Cavaliers break ties with WNBA's Rockers - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Cavaliers break ties with WNBA's Rockers

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Cleveland Cavaliers cut ties with the Cleveland Rockers on Friday, leaving the WNBA team's future in doubt.

Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund cited low attendance for the decision, saying he could not find a way to make the team profitable.

"I have invested in it now for seven years trying to find a business model for it to work in our marketplace," Gund said. "The fans we had were very enthusiastic and very supportive. We just didn't have enough."

The WNBA will attempt to find a new owner for the Rockers, league spokeswoman Traci Cook said. If an owner is found, the team could remain in Cleveland or be moved.

"We do have some potential owners who are interested in a WNBA franchise," Cook said. "We would have to see whether the Rockers are the right fit for them."

The Rockers ranked 10th out of the 14 WBNA teams this season with an average attendance of 7,400 playing in 20,000-seat Gund Arena.

The Rockers reached the playoffs but lost in the first round to the eventual champion Detroit Shock.

The team did not turn a profit in any of its seven seasons, Gund said.

He said he would like to see a new owner keep the team in Cleveland.

"If they want to play at the arena, we'll do what we can reasonably to make it possible," he said.

Len Komoroski, president of the Cavaliers-Gund Arena Company, said the company focus will turn to making the Cavaliers as successful as possible.

Cavaliers ticket sales took off with the acquisition of No. 1 overall draft pick LeBron James earlier this year. The team stands poised to rebound from a string of miserable seasons.

Gund said the Cavaliers' good fortune had no effect on the Rockers.

"No matter what had happened with the Cavs we would have come to this conclusion," Gund said. "It's not related at all."

Members of the Rockers' front office will stay with Cavaliers, he said.

The Rockers became one of the WNBA's eight charter teams in October 1996. The league expanded to 16 teams in 2000, but lost two franchises following the 2002 season.

Cook said the WNBA will play with no fewer than 13 teams next season regardless of what happens to the Rockers. Connecticut is the only WNBA team not affiliated with an NBA club.

She said the league had teams turn a profit last year, but would not say how many.

WNBA president Val Ackerman thanked the Cavaliers and the Rockers' fans for their support the past seven years as "we have worked to build a national presence for women's professional basketball."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Powered by Frankly