PUCKETT UP? In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports of talk that Kirby Puckett could "become a significant investor in the Twins, and that owner Carl Pohlad and his family might help finance Puckett's portion, even if the Pohlads sell the team." Walters adds that Ogden Entertainment Services, which operates the Target Center for the Timberwolves, "is undergoing management changes at its New York headquarters and will curtail its aggressive attempt to control operations at the Metrodome" (PIONEER PRESS, 6/16). NOTES: In Seattle, Mariners CF Ken Griffey Jr. blamed Microsoft exec Chris Larson, who reportedly owns 30% of the team, for vetoing the trade of P Randy Johnson: "This one is Chris Larson. Everyone agreed to the trade except one person, Larson." Mariners CEO John Ellis: "I absolutely cannot comment because it just isn't true" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/15)....In TN, David Williams examined the public's confusion over the role of the Memphis and Shelby County Sports Authority. Exec Dir Ross Bartow: "Do people know what a sports commission can do? I'd say no. I've got to ... get out to civic clubs and meet with people, continue to answer questions that are out there" (COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 6/15)....In Phoenix, the WNBA Mercury lead the league in season-ticket holders with "more than 9,000" (AZ REPUBLIC, 6/16)....In Tampa, after announcing a $5M increase in payroll, Lightning GM Phil Esposito said that new Owner Art Williams has agreed to pour another $1M into the budget for player salaries for the '98-99 season (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 6/16).
To the Chinese, Michael Jordan "remains America's king," according to Elisabeth Rosenthal, who writes from Beijing about Jordan and the NBA's reach in China on the front page of the N.Y. TIMES. The Chinese have named Jordan "kongzhong feiren -- 'space flier.'" When a Beijing company recently asked 1,000 Chinese to name the best-known Americans ever, Jordan was second, "trailing Thomas Edison by just a few percentage points. Behind him were Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Bill Gates" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/16). RELOADING? In Chicago, Terry Armour reports that the TRIBUNE "has learned the Bulls are prepared to offer" Bulls F Scottie Pippen a two-year deal worth $35-40M in an effort to keep the team intact (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/16). Arrests in Chicago after the Bulls' title win were down 22% from last year, "with 451 people arrested, mostly for disorderly conduct." Police spokesperson Pat Camden said that arrests for "serious incidents" were down "even more significantly," from 144 last year to 77 this year (SUN-TIMES, 6/16).
Two addenda to Mario Lemieux's seven-year contract with the Penguins -- one attached in '92, the other in '96 -- "shows his to be a highly unusual deal," according to Dave Molinari of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The "most striking feature of the 13-page agreement is a clause in the 1992 addendum that states, in effect, that Lemieux was guaranteed to receive the salaries, bonuses and other payments laid out in the contract, even if the league office deemed the deal invalid." The second addendum "might reveal the source of Lemieux's threatened lawsuit against Penguins co-owner Roger Marino." It calls for Lemieux to receive a $4M "rights" payment, payable in $2M installments on January 1, 1997, and January 1, 1998. Lemieux's agent, Tom Reich, said recently that the Penguins failed to make payments in January '97 and January '98, "although Reich did not specify the nature of the payments missed." Molinari detailed all aspects of the contract in his piece (Dave Molinari, POST-GAZETTE, 6/15).
Larry and Charles Dolan "have raised the stakes in their bid to become the next owner of the Browns" by bringing Don Shula into their ownership group, according to Terry Pluto of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Shula was born and raised in OH and the Dolans will introduce him at a press conference today as an Exec VP in their proposed organization. Pluto writes that Shula "is a big name and known commodity to NFL owners," and with him on board, "the Dolans believe their seemingly already strong group is even more attractive to the league" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/16). In Cleveland, Tony Grossi reports that Shula "might ... invest nominally in ownership. But his value to the Dolan effort is priceless." Grossi: "Shula's universal acceptance by NFL owners makes it increasingly difficult for them to deny the Dolans' bid." Bengals Owner Mike Brown: "He's a significant plus for the Dolans" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 6/16). In Miami, Kevin Ding reports that Shula would become a 5% owner in the Dolan group (MIAMI HERALD, 6/16). MORE BROWNS NEWS: In Cleveland, Tony Grossi reported that Browns ownership applicants Thomas Murdough and Bart Wolstein "were less than amused" when they read that Howard Milstein termed the expansion team ownership derby "a two- horse race" between he and the Dolan brothers. Wolstein: "We don't need a New Yorker running our team." Ownership candidates will have to send a check for $150,000 to the NFL this week to receive material on the stadium lease and revenue sharing projection information (PLAIN DEALER, 6/14). Bernie Kosar, who has been approached by Murdough and the Dolans about joining their ownership bids, has "serious questions about whether there is enough time to build a viable NFL franchise" by '99. Kosar: "I'm concerned about the timeline of it. It's a tight timeline to get ready to play in '99" (Carter Gaddis, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 6/14).