SBD/June 14, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Nets in hiring recently retired NBAer Jason Kidd as their coach are "taking the franchise's biggest gamble since the move to Brooklyn," but the Nets "clearly aren't interested in playing it 'safe' these days," according to Peter Schrager of FOXSPORTS.com. Nets GM Billy King said of the hire, "It wasn't about a buzz. I know everyone's talking about sexy names and whatever else. It was about finding the right person. I don't know what's considered 'sexy' or not, and I think you guys determine that. If you write it enough, it becomes 'sexier'" (FOXSPORTS.com, 6/13). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes the move to hire Kidd "wasn't some college trying to make a 'SportsCenter' splash by making a fancy coaching hire." This was, in "many ways, as opposite to that as you can be: The Nets already had captured the offseason buzz from the Knicks and run away with it by making this call." For maybe the first time since they "switched their office area code to 718 they were being treated like the 212 team" (N.Y. POST, 6/14). Also in N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes, "It reads like a ludicrous time line, but King insisted Kidd's hiring had nothing to do with marketing or bringing in a sexy name." King said that it was "all about basketball." Kidd at his introductory press conference said, "We're in discussions about my assistant coaches. I know there's a lot of speculation about Lawrence Frank. He'd be a great candidate. But there's a lot of people out there who will be getting phone calls from me. I understand I'll lean on my staff heavily" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/14).
EVERY NEW BEGINNING...: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the opening of Barclays Center "pretty much gave the Nets a season on the house last year, the team serving as secondary theater to the architectural razzle-dazzle and artisanal food." But the worry is that the Nets will "get marooned in that weird basketball purgatory: far from the bottom, but not close to the top." The Nets can "sometimes seem like a surreal franchise." Owner Mikhail Prokhorov delivered his "own remarks in support of Jason Kidd while announcing he did not intend to run for mayor of Moscow." Jay-Z reportedly is "pulling away to focus on his nascent sports-agency business." The Nets are on "their third head coach in a calendar year, clunked out of the playoffs, and yet ... there's still a sense that this is the beginning" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Kelly Dwyer wrote Kidd is the "perfect hire for the Nets because he's the most Brooklyn Nets-y hire the Brooklyn Nets could possibly hope to hire." The focus "right now is hiring a big name that can please" Prokhorov and King, two "basketball minds that have proven to have the patience of a Le Sueur pea over their respective NBA careers" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/13). On Long Island, Al Iannazzone notes Kidd has "off-the-court issues to deal with next week," as he has a "court date on eastern Long Island for his arrest on drunken-driving charges last summer." King said that the incident was "discussed in the interview process and what was expected of him." King: "I won't go too far because it's a legal matter, but we talked about it. I felt comfortable where things stand" (NEWSDAY, 6/14).
VETTING PROCESS: In N.Y., Zach Schonbrun notes King’s relationship with Kidd "began at the Olympic basketball qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico in 1999, when King was on the United States national team committee." King said that Kidd’s relationship with former Nets President Rod Thorn also was "instrumental in the decision to hire Kidd" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/14). Also in N.Y., Filip Bondy notes King "did his homework," speaking with Thorn, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and a "bunch of other basketball guys who knew Kidd well." King spoke "directly to Kidd about personal conduct issues, about the DUI hearing next week and how it can't happen again." He "kept in contact with Prokhorov." King said, "At the end of the day, (Prokhorov) said, 'Your call'" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/14). The N.Y. TIMES' Harvey Araton writes King deserves credit for at "making sure that friends in the industry would not think him insane with this hire." King also flew in Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw to "give at least one candidate with coaching experience the opportunity to talk him into a more conventional hire" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/14).
NEW FACE OF THE FRANCHISE: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Kidd's presence on the bench, and the "curiosity factor attached to it," will give ratings for Nets games on YES Network a "short-term boost." But that will "not happen on its own." Kidd, not G Deron Williams, is now "officially the face of the franchise." He will have "more than the normal media responsibilities of an NBA coach," as he will have to "sell himself to the skeptical" and "sell tickets, too." That "wasn't on Kidd when he was 'just' a player." Raissman: "What about a weekly spot on WFAN?" While the station is the radio home of the Nets, it "rarely embraces the team." The focus has "been on the Knicks." While Kidd could "not completely eliminate that perception, his presence would produce an increase in Nets chatter." WFAN Operations Manager Mark Chernoff said that he has "yet to have discussions with Nets brass about using Kidd." But he added, "We would be very interested in doing a regular segment with Jason." Still, Raissman notes the "biggest beneficiary of Kidd coaching the Nets is YES." If the Kidd storyline can "bring more eyeballs to the Nets on YES, the hire would pay off on a different level." Raissman: "Look for those Kidd advertisements on Yankees games any day now." (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/14).
