SBD/February 24, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Knicks Owner James Dolan yesterday in his first public comments since July "lectured members of the news media for a litany of reports he found objectionable," and he "denied any rift with his top basketball executives and disputed reports that Isiah Thomas, the former team president, played any role" in the team's trade for F Carmelo Anthony, according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Dolan "spoke sternly, pausing between words for emphasis and squinting occasionally as he made an important point." Of the "three minutes he spent at the lectern, 2 minutes 23 seconds were spent talking about the news media." Dolan: "The idea that we were not in agreement is simply not true." Dolan said Thomas was "not at all involved in this process." Dolan: "He wasn't advising me or telling me what to do in any way. And any reports that implied that he was doing that are simply untrue, and a fiction in somebody's mind." Beck writes Dolan's address "momentarily spoiled the festivities, until Anthony got a chance to speak." Meanwhile, Dolan yesterday "for the first time" praised the job that Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh "has done in reviving a moribund, controversy-plagued franchise." But Dolan "has yet to pick up an option on Walsh's contract for next season, and he made no public commitment" yesterday (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). Dolan said Walsh did a "great job on this trade." In N.Y., Marc Berman writes yesterday's press conference was a "bizarre time for Dolan to revisit the topic and mention Thomas" (N.Y. POST, 2/24). Dolan said he and Walsh "have agreed to get through the trade deadline and we will sit down and discuss his contract, which expires in June." Dolan: "We will comment on that at the appropriate time" (NEWSDAY, 2/24). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes it was "truly difficult to believe Dolan ... when he talked about how he, Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were in lockstep" regarding the trade for Anthony. Lawrence: "Nobody bought Dolan's statement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/24).
RAUCOUS DEBUT: Anthony made his Knicks debut last night against the Bucks, and ESPN N.Y.'s Chris Sheridan writes, "Amid an electric atmosphere rarely seen, heard or felt at Madison Square Garden for more than a decade, a sleep-deprived Carmelo Anthony made his New York Knicks debut a smashing success." There was "no mistaking the level of excitement that manifested itself in so many ways as Anthony's Knicks career began." Anthony: "I think New York needed a moment like this" (ESPNNY.com, 2/24). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote, "The biggest market has that big-event feel again. The Garden has some of the best game-operations people in the business, and they were on point with their music and pregame videos that struck a perfect chord" (ESPN.com, 2/23). On Long Island, Neil Best writes it was a "raucous, only-in-New York welcoming party." Best: "For one evening at the World's Most Famous Arena, it was a good night to be a Knick" (NEWSDAY, 2/24).
Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov delivered "another kick to Goliath's shin" yesterday by trading for G Deron Williams just hours before the Knicks introduced Carmelo Anthony at MSG, according to Harvey Araton of the N.Y TIMES. The Nets "lost out in the Anthony sweepstakes" earlier this week to the Knicks and Owner James Dolan, and Prokhorov also "struck out last summer with his Brooklyn sales pitch for LeBron James." But "give Prokhorov credit for gambling that Williams ... will be first to discover that downtown Brooklyn is not Mineola." The Nets owner is "clearly enjoying the baiting game, tweaking his Manhattan rival" by trading for Williams soon after "gloating over forcing Dolan to effectively gut his roster to keep Anthony from the Nets" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). In Salt Lake City, Steve Luhm writes, "Not only did Prokhorov match the hoopla surrounding Tuesday’s acquisition of Anthony by neighboring New York, he demonstrated his resolve to make the Nets relevant again while sharing the league’s biggest market with the Knicks" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/24). In Newark, Steve Politi notes the Nets "traded for the best point guard in the NBA and briefly upstaged their hated rivals on the day they were introducing their own new superstar." Politi: "That, by any standard, is a pretty good day for a franchise" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/24). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes for the "first time since Prokhorov purchased his team and filled the air with promises of global dominance despite barely having area relevance, he actually has delivered substance with that bluster." The trade for Williams "has to be recognized as the signature moment of the budding Prokhorov era" (Berger RECORD, 2/24).
COMPARING APPLES AND ORANGES: ESPN's Michael Wilbon said Williams is a "great player, undeniably, but he's not a superstar in this way: He's not going to help sell any tickets in New Jersey. When you trade that many people you also need some box office value, and they're not getting that." He noted the trade "may be a kneejerk reaction to what the Knicks did" in trading for Anthony. Wilbon: "The Knicks had a better deal" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/23). Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic's Ivan Carter said, "What Mikhail Prokhorov did was the best he could do after whiffing on LeBron last summer, after whiffing on Amar'e Stoudemire, after whiffing on Carmelo." But the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg said Anthony "gets more people talking" than Williams does. Steinberg: "You saw the mobs of people already out there today trying to buy Melo jerseys. I don't know if the same thing happens for Deron Williams" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 2/23). The N.Y. Daily News' Eamon McAnaney said Williams "doesn't have the star value of Carmelo Anthony, especially in this town" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 2/23).
