"Walking Dead" Sends "Lucille" To MLBers Daily Digit Braves Launch New SunTrust Park Campaign NBA All-Star Game Viewership Highest Since '13 Roger Federer Defends Laver Cup Boston College AD Bates Resigns To Take CSA Job SBJ In-Depth: March Madness / College Basketball Turner Sports Selling Single-Sponsor Ad Breaks Silver Wants NBA All-Star Game In Charlotte Marlins' Talks With Kushners Over For Now
SBD/November 28, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Pending approval of a new CBA, the NBA regular season is scheduled to start on Dec. 25 with three games -- Celtics-Knicks, Heat-Mavericks and Bulls-Lakers. The league released an outline for the shortened 66-game regular season that will extend it until April 26 with the playoffs beginning two days later. Also, there is a possibility of back-to-back games during the second round of the playoffs and each team will have at least one but no more than three back-to-back-to-back games during the regular season. The following is a breakdown of the season schedule (NBA).
'11-12 NBA SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN Regular Season Start Date 12/25/11 Regular Season End Date 04/26/12 Playoffs Start Date 04/28/12 Last Possible Finals Date 06/26/12
COMPRESSING THE SCHEDULE: CBSSPORTS.com’s Royce Young noted teams “will average 3.9 games a week, up from the usual 3.5,” and which equals “about two extra games a month.” Young wrote for the “most part, the new schedule won't be all that ridiculous” (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/27). In L.A., Mike Bresnahan notes the NBA yesterday acknowledged that “each team must endure at least one of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back situations” during the regular season. Each team “will play 48 conference games and 18 non-conference games,” and teams “will not travel to every NBA arena.” The “last possible date for the NBA Finals is June 26, about two weeks later than usual” (L.A. TIMES, 11/28). NBA.com’s John Schuhmann noted the league “decided to maintain a schedule that leans heavy toward intra-conference games.” A total of 990 games over 119 days “works out to 8.3 games per day.” Schuhmann: “Such a fast pace isn't ideal. But obviously, maximizing each team's revenue and each player's salary is the bigger priority” (NBA.com, 11/27). In Oklahoma City, John Rohde wrote opening the season on Christmas Day was “a wise decision and an obvious choice,” but where the league “got it wrong was scheduling only three games on opening day.” Rather than “cater solely to the major markets, the league should have included everybody” (NEWSOK.com, 11/27).
ALL-STAR GAME STATUS: NBA VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said that the All-Star Game in Orlando “would be played Feb. 26, as scheduled.” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, “I’m certainly pleased” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/27). In DC, Carla Peay noted it is “likely that the league will try” and get the All Star game in (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/27). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Josh Robbins reported the Magic-Nets London games scheduled for March 7-8 in the O2 Arena “are probably toast -- at least for the upcoming season.” The NBA “probably -- and understandably -- would face criticism from officials in Newark, N.J., for taking two more games out of Prudential Center during the lockout-shortened season” (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 11/27).
The NBA "is back in business, with a new labor deal that heavily favors the owners, despite some last-minute concessions," according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. A "truncated 66-game schedule will begin Christmas Day with three nationally televised games." Training camps "will open on Dec. 9," and free agents will be "permitted to sign contracts that day, setting up a chaotic two-week dash toward the 2011-12 season." The 10-year deal with a mutual option to terminate after six years "will feature a 50-50 split of revenues, but with the possibility of the players making as much as 51 percent or as little as 49, depending on whether the league exceeds or falls short of projections." Negotiators must still "settle a myriad of so-called B-list issues, including drug testing, the age limit and use of the Development League." Additionally, the entire CBA "must be formally written and ratified," but both NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter "expressed confidence that the deal would be approved" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski noted "after 16 hours of negotiations Friday, the two sides reached a handshake agreement a little after 3 a.m. ET in New York." Both sides "must still get a majority vote from the 29 owners and 450 players to finalize the agreement," and players are "expected to vote on the agreement no later than the middle" of this week (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/26). Stern said Saturday, "The reason for the settlement was we’ve got fans, we’ve got players who would like to play and we’ve got others who are dependent on us." Hunter said, "We thought it was in both of our interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game." Stern said that he "doesn’t expect unanimous support but anticipates that both sides will endorse the deal." A league exec said, "The best deals are the ones that no one is 100 percent happy with" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/26). NBPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler said, "Today feels great." He added, "The owners finally were willing to make the changes in the system that the players were pressing for" (USATODAY.com, 11/27). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted the NBA Labor Relations Committee met Saturday and the NBA's 29 owners are "expected to approve the deal perhaps as early as" today (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/27).
