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SBD/March 1, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Kings fans turned out for last night's game against the Clippers to "give their full-throated endorsement of keeping the beleaguered NBA franchise in town," chanting "Here we stay" and "Not L.A.!" according to Peter Hecht of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Kings Owners the Maloofs are "pondering a move to Anaheim," but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said that last night's sellout crowd was "evidence that the capital city is not giving up and simply letting its NBA team leave town." Johnson: "Tonight's sellout shows just how much we care about the Kings and want them to stay right here in Sacramento." Officials with the mayor's office said that Johnson "hopes to meet with Kings' owners this week." The mayor's office "has been contacting civic leaders in business, labor and neighboring cities in hopes of retaining the Kings and advancing efforts to build a state of the art arena to replace the antiquated" Arco Arena. A mayoral aide said that the Kings yesterday "had delivered the first batch of promised arena feasibility documents to ... David Taylor and the ICON Venue group, who are looking into arena costs for the city" (SACBEE.com, 3/1). In California, Brian Joseph reports the crowd was "peppered" with signs reading "Our Team Our Town" and "Please Please Please Stay." The crowd "roared with a passion unseen since the days when Sacramento challenged the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/1). Kings co-Owner Gavin Maloof, who sat courtside for the game, said, "It's very emotional. We love the people in Sacramento" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/1).
A LITTLE ON EDGE: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes, "With so much seemingly at stake for local fans, the mood inside the building was more tense than celebratory, at times even funereal. Team officials looked visibly stressed. Joe and Gavin Maloof, who were greeted warmly throughout the evening, worked over several pieces of gum." The Maloofs "seemed anxious at best, troubled at worst" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/1). In L.A., Lisa Dillman notes signs "were carefully, almost lovingly, arranged in strategic, TV-friendly positions throughout the arena before the Clippers-Kings game." Civic boosters and fans "put plenty of emotional energy into this particular game, hoping to play the nostalgia card with the owners, pushing hard to boost attendance." There were "some empty seats up high in the arena but the announced crowd was a sellout of 17,317, the second of the season." Volunteers were "outside the arena passing out flyers, detailing specific chants to be delivered at key junctures." The Maloofs looked "happier and more engaged as the game progressed" (L.A. TIMES, 3/1).
A list of "prospective candidates seeking minority ownership of the Mets has been sent" to MLB for review, according to sources cited by Steven Marcus of NEWSDAY. A source said, "It's a preliminary step. It doesn't mean that they would be approved to be an owner of the team." The Mets have said that they would sell up to 25% of the team. Those who are "deemed serious bidders are vetted by MLB to determine their financial suitability, with an extensive investigation into their business and personal background" (NEWSDAY, 3/1). A report Sunday indicated that ESPN analyst and former Mets manager Bobby Valentine is "lining up investors" to acquire a stake in the team. However, a source familiar with Valentine's interest in the Mets said "there's not much to it." Valentine yesterday "declined to discuss the topic" (NEWSDAY, 3/1). In N.Y., Waldstein & Kepner write it "would be surprising" if Mets Owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon "would happily sell the team to a group that included Valentine, however small Valentine's financial interest might be." Valentine was "fired after the 2002 season," and his relationship with the team "has been prickly ever since, even though -- or perhaps because -- Valentine remains popular with fans" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1).
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: In N.Y., Belson & Cowan report Fred Wilpon and Mets President Saul Katz on Thursday "will argue their case" against the clawback suit filed against them by Irving Picard, the trustee overseeing the recovery of funds from Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. They will appear "in the federal appeals court for the Second Circuit in Manhattan, where they will be lined up against" Picard and the SEC. Several lawyers said that the appeal is "perhaps the last chance for the Wilpons and Katz to stop what has turned into a legal freight train bearing down on them." The decision by the appeals court is "not expected for months," and if the judges uphold Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Lifland's ruling against the Mets owners, they "can appeal the case further, an uncertain process that would take many more months." The Wilpons and Katz "have the option of continuing to negotiate with Picard and his legal team" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1). Meanwhile, the N.Y. POST's Kosman, DeCambre & Mangan report the "cash-starved Mets are desperately seeking a new loan -- totaling tens of millions of dollars -- to cover their basic operating expenses." JPMorgan Chase, which "led the banks that loaned the team about $430 million last year," is "trying to recruit other institutions to join a syndicate to put together a new loan that would tide the Mets over until they sell a minority stake in the ballclub." A source said that both the Mets and MLB are "exerting strong pressure on JPMorgan to make that loan happen" (N.Y. POST, 3/1).
The Jets plan to "cut salaries of football operations employees" by 25% in the event of an NFL lockout, according to a source cited by Jenny Vrentas of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Those cuts, "effective as soon as a lockout was declared, would include GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan." Lockout clauses "also leave open the possibility of the cuts increasing to 50 percent if the lockout extends three months and possible termination if it reaches six months -- but the organization told employees it did not plan to exercise those additional cuts laid out in their contracts’ lockout clauses." Vrentas notes the "plan would be for employees to recoup their missed earnings, if no games are missed, at the end" of the '11 season (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/1). NFL Coaches Association Exec Dir Larry Kennan noted that "nearly 95% of assistant coaches had 'lockout clauses' in their contracts that included some sort of salary reduction" in the event of a lockout. In addition to reduced salaries for football staff, the Jets last week also revealed that they would "require some personnel to take furloughs in the event of a lockout." In N.Y., Manish Mehta noted nearly 100 employees on the business side "will be required to take a one-week unpaid leave each month until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached." Assistant coaches are "among the approximately 62 employees in football operations that are immune to furloughs for now." The Jets, however, "will have cuts similar to the business side after the NFL draft in late April if a new CBA still isn't reached" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 2/28).
