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SBD/April 28, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
The pressure on Clippers Owner Donald Sterling "mounted Sunday with the release of additional minutes of a racially charged recording and a flurry of denunciations from President Obama, NBA players, fans and even the NAACP that had sought to honor him," according to a front-page piece by Sahagun, Dolan & Streeter of the L.A. TIMES. A decision on a "possible punishment for Sterling is expected soon." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who also serves as NBPA Special Assistant, said that the "harshest possible sanctions must be considered by the league." While Sterling did not attend the team's playoff game against the Warriors at Oracle Arena yesterday, his wife, Rochelle, "watched from a courtside seat but did not grant an interview." She said in a statement, "I do not condone those statements that you heard. I do not believe in them. I am not a racist. I never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). The Warriors said that the club had "more than 100 credential requests since Saturday for a total of about 220 media members approved" for the game. The team said that there were "only about 140 to 150 credentialed media for Game 3 on Thursday, and there were about 60 for regular-season games this past season" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/27).
PLAYERS WANT ACTION: In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes Johnson met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver before Game 4. Johnson said that he has "spoken to union reps and owners." He added that the players "have five points they want addressed." They "do not want Sterling allowed at any more games this season because they consider him a distraction." They want to "know why prior accusations against Sterling did not result in sanctions." They want the "range of sanctions for Sterling addressed." They want the union "engaged in the process" and they want Silver "to act swiftly." Johnson said, "The players are not going to be silent. That day has come and gone. These players are engaged" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/28). Johnson: "We believe this is a defining moment for the league. It's a defining moment for the commissioner" (ESPNLA.com, 4/27). Johnson said that the players "trust Adam Silver to do the right thing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/27). Meanwhile, Johnson also said that he "conducted an emergency meeting with the union's executive committee" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer notes Silver attended yesterday's game and then "made his way to Portland." He knows players "are disgusted" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/28). Rockets Owner Les Alexander met with Silver in Portland "to share his displeasure" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/28).
SILENT PROTEST: ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Clippers players yesterday "staged a silent protest" against Sterling. The team gathered at center court during pregame and "took off their Clippers warm-up shirts and left them there." They then warmed up wearing "inside-out red shooting shirts that did not display the Clippers name or logo." Players during the game "wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks." Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that he "wasn't on-board with the black socks protest." Rivers: "I knew about it. I didn't voice my opinion. I wasn't thrilled about it, to be honest. But if that's what they want to do, that's what they want to do" (ESPNLA.com, 4/27). Clippers G Willie Green said, "It was something some of the guys decided they were going to do, to show we're all in this together." During the game, fans were chanting "Sterling Sucks!" In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes "not once did any of the Clippers seem totally comfortable wearing the Clippers uniform" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). Also in L.A., Maura Dolan notes some Clippers fans at Oracle Arena said that they "did not wear their Clippers gear for fear of inciting animosity" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). The L.A. DAILY NEWS' Vincent Bonsignore notes for the players, "boycotting was not an option." They played knowing "full well they'd be criticized for doing so and in some ways, be the public face of a professional sports franchise run by a racist" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). NBA.com's Jeff Caplan noted the idea was "floated that the Clippers should boycott the postseason as long as Sterling remains on as owner." But that is "not a solution." It would make the playoffs "more about Sterling than the players" (NBA.com, 4/27).
DID THE PLAYERS DO ENOUGH? FS1's Jim Jackson said players "missed an opportunity" to protest. Jackson added that the Clippers and Warriors "shouldn't have played" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 4/28). ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy during the Clippers-Warriors Game 4 broadcast said, "Neutrality can't be tolerated. I've heard some people say they can't speak to it because their team told them not to. Are you kidding me? You're a grown man. Speak up and stand up for what you believe." He added he would like to see the Clippers "sit silently on the bench in protest." Van Gundy: "There are some things that are bigger than pursuing a championship. Making a stand on something that impacts society is even more important." Van Gundy said of Sterling's wife not comfirming whether or not the voice on the tape was in fact Sterling, "Is it just me or is it unbelievable that you can listen to even just part of the tapes and not know if that was your husband speaking? It just seems implausible to me." ESPN's Mike Breen: "It's not just you. Everybody else feels the same way" ("NBA Countdown," ABC, 4/27). In N.Y., Michael Powell writes of the Clippers protest, "Was that all they had? What if the Clippers players had remained seated and refused to take the court?" The players simply "turned their jerseys inside out." Powell: "You wonder, in years to come, if these proud men and splendid athletes will think that was enough" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). However, in San Jose, Carl Steward writes the protest "came off poignantly and powerfully" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/28). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes calling the Clippers protest "restrained" is an "understatement." It did not provide ABC "with much of a visual." It "wasn't something destined to remain etched in America's consciousness for years to come" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes it "may have been a small gesture, but it felt stirring." The Clippers "showed a heartbeat." It was a "proud moment for a franchise that has had very few" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/28). The Trail Blazers and Rockets in a show of support "also wore black socks" last night (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). Blazers G Earl Watson said, "We needed to show we're unified" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/28).