PLAYERS' PERSPECTIVE: Hunter on Saturday sent a memo to the players which stated in part, "You should have a quick understanding of why we reached this agreement. I have prepared a quick list that sets forth all the changes that the owners agreed to as part of the settlement since a week ago Monday." Included in the memo is the fact players will receive 51.2% of BRI during the '11-12 season (USA TODAY, 11/27). On Long Island, Hahn & Henry noted Hunter's "job is a little more complicated" than Stern's as he first must "reform the players' union -- which had been dissolved last week to start the antitrust process -- and then bring the agreement to the players for ratification." Hunter: "We're confident that once we present it, (the players) will support it" (NEWSDAY, 11/27). Knicks G and NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. said, "The deal will be received well. ... Everyone that I have spoken to, their tone has been, 'Get us a fair deal.' So we went back and a lot of the issues that we had were rectified and I think the guys will be satisfied and ready to get back to work." He added, "It's a good feeling, but we still have the B-list issues to tackle. But the main issues we've agreed on, and that's a good feeling." SI.com's Sam Amick noted one player when "asked if he wanted to comment publicly on the tentative agreement: 'Should it be a positive quote, or a negative one bashing leadership for missing a check for no reason and agreeing to a deal that was essentially in place three months ago?' (SI.com, 11/26). T'Wolves F and player rep Anthony Tolliver said, "I'm optimistic we'll get everything done. We already feel we've lost the battle based on the things we had to give up to get a deal done, but I have all the confidence in the world in the guys we had in that room." He added, "Once we vote, we have to look at David Stern as a partner again, not the enemy. We as players want to help grow this league together with management" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 11/27). Lakers F Matt Barnes said, "For us to come to a vote, it's close to as good as it's gonna get." Raptors F DeMar DeRozan said, "Everybody will accept this deal and we'll get back to work" (ESPNLA.com, 11/27). Bulls G C.J. Watson "praised commissioner David Stern's strategy." He said, "Stern is a good negotiator. That's the approach we should have taken at first" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/28). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence notes the players "likely won't get to vote on the new labor deal for at least another week." One source said, "It might not be until the 8th when there's a vote. There's a lot of work to be done before camps and the free-agent period can open" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/28).
THE VOICE OF REASON: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote in reaching a deal, the two sides "needed a voice of reason to guide them." In stepped attorney Jim Quinn, the "former NBPA outside counsel who played a pivotal role in ending the 1998-99 lockout." Quinn "reached out to both sides over the past week and presided over a secret settlement meeting Tuesday at the offices of his firm, Weil, Gotshal & Manges on Fifth Avenue." Fisher and Spurs Owner Peter Holt, the NBA's Labor Relations Committee Chair, "flew to New York for Friday's negotiating session after Quinn's back-channel work had set the table." But Quinn "was not present for the negotiating finale," and neither was Kessler, "who had been quietly pushed out of his role as lead negotiator." Neither side "divulged details of the agreement reached early Saturday, but sources said the players were most concerned about the availability of the mid-level exception and sign-and-trades for luxury tax-paying teams and the definition of a tax-paying team." With some movement from the owners "on those technical aspects, the players' negotiators believed they could present a deal that the union membership would embrace despite the massive economic concessions, shorter contracts, smaller raises and other restrictions the owners insisted on to address their dual problems of $300 million in annual losses and competitive imbalance." A source said that the owners' "greatest compromises were in the areas of restricted free agency and the middle class." There was also "some compromise on the issues of sign-and-trades and mid-level exceptions for tax-paying teams" (CBSPORTS.com, 11/26)
Stern doesn’t expect unanimous support
but anticipates both sides will endorse deal
THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis noted Christmas is when the lockout "would really start getting painful for the owners." What is "most important to the league is keeping all that TV revenue in the vault," which includes $485M a year from ESPN/ABC and $445M a year from TNT. The NBA "would have faced returning the TV money or extending the contracts by a year if the season had been lost" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 11/26). In DC, Mike Wise noted the TV deals "played a huge role" in reaching an agreement. One source said, "Some owners basically said, ‘We don’t want a season if it’s going to be moved past Christmas.’ They were right up against that deadline. That TV money was very important" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/26). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Lawrence noted Stern, "in particular, felt it was huge to save the Christmas Day games for the league, which could have pulled the plug on its entire season had a deal not been reached this weekend" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/27). FOXSPORTS.com's Bill Reiter noted the Christmas Day games "have traction, particularly now." They "disprove the notion the NBA is only relevant or interesting during its postseason" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/27).
