Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss in recent years had evolved into "one of the most active, visible and trusted connections between Lakers management and the fans," but this season, some "longtime season-ticket holders say they have seen her at only a couple of games," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Buss said that she has "been to four" games this season. Plaschke writes, "When you're talking about the team's executive vice president for business operations, a high-profile executive for whom the Lakers are family, it's just plain weird." Buss said, ''This year has been just different for me." She said that with her boyfriend, former coach Phil Jackson, now "retired and living here, they are making up for all those nights they spent apart." She said, "This year has been unusual … unique. They should put a star next to it." Her father, Lakers Owner Jerry Buss, has "essentially split the handling of the team's operations between her and her brother," Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss. Jeanie runs the "business side, Jim runs the basketball side, yet Jeanie is a far more established presence because of her enduring connection with the community and deep understanding of what Lakers fans want." Although Jeanie has "never made a basketball decision, she has long been the one to remind the basketball people what sells, and to push her father into sparing no expense in acquiring it." Although Jeanie "insists her father is still running the show, Jerry remains slowed by blood clots." This has "increased Jim's basketball involvement while reducing Jeanie's communication with the basketball folks, and that's not good." Jeanie said, "Yes, I got more connected to the basketball side because of my relationship with Phil, and that may seem like it's changed. I used to be able to help with the line of communication between business and basketball, but … we'll find our way" (L.A. TIMES, 2/17).
Colts officials said that season-ticket renewals are "running ahead of last year's pace" despite the team coming off a 2-14 season and the future of QB Peyton Manning "lingering in doubt," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Colts have sold out through season-ticket sales "for the last decade," and team officials said that season-ticket renewals last year were about 95%. Colts COO Pete Ward said that the team has a "season-ticket waiting list of 9,000." He said, "You never know how things are going to turn out until after the renewal deadline, but right now things are really going well for us in terms of ticket sales this off-season. There’s no doubt that having the No. 1 pick in the draft has generated a lot of excitement." However, the "uncertainty of Manning’s future is just as likely causing angst among some fans and delaying the ticket purchases of some." March 1 is the deadline for Colts season-ticket holders to "pay for next season’s tickets." March 8 is the deadline for the Colts to either pay Manning a $28M option bonus, "renegotiate his contract or cut him loose as a free agent." Some fans have "complained publicly that the Colts are waiting to announce what they’ll do regarding Manning until after the ticket renewal deadline" (IBJ.com, 2/16). Colts Owner Jim Irsay said the March 1 deadline "has absolutely nothing to do" with the deadline for the option bonus (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/17).
The Bobcats said that attendance at Time Warner Cable Arena this season “is up 12 percent” over last year and that ticket revenue is “up 13 percent,” according to Ely Portillo of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Bobcats, who had a 3-26 record through Thursday, have been "averaging attendance of 17,082 so far this season." The team last year "averaged 15,846 fans a game, for the whole season." Business is “also up at the team store, which now sells team owner Michael Jordan's Nike-brand gear, along with the Bobcats' Adidas items.” Merchandise sales have “risen 31 percent, in line with the league-wide average.” The team said that some of the Bobcats' sales bump “is due to pent-up demand ... because fans had to wait until Christmas for the shortened NBA season to start following a labor dispute.” The Bobcats also had a “strong early-season schedule, hosting crowd-pleasers like the” Heat and Knicks. The delayed season “may have spurred demand, but it also hurt sponsorships,” as the team will be "flat this year in sponsorship dollars, after two seasons of double-digit growth." Bobcats Exec VP & Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Pete Guelli said it was a "minor victory," considering the lockout. He added that the team “has signed two seven-figure sponsorship deals that it will announce soon.” Bobcats President & COO Fred Whitfield said that the team “hopes to break even or be profitable under the new arrangement.” Portillo notes although they are "optimistic, team executives acknowledge that the Bobcats have to play better if the franchise is to succeed." Bobcats execs added that the team will "likely not be able to keep up the brisk pace of ticket sales as the season progresses" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/17).
RESPONSIBILITY FALLS ON JORDAN: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said there is not a "bigger fan of Michael Jordan" than he is, but the team is doing poorly because the Bobcats owner "has not been spending money” on players. Jordan’s career has "been awful" as an executive, particularly as an owner, and “when you’re this bad, you don’t need to be owning a team because clearly he doesn’t have the capital that the other owners have.” The Bobcats fan base is “starving for somebody to support” it and “this is pretty damn pathetic how awful they look.” The team is “a walking embarrassment right now,” and “obviously, it’s on Michael Jordan’s watch because he’s the owner.” Smith: “He’s got to sell his franchise, not just to the fan base, but to players out there. Not just spending some money, but you got to go out there and you have got to be in guy’s faces. You are Michael Jordan. To have your name associated with this level of ineptitude, it’s just bad” (“The Drive,” WFNZ-AM, 2/16). ESPN’s Michael Smith said if Jordan is not responsible for the team's dismal record this season, "then who?" Smith: "He’s the guy making the decisions. It’s fascinating how one of the greatest competitors and greatest winners in team sports we’ve ever seen is associated with such futility. ... Everything about him has been about saving money or keeping money out of the players’ pockets. That’s his legacy as an owner in Charlotte.” When asked if this will hurt his legacy, Smith said, “No, because people still are lining up to buy Jordans” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 2/16).