HOSTILE RETURN TO L.A.? Rivers said of the team returning to Staples Center for Game 5, "We're going home now, and usually that would mean we're going to our safe haven, and I don't even know if that's true, to be honest." Clippers G Chris Paul: "I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what it is going to be like" (L.A. TIMES,4/28). Former NBAer Mychal Thompson said that he "wouldn't be surprised to see thousands of empty seats" at Staples Center tomorrow (USA TODAY, 4/28). In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes, "I wonder how many Clippers fans are truly willing to walk the walk about punishing Sterling." If only 3,000 people show up for tomorrow's game, Sterling "will begin to sweat" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/28). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote it will be "an uncertain atmosphere in which African-Americans are being encouraged to boycott Clippers games and police are gearing up for possible protests outside Staples Center" (ESPN.com, 4/27).
Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, which partnered to buy the Dodgers and WNBA Sparks, "want a chance to purchase" the Clippers in the wake of the Donald Sterling controversy, according to league sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. A source said that Johnson is "absolutely interested." Wojnarowski writes for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the chance to turn the Clippers over to Johnson and his partners "is the best possible of solutions." As an exit strategy, Sterling "could walk away" with a $1B-plus sales price for his franchise and a "final act of goodwill to soften his exile into the sports netherworld" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/28). Johnson: "He shouldn't own a team anymore. And he should stand up and say, 'I don't want to own a team anymore. ... He's got to give up the team. If he doesn't like African Americans -- he's in a league that's over 70% African American" ("NBA Countdown," ABC, 4/27). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Herring & Kamp note it is not currently clear "what course of action" the NBA could take in punishing Sterling. Moreover, it is unclear how the league would "go about sanctioning" Sterling if the comments "prove to have been made by him." Winston & Strawn attorney Jeffrey Kessler said, "Requiring the sale of a team would be the most severe sanction. But I believe the NBA would take the position that the commissioner has the necessary authority to take action" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/28).USA TODAY, 4/28). ESPN's Michael Wilbon yesterday called for a suspension of "one year, a full season" ("GMA," ABC, 4/27). SI.com's Michael McCann wrote under the header, "What's Next For NBA In Donald Sterling Case From A Legal Standpoint?" McCann: "Forcibly removing Sterling from the NBA is unlikely to happen." But the NBA "could take a bolder step and take over the day-to-day operations of the Clippers." The league also "must be concerned about the possibility of Sterling suing the NBA and owners" (SI.com, 4/26). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote, "How multimillion dollar sponsors distance themselves from Sterling and the team, season-ticket holders boycott future playoff games or if free-agent players change their minds about playing for the team in the near future all are in play" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). Deutsch Inc. Chair Donny Deutsch said "most importantly, advertisers who advertise on the local cable network will not advertise. They can't. So (Sterling's) revenue streams will dry up" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 4/28). The AP's Tim Reynolds reports some NBAers "feel for the magnitude of the task Silver is facing." Wizards G Garrett Temple: "What, he's been three months on the job? And he has to deal with an issue like this. It's unfair to him. ... It's going to be a difficult situation for him to take care of, and he's probably going to act swiftly as he said. And he needs to do so. It's a very tough issue. A lot of different sides. But it's more than basketball" (AP, 4/28).
LEAGUE'S PROBLEM: ESPN's Bill Simmons said the NBA needs to "look in the the mirror a little bit. Don’t just blame Donald Sterling. This is a guy they kept around for three-plus decades. … They have to take some accountability. They've got to do the right thing. They've got to figure out a way to get the team away from him.” Simmons added, “My problem is they entitled him, and then by pushing Chris Paul to him, it’s almost like you’re condoning the behavior. I think they should have been much more concentrated on trying to get rid of him.” Simmons: "This is probably the most stubborn owner of any sport and somebody who loves going into courtrooms and fighting battles" (NBA Countdown," ABC, 4/27). Simmons added that this is the "most pressure the league has had" since the Ron Arest incident at the Palace of Auburn Hills in '04 ("Clippers-Warriors," ABC, 4/27).