Following the NBA's announcement Saturday of a tentative agreement for a new CBA, NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said the new framework should result in more competitive balance. Silver: "I think it will largely prevent the high spending teams from competing in the free agency market in a way that they have been able to in the past." He added, "You never can be sure with how a new system will work but we feel ultimately it will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management of that team" (NOLA.com, 11/26). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey wrote the "only ones who will be disappointed" by the new CBA are "those who thought the NBA was closer to a level-playing field." Harvey: "As it turns out? It’s been leveled for 24 or 25 teams. Business will change for the other half-dozen franchises, too. Now they will think twice before they burn through a few extra million; they used to think only once" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/26). Spurs Owner and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chair Peter Holt said, "It's exciting, whether you're in a small market or a large market. Our fans are going to really have a lot of hope and a lot of excitement going forward" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/27).
SPECIFICS OF NBA's PROPOSED LABOR DEAL
• The players will receive anywhere from 49 percent to 51 percent of basketball-related income based on revenue projections. • Maximum contract lengths: five years for Larry Bird rights players; four years for non-Bird players. • A player finishing his rookie scale contract will be eligible to receive a maximum salary equal to 30 percent of the salary cap if he signs with his prior team and meets certain performance benchmarks. • Annual salary increases: 7.5 percent for Bird players; and 4.5 percent for non-Bird players. • Midlevel exception: up to $5 million starting salary with four-year maximum contract length for teams that don't exceed the luxury tax threshold by more than $4 million. • New $2.5 million exception for teams below the salary cap to go over the cap. • No reduction in rookie scale or minimum salaries. • Player options are allowed for all players, similar to the previous collective bargaining agreement. • Extend-and-trade contracts will continue to be permitted. • Escrow pool: Ten percent of player salaries will be held each year. • Teams now have three days to match offer sheets given to their own restricted free agents. • Minimum team salary increases to 85 percent of the salary cap in the first two years of the deal and 90 percent of the cap in the years thereafter. • Each team has one amnesty clause to use on a player currently under contract. The players' salary will be removed from the team's cap (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/26).
IT'S ALL ABOUT COMPROMISE: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote the labor dispute "finally came down to something that had been sorely lacking. Compromise" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/26). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes, "For long time, it looked as if players were going to get crushed on many of the issues." However, they recovered "considerable ground on those issues." Zillgitt: "How did it get done? Compromise" (USA TODAY, 11/28). SI.com's Chris Mannix noted the NBA is "happy with this deal," and the players are "OK with it." The league "got much of what it wanted." It "reduced the players' share of BRI by at least six percent and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams" (SI.com, 11/26). TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott noted compared to NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter "has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence." Many of the players "are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them." Abbott wrote if he were selling the deal to the players, "these are some of the points I'd make: NBA free agency -- the bedrock of every players’ market value -- is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well." In addition, the Bird exception "is essentially untouched," and minimum team payrolls "will be climbing" (ESPN.com, 11/26). In L.A., Wharton & Bresnahan noted it "appears that owners stand to benefit the most" from the new deal. Owners "sought to cut expenses," and also "wanted to stop wealthy, large-market franchises from grossly outspending their small-market competitors." That means "less money for players, but they appeared to score a minor victory with provisions that would allow free agents to move easily around the league" (L.A. TIMES, 11/27).