A GAMBLE WORTH TAKING: In N.Y., George Willis writes the Nets "needed to do what they did yesterday." Prokhorov was "looking like an owner who was all talk and no action; an owner with big money, but making no real impact." But that has "all changed now that the Nets have landed Williams." With the Knicks "making all the noise this year, the Nets had to do something to become relevant again" (N.Y. POST, 2/24). Also in N.Y., Fred Kerber notes the N.Y. Post and Daily News in yesterday's editions had a combined "21 stories, 25 pictures, 10 charts and one cartoon devoted to the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony," compared to "two stories and one picture about the Nets." Losing Anthony to the Knicks was "catastrophic for public relations, relevance, ticket sales," so the Nets "needed to do something for significance." Kerber: "So they did -- with a huge gamble. ... A gamble the Nets simply had to take" (N.Y. POST, 2/24). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "The Nets just won the battle of the back page today. Carmelo gets trumped before he even goes out there" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/23).
Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "isn’t too happy with the league-owned and funded New Orleans Hornets taking back salary and sending cash" as part of a trade for Kings F Carl Landry, according to Art Garcia of NBA.com. The Hornets' payroll "went up about $2.24 million, though that difference is prorated for the remainder of the season." Cuban last night said, "That’s just wrong. That’s just wrong. That’s just absolutely, positively wrong. I’ll probably go against the grain from everybody else, but that is so far wrong that it’s not even close. There’s so few teams in the league that can afford to do that and yet we’re allowing a team that’s owned by the league to do that?” The NBA, with funding from the other 29 franchise owners, purchased the Hornets in December from George Shinn for about $300M (NBA.com, 2/23). ESPN DALLAS' Jeff Caplan noted the Hornets, who are "over the salary cap, were able to fit Landry into a trade exception." Cuban said, "If New Orleans is taking back $2 million and the team is losing money and I own 1/29th of it, I'm going to go against the grain and say that's just wrong." Cuban said that he "never anticipated the Hornets to be in a position of taking on salary." He added, "I don't have a problem if they go dollar-for-dollar, great, more power to them. ... The league is supposed to just give them a budget and it never dawned on me that the budget would say you can spend more money to bring in players" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/23). Meanwhile, Cuban yesterday said that the Knicks acquiring Carmelo Anthony is "good business." Cuban: "When teams in New York have star players and play well, it’s really good, it’s good for me. ... It actually is good for the league having those guys in New York" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/24).
Bob Cook and Joe Benvenuti, who together hold a 25% stake in the NBA Kings, yesterday said that they "adamantly oppose moving the team out of Sacramento," but acknowledged that as minority owners they "may have little say in whether the team stays or goes," according to Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Benvenuti: "I don't want 'em to move, but there isn't much I can do about it." Cook said that he "called Gavin Maloof, whose family holds a controlling interest, two weeks ago after hearing rumors the Maloofs were negotiating with representatives at the city-owned Honda Center in Anaheim." Cook said, "I can understand the frustrations of our majority owners. We need a multipurpose facility (in Sacramento to replace the current Natomas arena), and we haven't got anything done. ... I've got my fingers crossed the Kings stay in Sacramento." A third minority owner, Dave Lucchetti, said that he "also wants the team to stay." California state Assemblyman Chris Norby, who represents Anaheim, said that city officials there "have indicated they have no plans to put up money to get the Kings to move" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24). In L.A., Mike Bresnahan notes neither the Lakers nor the Clippers "want to split their lucrative corner of the NBA pie with another Southern California tenant." Both L.A. teams "would get a small share of a relocation fee paid by the Kings' owners, but it wouldn't be as financially sound as maintaining an absolute grip on sales of pro basketball tickets and merchandise in the region." Lakers coach Phil Jackson said that Sacramento "seems like a perfect place for the Kings." Jackson: "I think we'd like to see them stay there" (L.A. TIMES, 2/24).