OWNERS SPEAK OUT: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, who is among a number owners that have commented on Sterling's alleged remarks, said, "I have plenty of opinions, just not going to share them. Obviously, if any business or entrepreneur says or does things that aren’t congruent with what the organization is trying to convey, that’s a problem. But it’s not my problem" (AP, 4/26). Celtics Managing Partner & CEO Wyc Grousbeck in an e-mail wrote, "We stand as one league led by Commissioner Adam Silver and he speaks for us" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/27). Grousbeck: "I will say that what I heard on that tape goes against everything the Celtics stand for" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/28). Heat Owner Micky Arison in a statement said that the comments are "appalling, offensive and very sad" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/27). Kings Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive: "Those are shameful, reprehensible words, and if they are authenticated then I believe we should have zero tolerance, and I have full faith that the commissioner will do the right thing" (ESPNLA.com, 4/27). Spurs Owner Peter Holt: "The league is doing its own investigation and I don’t want to jump the gun. I don’t know the context, but from what I’ve heard it sounds bad and it isn’t like this is the first go-around for him" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/28). Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob: "Racism doesn't belong period, in any way, doesn't matter, black, white, whatever color. Inappropriate. I wish we didn't have to do this today" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/28). Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan issued in a statement said, "I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views" (Bobcats). In Chicago, K.C. Johnson notes Jordan is "often hesitant to address high-profile issues" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/28). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes Jordan has done "everything possible to avoid the ugly business of real life," and that is what makes what he said -- "possibly the first political utterance of his long life -- so compelling" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/28). TNT’s Charles Barkley: “You can’t have a bunch of white guys who are rich, who make a lot of money on the sweat and tears of young black men … not [stand] up for their players. It would be really disrespectful to the players if the owners did not come out and say something” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 4/28).
THE KING'S SPEECH: Heat F LeBron James on Saturday strongly rebuked the comments by saying, "It's unacceptable in our league" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/27). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote fans have "never heard this public voice" from James before. But Hyde wrote, "You've never heard him take on a heavyweight topic. ... You've never heard this firm, matter-of-fact voice." The best players "should stand for something inside their game, shouldn't they?" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/27). USA TODAY's Amick wrote no NBA player voice "was as loud and profound as that" of James. There are "legal waters that the NBA will have to navigate," but the gap "between what players expect to happen and how this will actually unfold will simply have to be bridged." Players "simply don't want to hear any excuses for why Sterling can't be given the just due they believe he deserves" (USATODAY.com, 4/27). ESPN.com's Michael Wallace wrote as James made the comments, he "never seemed concerned with any potential backlash or repercussions." This "isn't just lip service from James," as he "was fully aware of the reaction his stance would generate" (ESPN.com, 4/27). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote James "impressed" with his comments (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/26). ESPN.com's Wallace wrote James "is the league's most powerful and influential player calling out one of the NBA's richest and longest-tenured owners." It is the game's "most polarizing and criticized athlete demanding" Silver "take sharp and swift action. It's notable because these days, there "are very few risk takers" in pro sports (ESPN.com, 4/26).
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was "a little lawyerly" on Saturday evening in his initial response to racist remarks allegedly made by Donald Sterling, according to ESPN's Michael Wilbon. Saying Silver was "in an impossible situation following David Stern," Wilbon added, "There could have been more outrage expressed. ...We're going to have to see not just a different Adam Silver, but a different NBA" ("GMA," ABC, 4/27). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour wrote Silver had "his first big test" and "he failed. Miserably." Silver "could have sent a strong message Saturday" by suspending Sterling. He "may not be able to force Sterling to sell the Clippers," but he "can -- and should -- make it clear that Sterling and his reprehensible beliefs are no longer welcome in the NBA." If Silver "doesn't have the stomach to do that, then the other 29 owners must step up" (USATODAY.com, 4/27). St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell said, “You got a very restrained Adam Silver. He did not pound the table, he did not put on a show because I think what he was doing as a lawyer was making sure that anything he said ... did not end up hurting him" should Sterling come back at the league (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 4/27). BLEACHER REPORT’s Howard Beck wrote as a “trained lawyer, Silver was predictably restrained in his remarks.” But it “is not altogether clear that Silver can deliver the only sensible outcome: for Sterling to be an ex-owner.” There “is no precedent in this area, and it is legally questionable whether the NBA can force an owner to sell” (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 4/27). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes Silver's next move will be "a defining moment in his career." He "must find a way to get Sterling out of his league, to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, to take a forceful, inflexible stand that Sterling cannot represent a league so populated with black players when he’s made it clear how he feels about black people" (Bergen RECORD, 4/28). In L.A., Jill Painter wrote Silver can "begin his legacy with a landmark move, suspending [Sterling], fining him and forcing him to sell" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/27).