Astros Owner Jim Crane Wednesday was in studio for an extended appearance on ESPN Radio 97.5 Houston's "The Rush," where he addressed several issues facing the team, including the status of talks with Time Warner about CSN Houston carriage and the team's paltry payroll this season. Crane said he is "optimistic that ... we'll get the games on here before the season ends." He added, "We're very focused on it. We work on it every day and … something I think will develop here within 30 days." Crane: "If we don’t work a deal here that's good for the team long term, it won’t make us as viable as the Rangers or Seattle, the deals that have been done there on the TV networks. We just want a deal that's fair to the team, that gives us a similar amount of resources to be able to run a payroll that's in that vicinity when we can spend that money effectively." The Astros entered their first season in the AL with a player payroll around $24M, and Crane noted the team "could have spent a lot more money" on payroll that may have "gotten us 10 or 12 more wins." Crane: "We were looking at the long term, how to rebuild this club properly from the bottom. Spending that money this year wouldn't have been done in an effective way." He added payroll will "probably move up significantly next year."
TALK TO THEM: The team last month hired Reid Ryan as President of Business Operations, and Crane said Ryan and GM Jeff Luhnow will be the "point people" for the organization. Noting he is not "one to look for the spotlight," Crane said, "I'm there to help them and give them the resources they need to run the business correctly on both sides. That's what I'll do. ... I'll be involved when I need to be involved." He did disclose he monitors what is said in the press about the Astros, and about him personally, in order to make sure facts are not twisted. Crane: "Certainly everyone is going to have their opinion, and I appreciate that. But I'm one that likes to see accurate information. ... You get a lot of situations where they get the information wrong, and then extend off of that. Once facts are not right, then they kind of get extended and can lead in the wrong direction. We try to make sure we get the press the right information."
HAVE A DRINK ON ME: The Astros' 23-44 record as of Friday morning is the worst in the AL, and a caller asked Crane about reducing the price of beer at Minute Maid Park amid the team's lack of on-field success. Crane replied, "I don't think we've raised anything since we've taken over. But certainly, if that will get more fans in the place, we would definitely be interested in getting the beer prices where everybody thought they were worth coming to the game." Crane said season-ticket prices were not raised prior to this season, but the team does utilize dynamic ticket pricing, as that keeps "scalpers out of the mix and generates some more revenue for the team." Crane: "I know it wasn't really received well, but it really doesn't affect the normal fans, per se" ("The Rush," ESPN Radio 97.5 Houston, 6/12).
WNBA Mercury C Brittney Griner's presence on the team has "spiked interest, ticket sales, media requests and excitement," but it also has put "large demands" on her, according to Michelle Smith of ESPNW.com. Griner said, "It's probably been more than I imagined. I didn't really know what to expect, honest, but everything has been great." Smith reported the Mercury on Friday night plays their first home game since Memorial Day, and the "points of impact can already be quantified." The team's full season-ticket sales are up 39% from last season, and "ticket package revenue is already above what it was in 2010, the season after the Mercury won their second title." All of the "front-row sideline and press-row courtside seats are sold out," while group ticket sales are up 33% from last year. The "ripples are also being felt" outside of Phoenix, as teams around the league are marketing their games with the Mercury "with extra fervor and generating interest from fans and media." Mercury PR & Community Relations Coordinator Rebecca Clark, President & COO Amber Cox and Communications & Operations Manager Bret Burchard are "monitoring the requests from newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet closely, stemming the constant flow by sometimes saying no." Cox: "We have turned down some things locally, keeping focused on the things that will have the biggest impact. We are all still figuring out what makes the most sense." Smith noted Griner for the most part "remains perpetually willing," as she already has "put herself out in the public eye, openly discussing her sexuality and pledging her commitment to anti-bullying efforts" (ESPNW.com, 6/12).
DRESS FOR SUCCESS: Griner recently appeared on the "110 Sports Podcast," where she discussed her endorsement deal with Nike. She said she is "very, very excited" about the deal, which allows her to possibly model men's clothes. Griner: "That's my style, that's what I like to wear anyway and there's a lot of people like me" ("110 Sports Podcast," FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com, 6/12).