Hunter (l) in a memo told players their share
of BRI from '11-12 season will be 51.2%
PLAYER MOVEMENT: ESPN.com’s Larry Coon noted with the “elimination of the harsher penalties for taxpaying teams, the union hopes it is able to preserve the freedom of movement that is the lifeblood of free agency” (ESPN.com, 11/26). In Dallas, Eddie Sefko wrote the owners “got what they hope will be a more restrictive system of free agency for big-spending teams that are over the luxury-tax threshold.” The players, meanwhile, “kept many of the free-agent components that were important to them” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/27). Also in Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw wrote, “I’m not sure the new NBA will look drastically different from the old one. ... I think little was lost and at least something useful probably was gained.” The NBA “remains a league without a hard salary cap,” and the best news for fans is that the “days of incomprehensible trades may be coming to an end” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/27). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Clark writes fans "won't notice much of a difference" in the new CBA. Despite "systematic changes like reducing contract length and increasing fees for high-spending teams, most think it will be business as usual." Former Trail Blazers exec Tom Penn said, "This is not a seismic shift. The system still favors aggressive owners who are in go-for-it mode. It will just cost them more" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/28). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman noted nowhere is the proposed new CBA “more punitive than with the toll it will exact on teams operating above the luxury-tax threshold” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/27). ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst noted the Heat “ended up being winners in the 11th hour system changes the owners made to get the players to finally agree on the framework” of a CBA. Reportedly, the “biggest move was owners allowing teams that are not more than $4 million over the luxury tax line to use the full mid-level exception of $5 million” (ESPN.com, 11/26).
AMNESTY NOW! In N.Y., Howard Beck notes the NBA is "giving every team a multimillion-dollar do-over as part of its new labor deal." Under the amnesty clause, "each team can waive one player and remove him from the salary cap -- creating room to sign another player and potentially saving millions in luxury-tax penalties." The new labor deal is "packed with measures to mitigate payroll gaffes: shorter contracts, smaller raises and a new 'stretch' provision that lets teams spread payments (and cap hits) over several years." The intention is to "let teams recover more quickly from their mistakes and to provide roster flexibility" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/28). The SUN-SENTINEL's Winderman notes instead of players "being released under the league's 'amnesty' provision going directly to the open market, a bidding system has been put in place for teams operating below the league's salary cap to add such players at a deep discount." A source said the clause is there "so the Lakers can't go in and scoop up all the players" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/28).
SOLVING THE RIDDLE: NBCSPORTS.com’s Matt Moore wrote over the next six years, “owners have a lot to prove. They have to prove they can profit under the new system, that their biggest enemy is not themselves and their own inabilities to control spending and make wise decisions. They have to prove that competitive balance can be achieved and that small markets can now compete.” The BRI split “should help, but there’s still the capacity for teams to fail” (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/26). In Newark, Dave D’Alessandro wrote for the “first time in NBA history, we get to watch general managers -- the drunken sailors of these proceedings -- try to get control of themselves.” The rules “have changed,” and the constraints “seem to be real, even without a hard cap” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/27). In N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote Stern “did ultimately prove that he remains an effective dealmaker.” But he wondered, “Will the sport ultimately benefit or bomb without superteams playing deep into June?” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/27). But in Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan wrote it “sounds as if the league and the union just wasted a perfect opportunity to create a system that does work.” The league appears to be “counting on improved revenue-sharing and a more onerous luxury tax to discourage the big-market teams from overspending.” Sheridan: “Unfortunately, there isn't enough real change in the deal itself to justify the six-month lockout” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/27).
With the NBA and its players reaching a tentative CBA, analysts and observers weighed in on the winners and losers of the deal.
