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SBD/October 27, 2010/FranchisesPrint All
The Cavaliers open their season without LeBron James for the first time since '02 when they host the Celtics tonight, and Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert ahead of the new era "reflected on his reaction to LeBron James' decision, the coaching and front-office changes and his expectations for the season," according to Bill Lubinger of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The following is a portion of an extensive Q&A:
Q: It seems you've been kind of under the radar and invisible since the LeBron James decision. Was that intentional?
Gilbert: Well, you know, the summer we've been very busy. I've been very busy. The franchise has been busy. So a lot of that is there's no games and I'm not in Cleveland as often, either. So I wouldn't say it's too intentional.
Q: In retrospect, any regrets about your public reaction to the James decision?
Gilbert: My letter was to the fans and supporters of Cleveland. People get a little confused because they think it was a general statement to the world or even to LeBron or to whoever. It really was to the fans and supporters of Cleveland, and I wanted to make sure they knew where I stood and where the franchise stood and how we felt, which apparently was pretty similar to the way they were feeling. No, we don't have any regrets.
Q: How about the Cavs finances?
Gilbert: The Cavs have been running at ... an even level or breaking even or slightly positive the past few years. Slightly loss to slightly positive I would call break-even on the EBITDA line, which is earnings before interest, taxes and all that. So I would say that our finances are strong. In fact, this year we're projecting our highest revenue that we've ever had, so nothing that's occurred has affected our finances going forward.
Q: How about for next year, because season tickets were committed in March before fans knew what the roster would look like?
Gilbert: Clearly there are some people who make decisions based on their belief of the franchise's direction and the team's performance. What was interesting was we didn't even get a lot of, I mean there was very, very little push-back or requests for -- because LeBron had made his decision -- I want my money back, I want my deposit, I'm not going to renew my tickets. That was a great sign.
Q: The deal with the Chinese partners fell apart. ... How disappointed were you in that?
Gilbert: It's always nice to get an international partner that can be influential and putting the team up to a certain profile, but I wouldn't call it fundamental to the mission or anything. I think it would have been nice.
Q: What about the change in GM?
Gilbert: Danny Ferry did a very good job when he was here and put the franchise up to a certain level, as did Mike Brown, and his contract had ended after five years and, ultimately, both sides decided they wanted to do other things. No hard feelings at all there. It wasn't like he was terminated or anything. ... We kind of mutually decided not to renew the contract.
Q: Do you think the fans and media are dwelling on the James saga way too much?
Gilbert: Until there's something else to fill the hole or the gap, you can understand it. So I'm hoping once the season starts, that we've got enough exciting things to go on that it truly becomes the past, but you certainly understand it (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/27).
The Knicks today are introducing a marketing campaign to "stimulate interest in the team for the 2010-11 season," according to Stuart Elliott of the N.Y. TIMES. The campaign "celebrates new and returning players like Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari in seeking to rebuild the strong sense of community that existed between the Knicks and their fans as well as among the fans." That is indicated by the theme, “You. Us. We. Now,” and the addition of a website next week called knicksnow.com. To "underline the community aspects of the campaign, it is replete with new media elements online, on mobile devices and in social media" like Facebook and Twitter. MSG Sports Exec VP/Marketing & Ticket Sales Howard Jacobs said as the Knicks seek to "reconnect the team and the city ... we want fans to engage on a more regular and active basis on all the platforms: come to the Garden, watch on the MSG network, come to events, text in, upload pictures to Facebook, follow the players on Twitter." The campaign is the "result of a collaboration among multiple agencies." Hock Films worked on the TV ads and "video clips shown during games." The KMco worked with the Knicks and a boutique called Co to "develop the campaign theme." The KMco is also "handling digital aspects like the new Web site and social media presence." In addition, Caruso Productions is "producing the commercials and video," and Crossmedia is "handling the media planning and buying." Jacobs "declined to be more specific about the budget for the campaign other than to describe it as a multimillion-dollar figure." However, he said spending would be “up probably 25 percent over last year.” The Kantar Media unit of WPP reported that the Knicks "spent $270,000 to advertise in major media last year, compared with $309,200 in 2008 and $252,300 in 2007" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy reports the Knicks have hung up a billboard featuring Stoudemire "near the construction site" of the Nets' Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The billboard -- which is "much smaller and lower than the Nets' billboard that overlooked the Garden -- has Stoudemire posing in front of the Manhattan Bridge with 'Brooklyn Represent' written underneath." Nets CEO Brett Yormark: "I encourage them to do this. It heightens the awareness for us and basketball in the area and ignites our fanbase. I thank them because it's only going to help us in the long run." The Knicks "declined to comment about the billboard that hangs on the side of a storage warehouse, although they put up similar ones throughout the tri-state area." The manager of the warehouse said that he "didn't deal with the Knicks, only an advertising company." Bondy cites a source as saying that Knicks Owner James Dolan "has wanted to retaliate for the 1,200-foot mural of Nets owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z that graced a skyscraper near the Garden in July." At least part of the Knicks' marketing effort in Brooklyn is "aimed at attracting the large Russian population." It is a "potential fanbase the Nets feel is important for their move from Newark to Brooklyn in two years because their billionaire Russian owner, Prokhorov, is recognizable in the community." Meanwhile, the Knicks are "marketing their own Russian commodity," C Timofey Mozgov (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/27).
