NBA: In AZ, David Leibowitz called the Suns' pay-per-
view (PPV) package a "rip off." Leibowitz: "The sad thing
is, the fans fall for it -- the team expects a jump in buys
over last year. Sadder still, the Suns keep trying to sell
pay-per-view as a favor." Leibowitz looked at the schedule
of PPV games vs. free TV games since '93. While the 78
regular-season PPV games have featured teams with a total
winning percentage of .568, teams on the 127 games on free
TV had a .447 winning percentage. He also notes that the
three PPV games this week were against the Rockets, T-Wolves
and Bulls (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/19).
NHL: The Islanders and Brett Lindros have "reached a
settlement" on Lindros' contract. Lindros retired following
three concussions suffered on the ice and "indications are"
that Lindros will receive the full amount due to him in the
five-year, $7.5M contract, "which could be as high as" $4.5M
-- depending on how much of the deal was paid out in bonuses
up front instead of salary (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/20).
Season-ticket sales "almost doubled" for the D'Backs
and Devil Rays on Wednesday, following the expansion draft.
D'Backs Ticket Sales Manager Rob Kiese: "Until this week, we
sold 30-40 season-tickets a week. But in the last two days,
we've sold 50" (Mel Antonen, USA TODAY, 11/20).
NEVER ENOUGH FRUM: In Toronto, Marty York reports that
Murray Frum and his partners "are still quietly in pursuit"
of the Blue Jays and "remain hopeful" that the Jays, the CFL
Argonauts and the SkyDome "will ultimately be theirs." Frum
had no comment when asked if his group had reopened talks
with Jays Owner Interbrew SA (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/20).
TWINS: In St. Paul, columnist Bob Sansevere writes that
Twins Owner Carl Pohlad's "credibility" was among the things
that "made it difficult" for the people of MN to support a
new ballpark. Sansevere: "The problem with Pohlad was, and
still is, people don't trust him" (PIONEER PRESS, 11/20).
INDIANS: Ticket prices for '98 have been increased in
seven of the 11 seat locations at Jacobs Field. Among the
increases, Field Box seats go from $23 to $26; Lower & View
Box go from $18 to $20; Upper Box, Mezzanine & Lower Reserve
go from $15 to $17; and Bleacher seats go from $10 to $12.
The approximate ticket price increase is 12% (Indians).
YANKEES: In N.Y., adidas and the Yankees ran a full-
page ad in today's N.Y. Post and N.Y. Daily News that touts
"132 DAYS 'TIL OPENING DAY" (THE DAILY).
A press conference "will be held no later than
tomorrow" to announce that Raptors minority Owner and Exec
VP/GM Isiah Thomas "will be leaving Toronto, regardless of
whether he decides to take a television job with NBC,"
according to Craig Daniels of the TORONTO SUN. Daniels
writes that NBA Commissioner David Stern "asked Thomas
yesterday to remain with the club for the next 24-48 hours
... so the Raptors could clean up certain financial matters,
such as the closing of financing for the Air Canada Centre."
Yesterday, Thomas "retired to his home" in Detroit and
referred all calls to his agent. Thomas: "I want to be as
professional and classy in this matter as possible. I don't
want to be in the position where I have to look people in
the eye and lie, so you have to understand there are some
things I can and can't say right now." Team Assistant GM &
VP/Legal Affairs Glen Grunwald "appears" to be "the leading
candidate" to replace Thomas as GM (TORONTO SUN, 11/20).
STRAINED RELATIONS? In Toronto, Michael Grange writes
that everything "surrounding the latest ownership drama ...
remains unclear," and that "the rift between Thomas and
[Raptors Majority Owner Allan] Slaight is no closer to being
repaired and has likely widened as each side regards the
other with a growing measure of distrust" (GLOBE & MAIL,
11/20). Also in Toronto, Doug Smith reports sources who
said that Slaight "provided some of the money Thomas has had
to pay out in the last couple of months to fulfil
obligations as a minority shareholder." One source: "I
think Isiah has a bit of a cash squeeze." Thomas' reps
"refused comment" on the speculation. Smith adds that
Slaight "has positioned himself perfectly to assume Thomas'
share" of the team, and sources say that Slaight "signed off
on an agreement ... that puts in place a syndicate to
finance" Air Canada Centre (TORONTO STAR, 11/20).
TALKING TOUGH ABOUT ZEKE: In Toronto, Steve Simmons
writes, "The latest squabble for Thomas is just another in a
series of personal-agenda controversies that have marked his
life in basketball. His career has been a testimony to
conflict. Name a place, name a person, and there is a story
to be told. Too many stories" (TORONTO SUN, 11/20).
The Bay Area "buzz" is that Warriors Owner Chris Cohan,
"saddled with major financial obligations and rocked by the
lack of support by fans, is quietly exploring the idea of
selling the team sometime in the next two years," according
to C.W. Nevius of the S.F. CHRONICLE. There is "even a
scenario" that would have the MLB Giants' ownership group
"taking over and using the team as an East Bay presence to
help attract baseball fans" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/20).
WARRIORS REFUTE RUMORS: Nevius adds that the Warriors
"insist there is nothing to" the sale rumors. Warriors
General Counsel Robin Baggett: "The concept of selling the
team has never been discussed. As far as losing money and
not operating in the black, that is inaccurate." Baggett
said that "there has always been a misconception about"
Cohan's financing, and that ever since he bought the team
"there have been suggestions that Cohan borrowed heavily for
the money, and overpaid wildly." More Baggett: "[Cohan]
bought the team for $119 million, not $140 million. ... He
is not heavily leveraged." Nevius adds that "there are
clearly some problems, which go beyond the woeful product on
the floor," and that the league office is "concerned about
the way the franchise is floundering." Baggett also added
that sales of the team's 72 luxury boxes have been "fair. I
wouldn't put it at good." But Nevius reports that "others
are even less optimistic, doubting that the team has sold as
many as 20 boxes" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/20).
The Sonics' marketing strategy this year aims to
"familiarize fans with the players' human side," according
to Mike Roarke of the PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL. To help
form a "long-term relationship between the team and its
supporters," the team hired Seattle-based ad agency
WongDoody to produce a series of ads "focusing on the
personalities" of the team members. The ads are "not
scripted," and feature six Sonics, including coach George
Karl and Gary Payton, "interacting spontaneously" with
people in "unrehearsed settings." In one spot, Payton is
shown spending time with senior citizens; in another, Sam
Perkins "playfully blocks" a child's shot on a mini-hoop,
before sending him to bed. WongDoody's Tracy Wong feels
that this type of campaign "could be what the NBA needs."
Wong: "I think the NBA's problem now is the salaries are so
astronomically high, a distance has been created between the
players and the fans" (PUGET SOUND BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/17).