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Volume 24 No. 158

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Commissioner David Stern for the first time “outlined why he insisted on playing 66 games” this season, according to Mitch Lawrence of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Stern said, “When we got together with the player representatives and made the deal, I knew that if we got it done that (Thanksgiving) weekend, we could start on Christmas and we could play 16 games every 28 days, rather than 14 games every 28 days. To us, the two extra games, to get in as much as we could of the season, was important, so people wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, it isn’t a representative season.’” He added, “People say, ‘You have too many games,’ or, if you go to 50 games, as we did before, then you get told that you are not having enough. We thought the 66 games were do-able.” Lawrence wrote, “Everything has been done on the fly since training camps ran about half their normal 28-day length and the preseason schedule was reduced from eight to only two games, all because Stern had a one-track mind when it came to starting on Christmas Day.” Stern “took umbrage with the idea that the game-heavy schedule, where all teams have to play at least one set of three games in three straight nights, is forcing players to hold back from giving their all on some nights.” Stern: “I can tell you that we had the same short training camps in the last lockout, so I don’t think that’s the problem. As for the injuries, I reserve the right to see how things play out over the next few weeks before I draw any conclusions. I will take a look at the data and then I’ll call you” (, 1/21).

QUALITY OF PLAY: In a recent Q&A with the ORLANDO SENTINEL’s Josh Robbins, Stern was asked if he believes that “quality of play is similar to where it would be in a normal season 3½ weeks in.” Stern: “I think that the quality of play is probably -- how do I say this? -- about the same, more or less, of where it has been after the requisite period of practice and time. For our teams 3½ weeks in, in some measure it's like they're finishing training camp on a timing basis. So they're catching up to their potential.” Robbins asked to “what degree, if any, are you concerned about injuries,” and if Stern sees “any tie to lack of a full training camp?” Stern: “When the players and we agreed to the current season, we knew together that we were buying whatever it was that that bundle of games offered up. But it seemed to be something that both sides thought was a good idea” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/22). In Boston, Mark Murphy wrote at “first glance, it appears as though the younger, more athletic teams are thriving.” Celtics F Chris Wilcox said, “It’s definitely kind of tough, but we have to deal with what we’ve got. In the past when you have training camp, most of the guys are here a month before training camp even starts to get ready. They get to play with each other, get a little rhythm, and that way they cut out a lot of those little nagging injuries” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/22).

The hidden yet "critical benefit to both the NHLPA and the peace process resulting from Friday’s agreement -- under which the NHL has agreed to allot an additional $20 million in hockey-related revenue to the players for 2010-11 and an additional designated $20 million for this year following challenges to revenue reported by Phoenix, Nashville and Washington -- is that escrow will not stand as a divisive issue within the union as negotiations commence for a new collective bargaining agreement," according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. NHL players ultimately "will receive 97.7 percent of the face value of their 2010-11 contracts, a significant increase over the 90.6 percent the players received the previous season." Players whose "primary concern over the CBA had been escrow should be satisfied not to press the issue as the union prepares its platform for the impending negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 1/22). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote it is "encouraging, with the CBA expiring Sept. 15, that the sides can agree on something." But the "great unknown here" is whether NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "will try to extract a string of small victories around a retooling of the current document, a salary cap its foundation, or whether he’ll refuse to accept the cap that [former NHLPA Exec Dir Bob] Goodenow said he would never stomach." Dupont wrote, "Hand in hand with that cap, of course, is that key 57 percent figure, the players’ cut of all dollars the sport generates. ... With both the NBA and NFL "working with numbers a few pegs below 57 percent, it would not be a surprise to hear NHL owners bargain for, shall we say, a discount" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek wrote two of the "fixes that the owners will want for sure: 1. Knocking the players overall share closer to the new NBA levels, where a seven-week work stoppage earlier this year resulted in a 50-50 split between owners and players; and 2. Tinkering with the gap between the salary cap ceiling and floor." Duhatschek noted there will "probably be a floor in the new CBA as well, but the gap will be wider than $16-million" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/21).

WHAT ABOUT REALIGNMENT? YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika noted of last week's CBA negotiations, "The union and the league fought over money -- millions of dollars -- and they got a deal done quietly." That is "about the opposite of what happened with realignment" (, 1/21).'s Darren Eliot wrote he believes the NHL used the realignment "issue in a wider context." They "weren't drawing the line in the sand, just surveying where it might be." By not "fighting the issue -- remember the league could go ahead with the plan anyway, albeit, at the risk of reprisal from the union -- the NHL begins another passive PR campaign to gain fan sentiment on the owners' side and against the PA in general and the new boss specifically" (, 1/20).

The USTA has created 10 and Under Tennis in “its attempts to develop the next generation of tennis pros and increase participation in the sport over all,” according to Stuart Miller of the N.Y. TIMES. The program “became the official foundation for all USTA youth tournaments,” and the organization began “scaling down courts, rackets and balls for youth tennis.” Tennis Channel’s Tracy Austin said that the challenge has been “getting the teaching pros and clubs on board.” Parents of competitive players in online forums “criticized the new scoring system and smaller courts and the de-emphasizing of competition for younger players.” Lawrence Kleger, executive director of tennis for the New York region’s dozen Sportime Clubs, said that the “transition was bumpy because parents viewed the changes as a step backward.” In addition to new tournament rules and training programs, the USTA has “spent millions of dollars building courts: about 1,500 in 2010, 3,600 last year and nearly 5,000 planned for 2012.” The organization also “financed an ad campaign for the 10-and-under program last year.” The first commercial, “Fields,” showed children “dwarfed by the full-size dimensions of regulation basketball courts and baseball and soccer fields.” In another commercial, former tennis players Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf “read a picture book to young children about a girl named Sophie who tried tennis.” The small child “was soon overwhelmed.” Graf said in the commercial: “So she quit.” Agassi then says: “And took up soccer. The end.” The spots, initially “aimed at tennis fans, go mainstream this year, including showings on Nickelodeon.” USTA Chair & President Jon Vegosen said that the 10-and-under program is “the most critical initiative the USTA had undertaken in a long time.” Vegosen: “We are missing out on the best athletes because they go play basketball, baseball or soccer. This is transformational. It will grow the base of the pyramid” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/22).