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SBD/July 19, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "came to conquer the NBA by setting a standard for unbridled spending and general audacity," which is reinforced by the fact that the team's payroll next season is now set to "surge to a league-high $101 million," according to a front-page piece by Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. The payroll, which will trigger a league-record luxury tax bill of about $82M, will go up because the team's "two pricey new stars," G Paul Pierce and F Kevin Garnett, who were officially introduced on Thursday, will "join the three pricey stars the team already had." Prokhorov since joining the NBA has "morphed ... into a Russian George Steinbrenner -- only taller." He said, "I’ll do whatever I can do in order to reach [a] championship here in Brooklyn." Beck reports the estimated $82M tax will be "more than triple what the Nets paid in luxury taxes for the last 11 seasons combined." Even more "jarring is that the Nets’ spending spree comes two years after a costly lockout." NBA owners "fought hard two years ago for a restrictive system that would rein in the big spenders and narrow the gap between the highest and the lowest payrolls." However, Prokhorov has "blown that premise to smithereens." He said that his investment had "increased 'minimum, fivefold' since his purchase of the team and a share of its arena" in '10. The Nets as of Monday had "seen a 27.2 percent spike in season-ticket sales and a 41.4 percent increase in season-ticket revenue compared with this time last year, much of it coming after the trade" for Garnett and Pierce. They have "about 800 season seats left before hitting a self-imposed cap between 12,500 and 13,000." The NBA's new system "will provide some benefit to the less-wealthy teams." Half of the Nets' tax payment -- about $41M -- will be "redistributed to the teams that stay below the tax line" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19).
PLAYING BY THE RULES: ESPN N.Y.'s Mike Mazzeo reported Prokhorov "made a last-minute decision to attend" Thursday's press conference to introduce Pierce and Garnett. The Nets have "sold more than $3 million in full season tickets since the official announcement." The team said that "around 175 media members attended" the press conference (ESPNNY.com, 7/18). Prokhorov said, "I have done what I can. Now I think it is high time for the team to do the rest." He added, "I respect all the NBA rules and we play by the NBA rules. But I want just to stress again like with (the) luxury tax, I will do whatever I can in order to win (a) championship, but under the NBA rules. Please make no mistake about this" (N.Y. POST, 7/19). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "The Nets will launch a pointed assault on the Knicks, on the Eastern Conference, on the rest of the NBA" (N.Y. POST, 7/19). In Boston, Mark Murphy writes the Nets at Thursday's press conference "played what sounded like a John Williams overture over the Barclays Center sound system." The Nets "boast a certain flair that most other teams lack." Pierce "likes what he sees." He said, "Just pulling up out front today, you can see them selling our jerseys. You can see the fans lining up" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/19). In New Jersey, Steve Popper writes while the Nets' press conference was held "on the floor of Barclays Center with a live feed sent out to the street above, it was conducted with a bit of class and restraint." There was "no effort to mimic the show the Miami Heat put on when they gathered their Big Three together for the intro and it resembled a bad music video." The "championship aspirations were on clear display Thursday, but it was a more mature performance." The Nets have attempted to put together a "dream team that provides legitimacy to the massive marketing push that accompanied the move to Brooklyn last year." Prokhorov: "In the NBA, money, it’s important, but you can’t buy a championship only spending money" (Bergen RECORD, 7/19).
NEW-AGE NETS: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote the Nets "won the press conference" Thursday, and starting in October, fans will "find out what else -- if anything -- they will win." Beyond that, "all we know about Prokhorov's impersonation of the late George Steinbrenner -- outspend everyone, win the back pages and ask questions later -- is that it's earned the jealousy and ridicule of those who can only see conspiracies behind the revelry." The NBA "will not investigate Prokhorov's bold assembly of talent," unless and until another team "files a complaint about it." If anyone is "truly crying now over Prokhorov's massive spending, shame on them" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/18). On Long Island, Barbara Barker writes Prokhorov "did not seem to be terribly concerned" about the team's luxury tax (NEWSDAY, 7/19). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes Prokhorov is "unrepentant, even lighthearted about his monetary mischief." He is a fan's "dream owner, an easy newspaper column, and something of a nightmare" for Knicks Owner James Dolan and "every other league executive." Prokhorov is the "closest thing we have around here to the late George Steinbrenner" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/19).