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? In Sacramento, Dan Morain writes before the Maloofs leave, there is a "matter of the Kings' $67 million debt and other payments to the city." Sacramento leaders "need to make clear that the team cannot move an inch before that money is paid in full." The city also "should put together an ownership group to replace the Maloofs." The "simplest path would be for the new owners to buy the Kings." Failing that, they "could buy one of the NBA's struggling franchises and move it here" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24). Also in Sacramento, Joe Davidson writes, "The possibility of the Kings moving to Anaheim has made it a half-empty, half-full sort of mood across the region." Kings fan Richard Harris: "Why watch the Kings now if they're even considering a move to Anaheim?" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24).
The Lightning yesterday announced that current season-ticket holders will receive no price increase for the '11-12 season if they renew by March 25. Renewing by that date would also freeze their current prices for any potential Stanley Cup Playoff games this season (Lightning). Lightning CEO & Minority Owner Tod Leiweke: “We're saying to all those lapsed season-ticket holders … to come back and be part of this franchise. The lifeblood of this team ultimately is going to be found in the season-ticket support we have." In St. Petersburg, Damian Cristodero notes there was a “sea of red” last Thursday at St. Pete Times Forum when the Red Wings defeated the Lightning 6-2. Leiweke said, “I didn't like last Thursday, and it was beyond the final score. I have a great respect for the Red Wings and their brand … but I vowed at the end of that game we wouldn't go through anything like that again." He added, "We want to create a brand that has roots and has passion. We have a chance to do that. We feel we can fill this building with our own fans" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/24). Meanwhile, the Lightning will reintroduce black into their home and road jerseys as a trim color, with a white lightning bolt along the side of their pants. The lightning bolt replaces a white stripe that had been in the original uniform design (Lightning).
The MLS Chicago Fire are nearing their best-ever mark for new season tickets sold, and credit the success to the club’s offseason revamping of ticket payment plans. The team since October has sold roughly 1,850 new season tickets for the '11 season. The team’s best season-ticket sales came in '98, its inaugural season, when the club sold 1,936 season tickets through the entire year. The club has also renewed existing season tickets at 71%, up 10% from '10. In August, the team conducted a survey of team supporters in an attempt to boost ticket sales. After the survey, the team created a 12-month payment plan for new buyers, and included free parking for all season-ticket holders (parking fees are $15 per game). The team also conducted a season-ticket offer through Groupon.com that sold 400 season tickets at the $450 price point for $150 (the discounted tickets did not include parking or the new payment plan). “Ownership came to us and said they wanted to double the season-ticket base in the next few years,” said Fire Dir of Ticket Sales Mike Ernst. “We decided to listen to the fans to hear what they wanted.”
In N.Y., Sandomir & Kovaleski report Mets owners "face the possibility of an amended lawsuit by March 18 from the trustee for the victims" of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Bankruptcy experts said that if the trustee, Irving Picard, "amends the lawsuit that he filed on Dec. 7, he could add new charges, pare the details to produce a tighter legal action, or simply clean up typos and fix punctuation." It is unclear "exactly what Picard would do if he files an amended complaint" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). On Long Island, Anthony Destefano reports with mediation underway between Picard and Mets Owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, lawyers for both "have put off a scheduled courtroom confrontation for two weeks." The Wilpons said that they "needed Picard's material to defend themselves against charges they illegally took profits from Madoff's Ponzi scheme" (NEWSDAY, 2/24).
PIRATES' BOUNTY: Pirates President Frank Coonelly said that while the organization cannot afford a $70-80M payroll this season, team management "will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive." Coonelly: "We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track." Coonelly also noted that ownership is approached "a fair amount" from investors wanting to acquire a minority stake in the Pirates, but he added, "Our current partners are committed to seeing this team return to the glory that we once enjoyed" (PIRATESPROSPECTS.com, 2/21).
SIX PACK: The Predators have teamed with Pepsi Beverages Co. to put D Shea Weber on Mountain Dew and Orange Crush cans in Middle Tennessee. Weber wears No. 6 for the Predators, and cans bearing his likeness will be redeemable for $6 off of tickets for any Predators game at Bridgestone Arena through April 8. One grand prize can offers a trip for two to Denver's Pepsi Center to see the March 31 Predators-Avalanche game (Predators).
WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN: Saints players and team officials "dropped in on several New Orleans-area spots" on Tuesday to "perform 'random acts of kindness' -- a tradition the team started last year." The Saints "handed out $15 gas cards at a Chevron station, delivered supplies to the Crescent House shelter for battered women and children, bought meals for everyone at a McDonald's, handed out $25 gift cards that were purchased by Verizon at a Walmart, then finished with a meet and greet at a local Verizon store" (NOLA.com, 2/22).