In Sacramento, Lillis & Bizjak in a front-page piece note Anaheim is "back in the race" to take in the NBA Kings. And a new "contender, Seattle -- jilted once by the NBA -- made headlines Thursday by announcing a new proposal to finance an arena and lure a team." But Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is "confident his city will prevail." Johnson said, "I can't blame Seattle. If we were without a team, I would be doing the same thing. But we have laser focus, we control our own destiny and we're closer than we've ever been." Political consultant Doug Elmets said that progress in Seattle and Anaheim "could actually work in Johnson's favor." He said, "In a twisted way, (arena supporters) should use this to their advantage in the hopes that it will help the City Council and others within the community realize that other communities are eager to lure the Kings" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17).
BUILDING EARLY BUZZ: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted although the Knicks will not visit the Bucks until March 9, Bucks VP/Business Operations John Steinmiller said that there has been a "boomlet in ticket sales for the game over the past couple of days" in part due to the emergence of Knicks G Jeremy Lin. Steinmiller said that a "couple of hundred tickets were sold." He added that it was "a little unusual for a ticket spike like that for a game a few weeks away" (JSONLINE.com, 2/16).
BEHIND ENEMY LINES: In Toronto, Steve Buffery wrote under the header, "Quit Cheering The Enemy." Buffery: "If I’m Jose Calderon and the Toronto Raptors, I’m not at all happy with the excessive cheering for Jeremy Lin at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night." It is a "shame that Toronto fans, while loyal and enthusiastic, are so fluffy." Buffery wrote, "Do you think those Lin supporters would get away with their sis-boom-bah act in places like Philadelphia? No one wants violence at a basketball game, but, frankly, there has to be some sort of intimidation factor in your home barn" (TORONTO SUN, 2/15). Tuesday was Asian Heritage Night, and Lin said, “Half the crowd would go crazy when we scored, the other half would go crazy when they scored” ("Boomer & Carton," WFAN-AM, 2/16).
TWITTER ME THIS: In S.F., Rusty Simmons notes about 500 fans got to hear Warriors G Stephen Curry's "direct responses" to questions after Wednesday's game against the Trail Blazers as part of the team's "Tweetup Night." Participating fans received an "exclusive Q&A session, a Twitter-inspired T-shirt and designated tickets to the game." The event was the Warriors' "latest promotion using Twitter to engage fans and reward followers with exclusive opportunities" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/17).
In Phoenix, Dan Bickley notes there is a "growing hope that the Coyotes could land a new owner by the end of next week." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently said that there is "a third party involved," joining former Sharks President & CEO Greg Jamison's group and Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf. A source said that this third party "is not only very real, but extremely wealthy and spending serious money on due diligence." Bickley notes, "This much is certain: The NHL will not allow the city of Glendale to rent the team for another year and another $25 million." That means the "endgame is coming" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/17).
HEART OF TEXAS: ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky noted Texans President Jamey Rootes is "looking at growing the team's loyal following." As a result of this season's "playoff breakthrough," the team sold "more than $1 million worth of merchandise in just December, and Rootes said the Texans are up 200 percent, year over year." Texans DE Antonio Smith said, "There are still people in their hearts who are Houston Oilers fans, they’re torn in between the Titans and us. We won a lot over. We have to continue to do so, and have the city 100 percent behind us." Rootes said, "Now these new people are exposed to us, which is good. We weren’t on their radar before" (ESPN.com, 2/16).
ME & MY SHADOW: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes the MLB Cardinals' schedule was released Thursday and the "most notable item is that they have only two home games set for late-afternoon starts." Games in that block "drew heavy criticism last year from players because of health concerns created by shadows on the field at that time of day." Last year, 11 games were scheduled to start between 3:00pm and 5:30pm CT, but the "only games in that span this time are on Saturdays." Cardinals Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Dan Farrell said, "We certainly listened to the players' concerns. But if it's a choice for us between a 1 o'clock or 3 o'clock game on Saturday, we're going to pick 1 o'clock because it's more of a natural time" (STLTODAY.com, 2/17).
SOMETHING'S BREWING: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted the Brewers "have decided to continue a modest form of demand-based pricing for a select number of games this coming season." A total of "nine games are involved and will only include seats in the Loge Outfield and Loge Bleacher seating areas." Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said, "We tested this program in 2011 with three games, and we were pleased with the results and feedback we received from fans who participated" (JSONLINE.com, 2/16).