The Browns were "one of several teams" reminded by the NFL last week that players are "not supposed to 'meet' with coaches or be given playbooks during this period of the off-season," according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Sources said that the issue came up after a report that Browns QB Colt McCoy "had been meeting with new coach Pat Shurmur since the Super Bowl," and that the Browns "intended to give McCoy a portion of Shurmur's offensive playbook before the possible owners lockout on March 4 so that McCoy would have something to study during the work stoppage." However, Shurmur "denied that he and McCoy have held 'meetings' to discuss the team's new offense." Shurmur said that some Browns players "working out in the team's headquarters have simply stopped in to meet their new head coach" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/27).
PLANNING AHEAD: In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin reports Dolphins QB Chad Henne "has worked diligently with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to learn his offense before the lockout potentially begins on Friday." Henne and a Dolphins spokesperson "stressed that the meetings have been voluntary." A lockout would prevent players "from working with their coaches this offseason," so Dolphins players have "organized their own off-season practices to prepare for the 2011 season." They "already found a field to hold the practices, and hope to start on March 28, usually the same date in which the off-season workouts begin." Henne: "That's when I'll try to help install the offense and get the guys on the right page, because who knows how long this could last? Hopefully a lot of guys will come back and we can work out and build some bonding and camaraderie there." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said that the potential lockout is an "unfortunate reality." Ross: "You all realize you're flirting with danger, but I think the way it's going it needed some changes and hopefully we'll get those changes. ... I think calm heads will meet and hopefully we'll get beyond that and have a season" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/1).
Raptors season-ticket prices for the '11-12 season “will be significantly cheaper” than this year, according to Ryan Wolstat of the TORONTO SUN. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Exec VP & COO Tom Anselmi said that “lower bowl season seats will be dropped anywhere between 5-30%,” while upper bowl seats “will fall in the 10-almost-40% range.” The team also will be “bringing back its draft party and various other ‘loyalty packages.’” In addition, Anselmi said, “We are freezing prices for 2012-13 and will pay out interest if there is a work stoppage next season.” Wolstat notes the Raptors “have slipped to 17th in average attendance (the team’s lowest mark since the 2005-06 season)." They are "drawing 1,350 less fans per game than a season ago, about 2,200 less than during the 2008-09 campaign and about 3,000 less than in 2007-08.” In an “attempt to woo fans that aren’t season seat holders,” MLSE will also be “introducing dynamic pricing after experimenting with it in some sections this season.” Prices for single games will be set at the beginning of next season, but “they will fluctuate on a monthly -- and at times, even weekly -- basis depending on calibre of opponent, day of the week and other factors” (TORONTO SUN, 3/1).
In Newark, Steve Politi notes the Nets "did everything they could" last night to make newly acquired G Deron Williams "feel at home for his debut" at Prudential Center. The Nets "unveiled a giant mural with his likeness on the side of a hotel, took out full-page ads in several newspapers and gave away T-shirts with his name and number to the first 10,000 fans" at the game against the Suns (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/1). Williams before the game said, "I want to win. In order to do that, you see the trend now: two, three, sometimes four stars in every city." He added, "We have the market to do that right now, and I think it's going to improve with the move to Brooklyn to attract some of the bigger name guys and it's on not only management, but me, to try to get some people here" (N.Y. POST, 3/1).
TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT: In Dallas, Evan Grant reported the Rangers' Opening Day payroll is expected to be around $94M, 70% above their $55.25M payroll at the start of the '10 MLB season. Add in "possible bonuses this year -- the Rangers have budgeted for them -- and the figure could climb" above $100M. It is "not unreasonable to think the club will pass the previous franchise high" of $105.3M in '02. Grant: "It serves as a reminder that the club (read: ownership) better be prepared to keep upping the ante. ... If this window is to remain open for more than one or two years, it's a commitment the Rangers are going to have to make over and over again" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/27).
PAY TO PLAY: The GUARDIAN's Matt Scott reports Randy Lerner has injected more than $325.3M (all figures U.S.) into Aston Villa since buying the EPL club five years ago. Lerner has "overseen the growth of revenues" from $60.5M in '06-07 -- his first full season as owner -- to $147.8M last season. At the same time, Aston Villa's salary payments have grown from $36.4M in his first year to about $130M, "nearly 88% of the club's total revenues." Losses last year "were marginally down," to $61M from $75M a year earlier (GUARDIAN, 3/1).
LIFE'S A PEACH: In Atlanta, Chris Vivlamore cites a source as saying that "two non-disclosure agreements were submitted over the weekend from parties showing preliminary interest in purchasing all or part" of the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena. The source indicated that "as many as five non-disclosure agreements have been signed over the past several weeks" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/1).