Nets CEO Brett Yormark said his goal for the team's first year in Newark is to get finances "back to pre-recession numbers," according to Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. That means Yormark is "ready to lose" $25-30M this season, which is "better than losing $64 million as they did in fiscal 2009." The Nets for the next two seasons are playing at the Prudential Center before their planned move to Brooklyn in '12, and Yormark said, "I look at it like a really good bridge to Brooklyn. It's like Brooklyn to a smaller degree -- urban market, rail access, 250,000 people instead of 2.5 million. It's a good testing ground. I'm anxious to see how fans gravitate to the amenities we have here" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/27). In N.Y., Ken Belson notes Nets fans will "likely see a lot" of Owner Mikhail Prokhorov this season. Prokhorov "plans to attend about a quarter of the Nets' home games," including the "first three games." Prokhorov "will not sit courtside." He "will keep to his owner's box, where he can survey his team." Belson notes the Nets "have sold 2,800 new full-season ticket plans, though they are offering steep discounts for their early home games to lure additional fans" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
COMING ON BOARD: The Nets today announced a multi-tiered sponsorship with Aeroflot, marking the Russia-based airline's first deal with a U.S. pro sports team. The agreement includes TV-visible courtside signage during Nets home games that will air in Russia during the '10-11 season, as well as on-screen branding during YES broadcasts of Nets away games. Aeroflot also will be an associate sponsor for "An Evening of Russian Culture" during the Jazz-Nets game on Jan. 19 (THE DAILY). Yormark said of signing more sponsors, "We're targeting some of the traditional categories … that typically you see around sports: Quick-service restaurants, insurance, things of that nature, automobile. Those are categories that we're working very diligently on currently, and I do expect to have some additional announcements in the short-term" (Bloomberg TV, 10/27).
The Lakers received their NBA Championship rings prior to their regular-season opener against the Rockets last night at Staples Center, and the rings have “two small gold trophies on their front, symbolizing the Lakers’ back-to-back championships,” according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. The rings, made by jeweler Jason Arasheben, include “16 diamonds, one for each of the Lakers’ championships, and on the underside a small piece of leather from a basketball used in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.” The Lakers’ logo is “in between the trophies, spread across a gold-and-diamond basketball.” Lakers Senior VP/Business Operations Tim Harris: “When you look at this ring, you should immediately say, ‘That’s a championship ring for the Lakers,’ as opposed to, ‘That’s a championship ring, but for what team?’” (L.A. TIMES, 10/27). ESPN L.A's Dave McMenamin reported an estimated 60 rings were “handed out to the nine remaining Lakers players from last season, plus coaches, front office members, owners and support staff.” Harris said that the “two requirements for the ring were that it had to be unmistakable in representing the Lakers brand and it had to be big.” Harris: “It has to be big, it has to be large.” Each player’s ring “features a 3-dimensional sculpture of his face, an upgrade from the laser-cut faces of the 2009 rings.” The cost of the rings was not disclosed (ESPNLA.com, 10/26).
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: Lakers G Kobe Bryant was the last player to be introduced during the team’s ring ceremony prior to last night’s game, and he addressed the crowd, saying, "None of this is possible without the greatest owner in the history of team sports. So I want everybody to give it up for 'The Man,' Mr. Jerry Buss, who started everything." NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed the crowd earlier, standing at mid-court with Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss. Stern noted the Buss family has taken the Lakers to 16 NBA Finals during their 31 years of ownership. Stern: “Congratulations to everybody here, but particularly to the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers" ("Rockets-Lakers," TNT, 10/26).
