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Volume 24 No. 117

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has “watched as the list of injured NBA players grows longer by the day,” and he has “wondered if the decision to have shortened training camps after the lockout and a 66-games-in-124-days schedule has contributed to the problem,” according to Marc Spears of YAHOO SPORTS. Van Gundy said, “You’ve given them less preparation and a more demanding schedule. Especially early in the year, that’s not going to be a good thing for the players.” Spears noted some of the names among the league’s “infirmed read like a potential All-Star roster,” including Bulls G Derrick Rose, Clippers G Chris Paul, Heat G Dwyane Wade and Celtics F Paul Pierce. Some of the injuries “can be written off as flukes or bad luck.” However, in the season’s “first three weeks, there have been a large number of strains, sprains -- and even the bizarre." In the "span of two days," Hawks C Al Horford and Warriors C Kwame Brown "tore chest muscles that required surgery and will sideline them for at least three months.” Van Gundy: “You don’t see that. Those are football and weightlifting injuries.” Magic G Jason Richardson believes that the “inability of players to work out and scrimmage at team facilities -- under the watchful eyes of team trainers -- has contributed to the large number of injuries.” Richardson, who has missed two games after spraining his left knee last Thursday, said, “There is definitely a correlation. You can’t simulate NBA games no matter what you do.” Spurs G T.J. Ford, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a torn left hamstring, said, “It was a difficult scenario for both parties: the organization and the players. Everything had to be rushed, and the process had to be speeded up, as far as training camp and getting a couple (preseason) games in to start the season. I think everyone understood the risk” (, 1/18).

ROSE-COLORED GLASSES: In Philadelphia, Bob Cooney notes NBA Commissioner David Stern attended the Nuggets-76ers game last night at Wells Fargo Center and sat with team Owner Joshua Harris. While the 149-day lockout “certainly soured some fans, Stern painted a rosy picture of his league.” Stern: "It's been a pretty good start to the season. I was asked how we measured and one measure is attendance, another is ratings, locally and nationally, and another is merchandising. And in all areas we're doing robustly.” He added, "The Sixers sort of announced their presence in the playoffs last year. This is just a continuation and is very gratifying to see the fans responding the way they are. I know that television ratings are up like 60 percent here and attendance is going to go through the roof in terms of increase in attendance. So it's very exciting” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/19).

When the NBA announced it reached a handshake deal with the players union to end the lockout on Nov. 25, Senior VP/Scheduling & Game Operations Matt Winick and his team had to scramble to create a 66-game schedule with the six months remaining in the regular season. Winick worked with a number of execs, including the league’s broadcast department, to hammer out 33 home dates per team according to arena availability. Winick took time to break down the process and the discussions that took place during this abbreviated timetable. The following is his first-hand account of how the schedule came together.

HURRY UP AND WAIT: Normally right after the All-Star Game we start accumulating arena dates for the following year. (This season) we completed the 82-game regular schedule and it was announced in July. And in October we asked buildings to keep us apprised to their open arena dates going forward. From the time the lockout was settled, I think we had a schedule in less than 10 days.

SAVE THE DATE: The arena availability is obviously the first concern, but we have some situations where we’re trying to maximize for our fans the games that people see. So there are some television elements that are involved in the regular schedule. We want the fans to see the best possible games, best possible TV attractions and a lot of that depends on results of the playoffs and even some player movement after the season, which we couldn’t wait for in this case.

TIME NOT ON THEIR SIDE: It was just more difficult because the arenas are heavily booked and have been heavily booked. Just squeezing in the number of dates necessary to play 33 home games per team was the biggest challenge.

SPEEDY GONZALEZ: I thought we worked about as fast as we could work. I’m not even sure it took 10 days. It might have been closer to a week than 10 days. ... I was on a lot of early trains from Long Island to New York. 6:13am, that became my standard train.

ROSIE THE ROBOT: The computer puts the dates into the schedule and prevents you from doing things that would be prohibited. Such as someone playing someone five times or it would check to make sure that every team played every other team. It does not schedule the games per se. It’s a computer-aided, generated, man-made schedule. It’s a special program developed for the NBA.

THE STAKE HOLDERS: The teams just send us their available dates. They have no input into the schedule whatsoever. … (The networks) have to provide us the dates on which they can televise. And that’s their biggest input is to what dates are available for national television games.

FACING THE FACTS: We knew when the dates were determined that teams were going to average four games a week from the start of the schedule to the end of the schedule. So obviously there are going to be weeks when they play less than four games and there’ll be weeks when they play more than four games.

The NFL and Cowboys yesterday in separate legal filings asked a federal Texas court to dismiss a lawsuit brought against them for failing to provide seats to the Super Bowl last year. The lawsuit was filed by Super Bowl ticketholders whose seats were not ready in time for the game. The Cowboys claimed in their response to the lawsuit that because the NFL sold the tickets, and not the team, they could not be liable for breach of contract or the fraud alleged by the lawsuit. The Cowboys were given 5% of Super Bowl tickets, but the filing said the plaintiffs could not prove they bought the ducats from the team. The NFL in its response said it was unaware in the days leading up to the game last Feb. 6 that the temporary seats these fans were due to sit in would not be ready, and pointed out that many e-mails and meetings that took place in the week before the game on the subject the league was not a party to. "The whole notion that the NFL never intended to provide the promised seating, or intended to defraud its ticketholders in any respect, is utterly implausible,” the league said. “The NFL had nothing to gain by tricking ticketholders, which weighs against any inference of fraud.” Thousands of ticketholders were affected when Seating Solutions, the vendor hired by the Cowboys to build the seats, could not install the temporary seats.

Major League Gaming has dramatically reworked its annual Pro Circuit series, expanding its competitive video gaming events from six per year into a four-season structure that will at least triple the number of tournaments held each year. The '12 Pro Circuit calendar will be divided into four seasons -- winter, spring, summer, and fall -- with the winter season beginning Jan. 31. The exact number of tournaments to be held this year is not yet finalized. But MLG's broad goal is to have a Pro Circuit event held during the majority of weekends during '12, not unlike how tennis, golf and NASCAR schedule their events. "This is a really important transitional step for us," said MLG CEO Sundance DiGiovanni. "We had a huge run of growth last year, and the demand for more competition is clearly there." MLG ended its '11 Pro Circuit run with more than 3.5 million unique viewers for its competitions streamed online, 225% above the '10 season. The expanded schedule also creates a wide array of potential new corporate entitlements for MLG, and DiGiovanni said the property intends to sell naming rights for each of the four Pro Circuit seasons.