AWAY WE GO: In L.A., Ben Bolch wrote the owners won because they now "will receive a bigger piece of the financial pie after the players got 57%" of income under the previous deal. But players also "received a handful of concessions while missing only a few paychecks." Bolch named Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban the "biggest loser in all this." A more "constricting luxury tax" will force Cuban to manage his payroll to "keep the Mavericks in the running for a second consecutive title" (L.A. TIMES, 11/26). TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott listed NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver as winners. "Big agents" are among his losers (ESPN.com, 11/26). NBA.com's Steve Aschburner wrote in "big picture terms, there are no real losers." The players "began the lockout and end it as the highest compensated athletes in North American team sports." Among the winners, he listed Hunter and NBPA President and Lakers G Derek Fisher. Among the losers, he named NBPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler (NBA.com, 11/27). In Newark, Colin Stephenson wrote Stern is a winner because he "got a deal done, and he got the players to give back a whole bunch of money." While Stern "couldn't save the full season, he did manage to save Christmas ... which was important for the league." Stephenson listed "big-time agents" among the losers (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/27). The Miami Herald's Israel Gutierrez said, "If you look at the actual deal, the players were never going to really come out winners. But at the very end they got some tweaks in there" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 11/27). NBA.com’s Sekou Smith said, "The fans are the big losers in having to wait and having to deal with this grind of the five-month process. I think when you talk about specific winners and losers, the only real winners at the end of the day are the people who are going to get basketball back before 2012” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 11/27). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote, "It's nonsensical to declare winners and losers. Everybody lost. Just leave it at that" (AJC.com, 11/26).
WIN GOES TO OWNERS? In DC, Mike Wise wrote in the new deal "nobody got everything they wanted, and clearly the owners won” as they “siphoned enough revenue back from the players.” Stern "got past the anger and rhetoric," and he and the owners "made a few concessions." Wise noted Stern "saves his reputation" by reaching a deal that preserves the season (WASHINGTON POST, 11/26). Tulane Sports Law Program Dir Gabe Feldman said, "The owners probably win a little more than the players. But we knew that going in. We knew the players were just playing defense, just trying to hold on to whatever they could. And they gave up a lot. But they're still getting at least 50 percent of a $4 billion pie. So no real losers" (NOLA.com, 11/26). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote, "Forced to pick a winner? Go with the owners." He added, "It's funny, no matter how horrible deals look for players' associations, salaries don't ever really go down" (TORONTO STAR, 11/27). In Chicago, David Haugh wrote, "Despite Stern's dire forecast for the NBA, the lockout ended after 149 days for no other reason that the commish and the owners decided that was long enough." If the players had "any rights trampled during negotiations, they did a lousy job of communicating it." They "lacked unity and, until filing an antitrust lawsuit late in the game, an obvious plan" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/27). Also in Chicago, Joe Cowley noted the players "didn't even seem to mind that the owners were the big winners" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/27). In San Antonio, Jeff McDonald noted the new CBA "is considered to be an overwhelming victory for the owners" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 11/26). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote the players "decided to take their drubbing 149 days after they should have" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/27). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote the players "deserved better than the 49-51 percent of BRI they'll get in this new" CBA. Stern and the owners "ran up the score." They "hung on the rim after their dunks, and they talked more than their share of trash" (ESPNNY.com, 11/26). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote Stern "played this one beautifully, getting his new deal done in time to celebrate Christmas." Stern "never had any intention of flushing his NBA down the toilet for an entire season." But in the end, he "got what he wanted, when he wanted it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/27). In Ft. Worth, Gil Lebreton wrote by having to "shed his Uncle Dave image and represent the owners as a hardliner, Stern somehow managed to make union executive director Billy Hunter come across an an humble conciliator." Stern "will be back, though." The season "wasn't sacrificed" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/27).
NEVER FORGIVE OR FORGET: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins wrote the players will "never, ever forgive Stern." The "once-mellow relationship is fractured for good" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/26). ESPN N.Y.'s Stephen A. Smith wrote despite the "enormous concessions forfeited, Fisher and Hunter should receive some credit for getting a deal done." They both "recognized what the rest of us instinctively knew: Most of the rank-and-file players could ill afford to miss an entire season of paychecks" (ESPNNY.com, 11/26). In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Hunter did "as well as he possibly could playing the bad cards he had, and having as little leverage as he did." Stern, "who had all the cards, will look to make it a triumph for him, no shocker there." But Lupica asked, "who is Stern's constituency now, other than a handful of powerful owners?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/27). SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote, "This is leadership." The way it "finally worked itself out in the NBA negotiating room is the way it is supposed to work in real life." Leaders on both sides "were confronted with concessions they hated to make, but they made them anyway." These negotiations "could have meant the end for the NBA." Thomsen: "But it is a beginning. In this world, a beginning is something to be celebrated" (SI.com, 11/26).