OTHER TEAMS WATCH WARILY: In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes the Nets' moves will cause "anxiety attacks" in 29 other NBA suites where other teams' execs "look at Brooklyn in worried fascination." Prokhorov "may be clueless about the game itself, but he understands that the middle of the pack is the worst place to be." D'Alessandro: "The money is insane, and there are 29 owners cursing him today." He wonders what NBA Commissioner David Stern "heard from his pals from Oklahoma at the Board of Governor’s meeting last night in Vegas?" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/19). In Miami, Joseph Goodman writes, "Here’s the globalization of the NBA in all its wonderful fury: A man born and raised in Soviet Russia is now the most aggressive spender in the league" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/19). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes he loves what Prokhorov has done, as he is "simply sailing over the salary cap and straight into the luxury tax, finances be damned" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/19). ESPN N.Y.'s Johnette Howard wrote under the header, "No Joke, Prokh Steals The Show." Howard asked of Thursday's press conference, "You didn't really think Prokhorov would miss this, did you?" The event was "carried live in the New York area, and on a national feed, and even in places as far away as China and (of course) Russia" (ESPNNY.com, 7/18).
The NBA’s BOG on Thursday unanimously approved the Bobcats' name change to the Hornets after next season, with the team now cleared to officially begin its rebranding effort. NBA Commissioner David Stern said, “The board's approval was just the first step in that process. The next step involved in launching a new team identity is the creation of logos, color schemes, uniforms, and what will be keeping team executives quite busy over the course of the coming year.” Bobcats President Fred Whitfield said the name change and subsequent rebranding will cost the team about $4M with the new Hornets logo and team colors expected to be completed sometime in late November or early December. The Bobcats will set a jersey launch for next summer (John Lombardo, Staff Writer). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell reports it "was appropriate" that the Pelicans' ownership group "advocated Thursday for unanimous approval of sending 'Hornets' back to Charlotte." The Bobcats thanked the Benson family "tangibly Thursday, saying the franchise is making a contribution to the Pelicans’ Gulf Coast preservation fund." The Bobcats still "haven’t said how far they will go in the makeover -- for instance, whether or not they will adopt the teal-and-purple colors." Stern said that he "believes this is an opportunity for the Bobcats to widen their fan base to those who have not taken to the NBA since the Hornets departed in 2002" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/19). The Hornets during their first incarnation in Charlotte "led the league in attendance for seven consecutive seasons," but the Bobcats "have struggled to gain that level of fan support." Team execs hope "that will change along with the name" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/19).
ON THE ATTACK: In Charlotte, Andrew Dunn in a front-page piece reports the Bobcats are "preparing a yearlong campaign to keep enthusiasm and sales high until the new brand takes the court" in fall '14. The team will "kick off a 'Buzz City'-themed, purple-tinged media blitz Sunday on billboards, newspapers, radio and the Internet." A Web video that "goes with it is heavy on civic pride and heritage, with the old logo and an old Muggsy Bogues jersey making appearances." Retro Hornets merchandise will be "up for sale almost immediately." The new "logo, colors, uniforms and the new dance team will follow soon." Whitfield said that the Bobcats in the past four weeks have "sold more than 600 season ticket plans, which will cover both this season and next." That ranks the team "in the top eight of the NBA in new sales" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/19). Also in Charlotte, Jacob Feldman notes Stern’s announcement was broadcast in two different downtown locations "to thousands of locals." It was the "culmination of an all-day celebration of Charlotte basketball’s history and future." The "present was sprinkled in as well." Bobcats tents "dotted the plaza" while "purple and teal banners hung overhead." A miniature version of the Bobcats team store was "exclusively selling Hornets gear, but the memorabilia still came in bags emblazoned with a now-endangered snarling cat" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/19). Team officials said that "2,000 season-ticket holders turned out" at the event (SI.com, 7/18).
NBA Commissioner David Stern on Thursday said that he is "pleased with the job" that Kings Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive's ownership group has "done since taking over in late May," according to Jason Jones of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Stern said plans for building a new downtown arena in Sacramento "are straight ahead with respect to the building and acquiring the final pieces of property." Meanwhile, the Kings' ticket sales and corporate sponsorship deals "are robust." The Kings "lead the NBA in new season-ticket sales." Stern also "praised the hiring of new CEO Chris Granger from the league office as a positive step for the franchise." Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said that he would "give the new owners an 'A' for the progress made" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/19). 24 Hour Fitness co-Founder and Kings investor Mark Mastrov said of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, "You have to tip your hat to the mayor and say that he probably was one of the biggest chips that we had on our side to help keep the team in Sacramento. Without him, it probably makes it very difficult for us to have had a chance to do so." He added, "Vivek is a good friend of mine but made it very clear in the early stages that he was one of the leading investors in the Warriors, and he really coveted being in that lead spot (for the Kings). And as much as I or others would have coveted being in that lead spot, Vivek stood up and said, 'I really want to be the lead owner and be the general partner'" (CLUBINDUSTRY.com, 7/17).