The MLB Giants "were braced to lose $4 million to $5 million before their playoff run began," but "thanks to their postseason success, they stand to end the year $7 million to $10 million in the black," according to team sources cited by Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Giants President & COO Larry Baer: "The biggest financial opportunity is the way 2010 can be parlayed into 2011." Baer said that the Giants "have already taken deposits from 3,500 new season-ticket holders, to add to their current base of 21,000" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/27). ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote there is a "feeling in AT&T Park these days -- a passion, a buzz, a decibel level -- that's hard to describe," and it is "not just because the World Series is coming to town." Every once in a while in sports, the "right team shows up in the right metropolis at exactly the right place in time," and it has happened in S.F. with an "eclectic collection of no-name scrapmeisters." Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Giants studio analyst and former MLBer F.P. Santangelo: "I've never seen anything like this. ... We've been doing pregame shows outside the ballpark, and it's bedlam" (ESPN.com, 10/26). In N.Y., George Vecsey writes, “A lot of the Bay Area seems somewhat stunned to be rooting for the Giants, this late into football season or any time. The Giants sell their share of tickets, of course, but nobody expected this kind of buzz, this late in October” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).
WIRED FOR SOUND: In S.F., Patrick Hoge noted AT&T Park is "going to be one Giant telecommunications hotspot" starting tonight when the Rangers-Giants World Series begins. The Giants and AT&T have "increased the number of Wi-Fi transmitters to more than 300 inside the park, up from about 270 during the regular season." In addition, AT&T has put a "cell station on wheels" in a nearby parking lot. Giants Senior VP & Chief Information Officer Bill Schlough noted that the ballpark's Wi-Fi network "has been getting used by at least 10 percent of the 43,000 people filling the stadium," up more than 100% over last season (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/25).
CHANGING PERCEPTION: ESPN DALLAS' Jim Reeves wrote the "new Rangers are on the verge of becoming world champions and changing the perception of this franchise forever." Rangers President Nolan Ryan: "If we can win, I think it will put us on the radar screen on how the Rangers are perceived throughout baseball. It could help us by attracting the attention of potential free agents who might not otherwise have taken us seriously." Reeves wrote the "most immediate impact from the Rangers' winning a World Series is the effect it may have" on P Cliff Lee, who will be a free agent after the season. But "with or without Lee in the future, a world championship on their resume can only bring added confidence and credibility to the Rangers, both the players and franchise." They "just signed a 20-year TV rights deal with Fox that will bring somewhere between" $1.5-2B, and the "extra provided by all the unexpected postseason games won't hurt a bit either." The Rangers "shouldn't be cash-poor for a while, like they had been for the last years of the Tom Hicks regime" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 10/26). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Evan Grant notes the Rangers, before the first home game of the ALDS against the Rays, "brought all their scouts to the field and recognized them in front of the sellout crowd." Grant: "Perhaps no team in the majors reflects the relevance of scouting more than the Rangers. With a limited budget over the last four years, the Rangers have had to use scouts to find players via every means possible" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/27).
BUSY DAY: In Dallas, Mike Heika reported the Stars tried to move their Saturday home game against the Sabres "to an afternoon start time to avoid going head to head" with World Series Game Three at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Stars even got KTXA-Ind "to agree to the move." But the Sabres play the Thrashers Friday night, and the NHL "will not allow a day game for a team that had to travel the night before" (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/26).
The Mets have "settled on Sandy Alderson to be their new" GM, according to sources cited by Jon Heyman of SI.com. The official hire of Alderson, who has been working as a consultant for MLB in the Dominican Republic, "could come as early as Friday, as announcements are discouraged on days of World Series games." The former A's GM and Padres CEO "brings instant added credibility to the Mets, who have had two straight losing seasons." One of Alderson's "first tasks will be to hire a manager to replace Jerry Manuel" (SI.com, 10/26). The Mets' interview process ended yesterday "with Alderson's callback." While Alderson had "already met twice" with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Assistant GM John Ricco, yesterday was his "first meeting" with team Owner Fred Wilpon and President Saul Katz. Former D'Backs GM Josh Byrnes "was the other finalist; he met with Mets ownership on Monday" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/27). In N.Y., Puma & Sherman report after meeting with Alderson yesterday, the Mets "called the former A's GM and Byrnes to let them know the final decision." The Mets "liked the 40-year-old Byrnes," but the Wilpons and Katz "ultimately leaned toward Alderson's experience and stature within the game." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "pro-actively told Alderson he could leave his position with MLB if he were interested in the Mets position." Puma & Sherman note Selig "clearly was looking to help his longtime friend, Fred Wilpon, by making available an executive of stature just at a time in Mets history when the organization needed that quality badly" (N.Y. POST, 10/27).
