SBD/January 5, 2011/Franchises

Franchise Notes

In Atlanta, Ken Sugiura notes the Atlanta Spirit ownership group in an open letter sent to Hawks and Thrashers fans “reiterated their dream to bring NBA and Stanley Cup championships to Atlanta.” The group recently settled a lawsuit with former partner Steve Belkin, and co-Owners Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson “thanked fans for their support during ‘a very unique set of circumstances.’” The letter, sent out yesterday morning through fan newsletter e-mails, read in part, “Come be part of the dream” (AJC.com, 1/4).

TURNING THE HEAT UP: The Heat and team sponsor Kumho Tire USA last week opened the Kumho Fan Zone on the 300 level at AmericanAirlines Arena. A gaming wall “includes four 60-inch HD-TVs, Sony Playstation and game software” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/4). Meanwhile, in Miami, Israel Gutierrez writes the Heat is “missing a true, definite, inspirational home-court advantage.” The crowd for yesterday’s Bucks-Heat game “certainly didn’t have much to offer.” Gutierrez writes “as excited as this city was when” Heat F LeBron James decided in July to join the team, the “response during actual games doesn’t actually match that level of enthusiasm” (MIAMI HERALD, 1/5).

KICKING AROUND: In Chicago, Mitchell & Kaplan report there “have been discussions” about Manchester United playing a friendly at Wrigley Field this summer. There is “still a long way to go before it’s a done deal,” but Chicago-based AON is the EPL club’s new jersey sponsor and company Chair Pat Ryan “has a great relationship with the Cubs.” A source said, “The game is currently on the 1-yard line with 99 yards to go” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/5).

THE NEW HEARTBREAK KID? Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban yesterday “took issue” with Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s comments about Mavericks F Caron Butler’s season-ending injury. Cuban said, “I love that Jeanie Buss’ boy toy had something to say about us. I don’t know if it was his thought or Jeanie’s thought, but it’s nice to know that she lets him speak in public about other teams.” Buss responded, “I got a kick out of it, but maybe Mark just did it to make me giggle. I am Madonna now and Phil is my boy toy.” Jackson added, “I consider myself an old man. I’m a boy toy? That’s terrific” (L.A. TIMES, 1/5).

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