Astros Owner Jim Crane said that he is "pleased with the direction of the team" under new President of Business Operations Reid Ryan, according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Crane said, "What I probably didn’t understand when I came in here, I knew we were bad at the top, but I didn’t know how bad we were at the bottom. I didn’t really understand how all that worked, because I had never been around it. But then once you get in, you understand how these other teams have built their organization." Crane said former Owner Drayton McLane "didn't sign anybody" in '07, which was "really the killer year." Crane: "When you look back, that really hurt. We got almost all our guys signed and you just restock out of that group." Meanwhile, Crane said of dealing with unhappy fans, "It’ll get there, but it has been tough. I won’t deny it. You can’t go anywhere where people don’t ask you about it. They don’t want to talk about how much freight I’ve shipped. They want to talk about when the team is going to get better." Crane said of working with GM Jeff Luhnow, "I don’t over-manage him. Same thing with Reid (Ryan). Reid can handle that job. Those two guys come to me if I need help. ... Reid’s good at it. That’s one of the reasons I hired him. He’s so good with the fans and he’s so good with the public." Crane on the future of the franchise: "I’m a long-term builder. But then once you get the base in place you’re going to be solid. That happens in business. Once you get to a critical mass you can’t falter hardly. You might not win every day, but our objective is the worst we get is .500. This TV deal will sort itself. I feel bad that the fans haven’t watched a game, but we can’t cut a long-term bad deal. That’s really all I’m working on right now to get that resolved. I’m on the point in that. The buck stops with me on that deal. But we’ll get it resolved" (CHRON.com, 7/17).
AFL Orlando Predators Managing Partner Brett Bouchy has stepped down from this position and "sold his interest in the franchise to Pearsall Holdings," according to Brendan Sonnone of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. David Pearsall, a former minority owner, will replace Bouchy "as managing partner and become majority owner." Bouchy had been in the Predators' front office "for most of the past 17 years." He said, "There are some other endeavors of mine that will probably become public in the next few weeks. This was the right time for me." Predators COO Darrell Harbin said that Bouchy's departure "was not because of a lawsuit filed by the City of Orlando against the team over naming rights at Amway Center." However, Harbin added that he "did not consider the timing odd." Harbin: "The reason why the timing really didn't matter is, it doesn't change anything. The ownership, the controlling partner is changing, but that's it. Everything else stays status quo." Sonnone notes Bouchy played a "large role in bringing the league back and restructuring its finances after it ceased operations for the 2009 season" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/19).
Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said that former team CEO Mike Dee’s successor “will not be longtime friend Carl Peterson nor will it be" former Jets exec and current RSE Ventures President & CEO Matt Higgins. But Ross said, “Matt does have a significant involvement with the Dolphins.” In Miami , Barry Jackson noted Dee's successor will “run the business side of the operation, and likely will have no involvement in football decisions.” Meanwhile, Dolphins season-ticket sales are “lagging at around 40,000 -- though they say they are ahead of last year's pace” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 7/18).
STARTING NOW: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes under the header, “Tim Leiweke Scaling New Heights Of Human Hubris And Ego.” While Maple Leaf fans “wallow in the emotional angst of a circa-1967 Stanley Cup drought,” new MLSE President & CEO Leiweke, “for his part, is acting as though the history of the franchise began the moment he took over his gig on June 30.” It is “laughable stuff for alert Toronto sports fans.” But Feschuk writes, “Don’t get it wrong. There’s a lot to like about Leiweke, who’s one of the most accomplished sports executives of his generation. On many fronts the vision he’s been laying out is bold and inspiring” (TORONTO STAR, 7/19).
CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE: In Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey wrote Pirates Owner Bob Nutting, “arguably the most vilified figure in modern-day Pittsburgh sports, deserves the first Stargell star when doling out credit for the Pirates' rise.” The boss “always deserves the most credit in a thriving business, and the Pirates are just that.” They are a “financially stable franchise sitting 19 games over .500 and playing in front of monster crowds of late.” The “realities of Pirates baseball, even if the major-league payroll remains low,” are that management spends “real money on real free agents” and the team has “become annual buyers at the trade deadline.” The Pirates “long-ago shed their deserved label of draft cheapskates and cowards” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/18).
KING OF THE RING: In Phoenix, Tim Gallen noted the D’Backs have “introduced a new official mascot at Chase Field aimed at Hispanic fans.” Their Luchador mascot “officially has been created out of the popularity of a Lucha Libre mask introduced last season.” The Luchador “speaks fluent English and Spanish” and will appear at “select D-backs games” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/18).