SILVER'S METTLE: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote the league office "believed Sterling was sick and dying, that he would go away, and only he comes back to haunt and embarrass the NBA again." The owners and the league "deserved for Sterling to reveal himself again publicly as a racist and scoundrel" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/26). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote Sterling, "one of the most persistent and reprehensible ghosts from the Stern era emerged for Silver to deal with." A league source said Sterling's remarks are "almost a gift" to the league if this lets them "get him out" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/26). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the hope is that the NBA "finally has a leader with enough guts to finally take Sterling down." Where Stern "once cowered," Silver "must strike." The league "needs to run Sterling out of his office." Nobody "can stomach the idea of a successful" Sterling, and the Clippers "will never be fully respected in Los Angeles because of their owner" (L.A. TIMES, 4/27). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes Silver "inherited an absolute mess." Getting rid of Sterling permanently is "both the ultimate goal and the most vexing issue" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/28). In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes, "We'll see if Silver has the stones to deliver a heavy punishment to one of his 30 bosses." What he decides "will be the first building block in his legacy as leader of the NBA" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/28). In DC, Jason Reid writes how Silver "will help define his tenure in the league’s most powerful position." If Sterling "spoke those words, he shouldn't remain in the culture much longer" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/27). ESPN.com's Marc Stein wrote Silver and the 29 other owners must collectively "make it clear that repeated violations of common decency ... are sufficient grounds for an indefinite suspension. Or more." If the NBA "can't legally force Sterling out, surely it can muster enough internal momentum -- combined with that public pressure -- to forcefully convince Sterling that he has no choice but to go through with those retirement plans" (ESPN.com, 4/26).
WHO ELSE WILL TAKE A STAND? In N.Y., William Rhoden wondered whether the league's players "will speak out -- or act out -- against Sterling." Rhoden: "What about the league’s other owners? How will they respond? Will they remain silent? Will they issue a collective statement?" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). In Oakland, Marcus Thompson II wrote the NBA owners' "lack of a stand is ... disappointing." Their "lack of action to this point makes them accessories after the fact." If they "don't do anything now, they graduate to co-conspirators." The owners "are the ones who should have to suffer for such associations, for tolerating such an element among their midst" (INSIDEBAYAREA.com, 4/26). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande writes, "If you're deeply offended by Sterling's views, don't watch the Clippers." Instead, "put pressure on Sterling, Silver and the other owners through the power of profits (or the risk of losing them)" (ESPN.com, 4/26). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote Sterling "must go away now." That "is Silver's mission" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). Also in N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote the league "needs to fire Sterling," as he has "left Silver little choice" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/27).
OWNERS' ONUS: In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes Silver “will need his players -- black and white, American and foreign -- behind him as he prepares his club of billionaire owners for a move on Sterling that could get litigious and ugly.” Silver “will need the power of the league at large.” A former NBA owner said Sterling has “been a thorn in the side of the league for a long time. Lawsuits, harassment, you name it. But when people talk about getting him to sell, I’m not sure that would faze him in the least.” If Silver “were to find cause to suspend Sterling, that could buy him time to begin the process of pressuring him to sell” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Powell writes it is “fashionable to pile on Sterling right now, and so the voices, suspiciously muted in the past, are loud and angry." Since ‘82, every team in the NBA “has changed hands at least once,” except one in the Clippers. Barring “the unexpected” -- coach Doc Rivers quits, G Chris Paul “demands to be traded or a family coup wrestles the team away -- the only person who can force Sterling to sell is Sterling” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/28). In DC, Sally Jenkins asked, "What is more embarrassing here, Sterling’s naked bigotry, or the fact that for decades the NBA has tolerated him?" The other owners "have some explaining to do to their own players." The "only way to eject Sterling from the league" is through a "backroom deal forged by the owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/27).
