attended Wednesday’s home finale. He is now a special assistant to General Manager Chris Grant.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.