With the NBA tentatively set to return Dec. 25, the league “will be welcomed back because this could be a more entertaining season,” and the NBA might “wind up enjoying its most popular season ever,” according to Mike Imrem of the Illinois DAILY HERALD (11/27). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote under the header, “NBA Lockout Will Be Quickly Forgotten.” Labor negotiations “always are annoying, inconvenient and (quite literally) laborious, but we forgive.” Cote: “It’s what we do” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/27). ESPN.com’s Michael Wilbon wrote the players and owners “all look like divas, which they are, but not complete clowns.” With the season expected to start on Dec. 25, NBA fans are “a forgiving people, particularly on Christmas Day” (ESPN.com, 11/27). In Toronto, Ryan Wolstat wrote the NBA, “coming off of a highly lucrative and exciting season, should not suffer too much -- but should see some sort of backlash” (TORONTO SUN, 11/26). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote, “You boo … but then, about 10 seconds later, you cheer.” He continued: “I’ll boo. Shame on the NBA for the lockout charade. … But I’ll also cheer. I really don’t care how or why the NBA season is back, I’m just glad it’s back, thinner and shorter and better than ever.” The 66-game schedule begins with three marquee games on Christmas and Plaschke wrote, “Are you kidding me? They should do that every season” (L.A. TIMES, 11/27).
NOT SO FAST: In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote the league is “holding out increased parity … as one reason fans should return.” But “will that be enough?” In these “far more difficult economic times -- and with sports fans in general suffering from a labour malaise -- it will be far more difficult to re-establish the connection franchises need” (TORONTO STAR, 11/27). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jason Gay writes there is “a passion deficit,” and the momentum generated by the Mavericks-Heat NBA Finals last season “has trickled away.” Everyone with “an NBA beef is predicting its obsolescence,” but Gay writes this “will not happen” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/28). In Boston, Johnson, Powers & Valverde wrote under the header, “Not All NBA Fans Are Feeling Forgiving.” Fans and workers in businesses dependent on the NBA “were bitter after months of watching multimillionaires bicker over money,” and Saturday’s news of a tentative deal “did not engender feelings of forgiveness.” Boston-area fans said that the 149-day lockout “had left them feeling shut out” (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/27). In Newark, Stephen Stirling wrote under the header, “Sports Fans In Newark Show Ambivalence At Return Of NBA, Excitement Tempered By Imminent Departure Of Nets” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/27). In Salt Lake City, Genessy & Morgan wrote under the header, “NBA Labor Handshake Agreement: Fan Reaction Mixed; Businesses Happy” (DESERET NEWS, 11/27). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote under the header, “NBA Lockout Among Top 5 Worst Stoppages,” naming this season’s NBA lockout No. 5 (NYPOST.com, 11/26). ESPN.com and TRUE HOOPS writers weighed in on “how much damage” the lockout has done and “how enthusiastic” NBA fans will be now (ESPN.com, 11/26).
SPARE ME THE DETAILS, JUST PLAY: The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said "no other American, other than the principles that negotiated the deal, cares about the details” of the CBA. Ryan: “I’m guessing what may have brought all of this to a head is that somebody walked up to both sides (and said), ‘Here’s a poll of the American public. Here’s what they think of you’” ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 11/27).
The ATP World Tour’s BOD meetings ended over the weekend after 10 days without electing a new leader, raising the chance the circuit could go into '12 without someone at the top. The tour board, which is divided between tournament and player reps, while in London for the year-end championships debated over three candidates: former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek; ATP CEO of the Asia-Pacific region Brad Drewett and ATP Chief Legal Officer Mark Young. ATP VP/Corporate Communications Kate Gordon said the board will continue talking this week, and that the candidates the board had been considering would remain the focus. “There is no hard deadline this week,” she said. “Still, the main (goal) is to have someone in place by the end of the year. That is still a possibility.” The board has not decided, at least not yet, to hire a search firm, she said. The board has been looking for a new leader since Adam Helfant said earlier this year he would step down after three years on the job. He was unable to reach a new contract, sources said, though he has publicly said that was not a consideration in his decision. His departure exposed a rift between player and tournament interests on the board, with the tourneys wanting either Young or Drewett, while players want one of their own running the tour. Discussion also emerged during the London finals of a potential push to change the ranking systems from an annual system, to one that covers two years, as in golf. One source said Rafael Nadal had been pushing the change. But Roger Federer, who is also the president of the Players Council, asked about it last week, forcefully opposed the idea. “I know it could be a good thing for me or for Rafa or for other good players because we would stay at the top for a very long time,” he said during a press conference last week. “For us to move down in the rankings would take something extraordinary. But for the lower-ranked players, I don't think it's a good thing and that's why I can't support it.”