SAME AS IT EVER WAS? In L.A., Michael Hiltzik wrote, "Nothing will prompt the leagues to take action against a misbehaving owner until and unless they perceive that the behavior is costing them money." An owner "who loses a stadium deal?" That "would do it." An owner who "provokes a fan boycott that actually empties the stands?" That "would do it." Hiltzik: "The smart money says Sterling will wriggle out of this controversy" (L.A. TIMES, 4/27). SI's Lee Jenkins wrote under the header, "David Stern, NBA Validated Donald Sterling With Chris Paul Trade" (SI.com, 4/27). In California, T.J. Simers wrote under the header, "Outrageous Sterling Does Nothing New" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/27). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes under the header, "Donald Sterling's Candid Moment? It's Business As Usual, And NBA Business Is Often Ugly" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/28). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes under the header, “NBA Has Long Tolerated Donald Sterling’s Disgusting Treatment Of Women, But Racist Comments Could Be Clippers Owner’s Undoing” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). SI.com's Phil Taylor wrote the NBA "harbored a racist owner for years and hoped that no one would notice or care, and now it has blown up in the league's face" (SI.com, 4/26). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes Silver and the owners "must take a strong stand against racism" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/28).
GOOD RIDDANCE: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Silver can make Sterling "go away, for a good long time," and it is "about time" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote an NBA investigation of Sterling "has been a long time coming" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/26). In S.F., Scott Ostler wrote of Sterling, "The league can’t afford him, morally or financially” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/27). In Toronto, Bruce Arthur wrote Sterling has "always been everyone’s problem, and nobody even pretended to solve it." Arthur: "Well, now's the time" (TORONTO STAR, 4/27). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Shaun Powell wrote under the subheader, “It’s Time For All Of The NBA To Take Action Against Donald Sterling” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/26). In San Diego, Matt Calkins wrote if this were the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell “would swoop in and extinguish this situation swiftly and harshly” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/27). The L.A. TIMES' Hiltzik looks at suits filed against Sterling in the past under the header, “The Donald Sterling Case: A Glimpse At The Dirty Laundry” (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). In N.Y., Billy Witz writes under the header, “Vortex Of Outrage Has Long Trailed Clippers’ Owner.” Subhead: “Sterling Has A Public Record Of Bad Behavior” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). In California, Andrew Edwards wrote under the header, “Sterling Has Long Attracted Wealth, Controversy” (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 4/27).
Capitals VP & GM George McPhee on Saturday morning was told by Owner Ted Leonsis and President & COO Dick Patrick that his contract "would not be renewed after 17 years," while coach Adam Oates was "fired with one year remaining" on his deal, according to Katie Carrera of the WASHINGTON POST. Leonsis and Patrick "made the shake-up after undergoing a nearly two-week examination of the team," a time in which they "met with people from all corners of the organization -- players, scouts, medical and front office staff -- for feedback on the entire operation." Leonsis said, "The last two seasons showed us that we need to improve. That’s what it came down to, where Dick and I said, ‘We have to make that gut check. Do we have to change? And where do you start?’ You start with the coach and the general manager.” Patrick said that the search for a new GM and coach will "begin immediately." McPhee was the "third-longest-tenured" GM in the NHL and helped the Capitals reach the playoffs in 10 of 16 seasons. Leonsis now must "take a step he’s never had to make since buying the Capitals in 1999: Hire the man responsible for delivering his ultimate objective" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/28). In DC, Brian McNally notes Leonsis and Patrick "offered immunity to everyone interviewed -- players, front-office members, coaches etc. -- in return for information about the state of the franchise." Leonsis said it was a way to make a final call while still not “emotionally wounded.” Patrick insisted employees like Assistant GM & Dir of Legal Affairs Don Fishman and Assistant GM/Player Personnel Brian MacLellan "will remain." Meanwhile, Patrick "wouldn’t rule out hiring a coach" before hiring a GM (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/28).
CAPITAL GAINS: The WASHINGTON POST's Carrera writes the decision to fire McPhee and Oates "was the simple half of the equation" that Patrick and Leonsis "must solve this offseason." Now that they have what Leonsis called a “clean slate,” they "must fill the two key vacancies." Whomever they choose will "set the tone for the franchise on and off the ice, dictating its trajectory for years to come and determining whether the Capitals’ absence from the postseason this spring was a one-year blip or indicative of symptoms that take longer to shake." Leonsis said, “This is a great situation for an executive coming into. ... I’m sure we’re going to be able to find an individual who has a plan and can work with the organization to get us to where we want to be.” While Patrick said that they have "already compiled an initial list" of GM candidates, this "isn’t going to be a quick search." Even though the Capitals would "like to have someone in place" by the '14 NHL draft on June 27, Patrick said that he "doesn’t view that as a strict deadline." By keeping the scouting and hockey operations staff "intact for the time being," the Capitals are "equipped to proceed through the draft without a general manager if necessary" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/28). Meanwhile, the WASHINGTON POST's Carrera lists possible candidates for the GM position.
