[From the FanPosts, Hilliard shares his thoughts on the fan base. TL]
I don't know that the casual fan is really being lost. At least not yet. Maybe here in Indy, where the Colts aren't giving people their usual fix, the Pacers are missing out a few bandwagon jumpers; but the casual fan does not normally follow NBA basketball in November. With college football, baseball playoffs, the NFL, and college basketball starting up soon, this isn't the time of year where casual fans care about the NBA. This is the time of year where people ask me why I plan my night around Pacers games when they play 82 games, no defense, and the stars are probably taking a night off. This is the time of year I have to hear people say that the college game is so much more exiting, that the intensity makes it a better brand of basketball than the NBA. This is the time of year where I explain that Hibbert's summer MMA training is going to make him the second coming of Olajuwon, but for some, incomprehensible, reason the casual fan just doesn't care (or believe me for that matter).
Frankly, I don't understand all this talk about losing the casual fan because they are just that: casual. They come and they go and they don't really dedicate themselves to fandom. Does anyone actually believe that in April and May, when LeBron, Durant, George Hill, and the rest of the league's best are slugging it out in seven game series, the casual fans are going to boycott the NBA because the lockout deprived them of professional basketball for 4 months when they had 3 other favorite teams playing? The casual fan cares about winning and winning alone. Regardless of what the Colts are doing, if the Pacers are making deep playoff runs, the casual fans will be there. Frankly, the casual fans will only permanently leave if the team permanently leaves our city. Therefore, while there are certainly a lot of changes I would like to see in the new CBA, when it all boils down, the only thing I need is a system that allows the Pacers to run a profitable business so that they don't leave town.
The NBA's momentum, for all the worry it's garnered, grew because of the recent influx of talent into the league. The NBA has a plethora of budding and blossoming superstars and the boring Spurs no longer have a chokehold on the league. The HEAT will still be the enemy next year and, if not, whichever big market team Dwight Howard decides to latch himself onto will happily fill that roll (as if I don't hate the Lakers enough already). What I'm trying to say is: the lockout is not hurting any momentum because the casual fan hasn't noticed yet and when the league does start up again, all the elements that made it successful last year will still be in place. So, while there is plenty to talk about concerning the lockout, the casual fan and the league's momentum are, like Mike Dunleavy (I'm looking at you Pats), non-issues.