THE RIGHT FIT: The N.Y. POST's Joel Sherman notes the Mets throughout the interview process were "going to favor the elder statesman, whose gravitas provides the Mets an instant jolt of that credibility they desired." No one in baseball believes that Wilpon is "going to push around Alderson, an ex-Marine with a reputation for integrity and a steel spine" (N.Y. POST, 10/27). SportsNet N.Y.'s Adam Schein said of Alderson, "He is the ideal fit, baseball genius, who demands full autonomy. I trust him to find the next great manager" ("Loudmouths," SportsNet N.Y., 10/26).
EPL club Liverpool "will not target any marquee signings in the January transfer window" as new Owner New England Sports Ventures "looks to put a stop to the profligate spending which it believes has hampered the club's progress in recent years," according to Rory Smith of the London TELEGRAPH. NESV is "believed to have been concerned by the millions of pounds haemorrhaged on transfer fees and wages by the club in recent years as it examined Liverpool's finances." Under former manager Rafael Benitez, Liverpool spent more than US$364M "in six years on fees alone." Red Sox Owner John Henry, NESV's principal backer, said, "We have to be smart. We have to be more efficient. When we spend a dollar it has to be wisely. We cannot afford player contracts that do not make long-term sense." Smith notes Henry, who will assume a place on Liverpool's BOD, "will take an active role in football matters at Anfield, assessing" both manager Roy Hodgson's "suggested transfer targets and setting budgets for contract renegotiations of players already at the club" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/27).
FOLLOW THE LEADER: SI.com's Dan Shaughnessy wrote Henry is "first and foremost a businessman," and Boston has been "pretty happy with Henry's stewardship" since he bought the MLB franchise in '01. Known to be a "quirky guy," Henry is "shy, fragile, private and a notorious low talker." Other than his "wife and children, his greatest love is statistics." Henry prefers to "stay in the background," and he "just found out that's going to be hard to do as owner of a struggling soccer power in Great Britain" (SI.com, 10/25).
Heat Dir of Marketing Communications & Advertising Lorrie-Ann Diaz said that the team as of yesterday afternoon "still had tickets to sell for Friday's home opener against the Orlando Magic, as well as for the rest" of the team's home games. Diaz said that "about 300 tickets remain for Friday's game, mostly in the 400 level." In Miami, Douglas Hanks notes the team "decided to float ticket prices, allowing the team to boost costs for popular games and roll back prices if demand slackens." The result has been that seats "way up in the 400 level were selling for more than $150 Tuesday" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/27). Meanwhile, in Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman reports security "has been dramatically increased" for the Heat this season. An NBA official said that the league has "spoken with the Cleveland Cavaliers specifically about the Heat's Dec. 2 visit to Quicken Loans Arena, LeBron James' first game in Cleveland since leaving the Cavaliers." A Heat source said that it was "his understanding that the league would be taking over security in Cleveland that night" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/27).
DYNAMIC TEST: In Toronto, Daniel Girard reports tickets for about 1,300 seats "will be part of a trial of so-called dynamic pricing" for every Raptors home game this season. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Beth Robertson said that MLSE "will probably update prices once a week." Robertson: "In those areas where you're not selling out as much, whether it's a game or a certain section in the building, it's better for everyone to have a full building." She noted that the plan "is 'still very much in test mode' so it's too early to [tell] when, or even if, dynamic pricing will expand to other MLSE teams" (TORONTO STAR, 10/27).
LEAGUE INVESTIGATION: In N.Y., Marc Berman reports the NBA has said that it is investigating allegations that Knicks officials "staged illegal workouts with draft prospects, including Wilson Chandler, across the past four years -- a probe centering on" East Scouting Dir Rodney Heard and Senior VP/Basketball Operations Glen Grunwald. If found guilty, the Knicks "could face fines, suspensions -- and at its harshest -- loss of a future draft pick." Both Heard and Grunwald were hired by former President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas, and if the NBA finds the allegations are true, it "could mean Thomas' chances of rejoining the Knicks in a prominent role will be compromised" (N.Y. POST, 10/27).