TED'S TAKE: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes Leonsis is "finally doing something besides blog," as he has "been more blustering than active" in his time as owner. Leonsis has "put himself squarely on the spot -- in an interesting way." His decision to fire McPhee and Oates is "counterintuitive, and equally intriguing for the timing and messaging." Although Leonsis has been a franchise owner since '99, it is "hard to pronounce him particularly good or bad at it, because he’s made no big moves." Leonsis said that he had a "sense of leveling-off, if not a downward trend." Leonsis: "This is about hockey. We sold all the tickets we can sell; we sold all the jerseys we can sell. We were a continuously improving hockey team, until we weren’t." Jenkins writes Leonsis is "testing himself in a way he hasn’t up to this point: He’s opened himself up to examination" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/28).
Trail Blazers President & CEO Chris McGowan on Friday reiterated that the team is "on track to be profitable" following the '15-16 season, but he admitted that going deep into the playoffs this season "could result in the franchise reaching its profitability goal earlier than that forecast," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. McGowan said, "We're achieving our financial objectives as an organization. We're on a three-year plan. You look at trends and how you project out over a course of a season ... based on where we think we're going to go, we're going to achieve that profitability I've been talking about." Brettman reported about 35% of fans who bought single-game tickets this year "had never purchased tickets through the Blazers before." McGowan noted, "That's an amazing figure." He added, "You just want to make sure you're capitalizing on the opportunity to convert people. We don't want to leave any stones unturned. We don't want to look back and say, 'Hey, we missed some opportunities.' We had a two-hour staff meeting [Friday] with 20 or so employees who manage various areas of the organization to make sure that as we continue on in the playoffs we're not missing anything, whether its food, fanfest, great merchandise (or) re-engaging with people who left the fold the last several years and inviting them back. Here's a good opportunity to talk to people again" (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/26).
PACKING THEM IN: The OREGONIAN's Brettman reports the Trail Blazers for Game 4 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Rockets last night "sold out their supply of 560 standing-room only tickets well before" the 9:30pm ET start. Team officials were "anticipating a sell-out and final attendance approaching or matching" the 20,302 fans that attended Game 3 Friday night (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/28). Meanwhile, the team "typically keeps a handful of tickets set aside for celebrities at all games." Among those scheduled to attend Game 3 were U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Portland native and Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, and NFL prospect and former Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks. It has been "at least two years" since Nike co-Founder & Chair Phil Knight attended a Blazers game (OREGONLIVE.com, 4/25).
In DC, Michael Lee reported Wizards merchandise sales have increased by 100% on Fanatics.com from the last week, the "largest bump of any franchise." Sales of apparel featuring G John Wall also "ranked fifth among NBA players" after last Tuesday's opening-round Game 2 win over the Bulls. Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis said, "The goal was to build a franchise as good as the fan base and I’ve always believed this was a basketball town and a sleeping giant. And that if we could just give the fans a team that they could believe in and be proud of, we sell it out." Leonsis said that the Wizards will have almost 90% season-ticket renewals "from this season to next and are closing in on 10,000" for the '14-15 campaign. Leonsis: “The fan base here is so sophisticated, they reject bad actors. They reject bad basketball, and they’re liking what they’re seeing" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/27).
CLEVELAND ROCKS: In Cleveland, Mary Schmitt Boyer reported if Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert is "looking for a prominent NBA veteran with ties to Cleveland to head up his franchise as president," ESPN NBA analyst George Karl would "love to be on the short list." Karl in an e-mail wrote, "Being a leader, running a team and organizing a group with the common goal of winning a championship would be the ultimate challenge in my career" (CLEVELAND.com, 4/25).
HEAT OF THE MOMENT: In West Palm Beach, Jason Lieser noted Heat F LeBron James "does not know if he wants to become an NBA owner like his hero, Michael Jordan, but there will be one necessity if he does: a Pat Riley-like mastermind to assemble his team." James said of the Heat President, "If I find me a Riles, that’d be great. It would be great to be around the game of basketball. I don’t know in what shape or form, but I have a lot of knowledge to pass on and I believe I have a great eye for talent as well." James added, "Obviously you’d have to be financially very, very wealthy, which I’m not. I’m doing alright. It would be great, but there’s a lot of pressure on that side as well to put together a team and obviously if you hire the right people they can do it too" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 4/27).