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon held his annual state of the league address Friday and said that the league is in "good shape despite reduced television ratings and a troubled southern Ontario market" that will receive a C$1M "cash infusion" next year, according to Terry Bell of the Vancouver PROVINCE. CFL games on TSN and RDS "averaged 701,000 viewers this season, down from 876,000 in 2010." However, Cohon indicated that there were "increases this year in attendance, licensing revenue, traffic on the league website cfl.ca and corporate sponsorship, which is at a record high, up 16 per cent from last season despite an uncertain economy." Cohon: "Every metric is up except for one. Our television ratings are down. There are a few factors. Teams in important markets, Toronto and Saskatchewan struggled this year. Those are two very important markets for us. Here in B.C., one of the biggest television markets in the country, the Lions got off to a 1-6 start. We think that had an impact on our ratings." Cohon added that the CFL BOG approved the C$1M cash infusion for the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to split evenly, with it being "used to grow the game at the grass roots level in the southern Ontario region." Bell reported the Argonauts "remain the big elephant in the CFL room." B.C. Lions Owner David Braley last year bought the Argos, "making him the owner of two of the CFL's eight teams." Some people "see that as a major issue but Cohon said he has no question about Braley's integrity and his commitment to the entire league" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/26).
ARGONAUTS IMPORTANT TO THE LEAGUE: Cohon said having Braley's involvement with the team "is great for the Toronto franchise and the league." Cohon: "Working with him is going to be the most important thing on the league agenda for the next three or four years." He added, "The board is focused on reigniting the passion in southern Ontario with even more focus on Toronto. We have a great opportunity in Hamilton. They'll be getting a new stadium by 2014. I think that's going to re-invigorate the market. We have work to do in Toronto" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/24). In Toronto, Damien Cox noted the C$500,000 for the Argos is the "kind of league support that the previous owners ... asked for but were denied access to." Cox: "But Braley all but runs the CFL, so he gets the help." However, Braley's "ownership of two teams has turned the Argos into a wreck" (TORONTO STAR, 11/25). In Ottawa, Mark Sutcliffe wrote under the header, "CFL Can't Flourish Without Competitive Argos." Cohon "does his best to convince everyone that the CFL is thriving despite the Argos," but that is "like saying life is great at home because you get along with your whole family except your spouse." Sutcliffe: "Unless the league fixes Toronto, all of Cohon's recent progress could unravel. Cohon says David Braley ... is the right man for the job, but it has been almost two years since he took over and not much has happened yet" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 11/27).
EXTENSION FOR COHON BEING DISCUSSED: The CP's Dan Ralph reported Cohon's current deal as commissioner expires in April, and his "future was a hot-button topic." Cohon wants to stay in his current position, and league governors "share that sentiment and the two sides continue to talk." Re-signing Cohon "would seem a slam-dunk for the CFL," as the league has "enjoyed steady growth under Cohon by both renewing existing sponsorships while adding a number of new ones." There is a "sense of calm throughout the league with no major fires burning," and Cohon has "shown a willingness to leave no stone unturned in an attempt to boost revenues." However, there is "talk now of some unrest on the board with some members feeling Cohon hasn't done enough to boost revenues and spent too much operating the league's head office in Toronto" (CP, 11/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Allan Maki wrote under the header, "Keeping The Commissioner Should Be A CFL Priority." Maki: "Cohon has been the kind of savvy facilitator the league has needed to make improvements and keep most of his bosses on side. Keeping him in office should be a priority because there are encouraging signs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25).