Magic C Dwight Howard said that he “will not re-sign with a team outside his preferred list that trades for him, and emphatically denied that he ever used the term ‘blackmail’ to describe how Magic officials convinced him to waive his early termination option,” according to Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Howard said, "There’s only one team on my list and if I don’t get traded there, I'll play the season out and explore my free agency after that." Howard would not specify the team, but multiple league sources “believe that it is the Brooklyn Nets.” Howard also denied an ESPN report that he had "told people Orlando Magic officials had ‘blackmailed’ him into forgoing the early termination option on his contract that ultimately cost him his free agency this summer.” Howard: "I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic. I never said that. It’s defamatory and it’s inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/2). In the original report, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported Howard “picked up the option for the final year of his contract with Orlando on March 15," but since then has “grown increasingly disgruntled with the organization, even telling people close to him that he feels the Magic ‘blackmailed’ him into signing the ‘opt-in’ clause.” Sources said that Howard “used the word ‘blackmailed’ incorrectly and simply feels the Magic made promises that have not been kept to get him to sign.” Sources said that Howard “shared his feelings of being blackmailed by the Magic with the NBA Players Association last week.” Either Howard or his reps “approached the union wondering if he might have a legal complaint against the club.” Sources said that the NBPA is “considering whether or not to pursue legal action against the Magic” (ESPN.com, 6/30).
DWIGHT DRAMA: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes if Howard is “actually making the reckless claim of ‘blackmail’ after preaching ‘loyalty’ then that would make him the most disingenuous superstar in all of sports” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/2). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger wrote the Howard trade talk has “reached new levels of absurdity that defy even the most dumbed-down standards for sports hypocrisy and lewdness” (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/1). SPORTING NEWS’ David Whitley wrote, “Just when you thought he couldn’t damage his reputation any more, Howard is claiming the Orlando Magic ‘blackmailed’ him into staying with the team.” Howard has “turned into such a prima donna Cher should be suing him for stealing her act” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/1). ESPN's Jemele Hill said, "He’s got a lot of growing up to do and that’s what we’ve seen play out in this process. The reason he probably doesn’t want to stick around in Orlando is because he’s now realizing the gravity of what he caused" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 7/1).
The Nashville Sports Authority Friday "unanimously approved" the terms of a new Bridgestone Arena lease deal struck between the Predators and Mayor Karl Dean, according to Nate Rau of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Dean's administration "trimmed the guaranteed dollars going to the team in favor of an incentive-laden deal that encourages the Predators to book as many concerts, basketball games and circuses at the arena as possible." The deal also includes "higher ticket surcharges for consumers at Bridgestone Arena to help pay for improvements, such as new seats." Under the previous arena deal, the city "paid $7.8 million this fiscal year." Under the new deal, the city's obligation "shrinks to $6.1 million, with an extra $2.3 million in state sales tax dollars from non-hockey events coming to the city to be directed to the Predators." In addition to the subsidies and incentives, the Sports Authority "approved a new seat user charge, which will add a fee of 5 percent of the ticket cost up to $2 onto every ticket." The charge will "generate an estimated $1.5 million annually, which will be used for upgrades such as new seats and a renovated south entrance to the building." There is already a $1.75 "ticket surcharge for hockey games and a $2 surcharge for other events." That means the ticket charge "will rise to $3.75 for hockey games and $4 for all other events." The Predators are able to "sever the agreement if they can demonstrate an aggregate net loss of $10 million over three consecutive years" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 6/30).
The Penguins "cannot insure themselves against a concussion-related early retirement" by C Sidney Crosby, according to NHL sources cited by Rob Rossi of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Despite missing all but 63 games the past two seasons because of concussion symptoms, Crosby and the Penguins Thursday "agreed to a 12-year contract worth $104.4 million -- all of it guaranteed." Insurance companies offer teams protection "against career-ending injuries, but Crosby’s concussion history is considered a pre-existing condition." Sources said that if Crosby "cannot finish his contract because of a concussion-related injury, he will still be paid in full, but the Penguins would not receive assistance from an insurance policy on the deal." However, Portland, Ore.-based Sports Management World Wide President Lynn Lashbrook said that the deal "will not cripple the franchise like the ailing health of current majority co-owner Mario Lemieux" did in the '90s. Lashbrook said, "It’s so different now for the Penguins. They’ve got a sold-out new arena, a better TV deal, big sponsorship and deeper-pocketed ownership. The Penguins can withstand this even if Crosby can’t play out the majority of this contract." She added that the Crosby contract "could contain wording for him to serve as a club ambassador, similar" to what Baseball HOFer George Brett does for the Royals. The Penguins "never have been in a position to take on a contract like the Crosby deal." But nowadays their season-ticket waiting list "sits at 8,000, and their local TV ratings were tops among NHL and NBA teams last season." NHL rules require that clubs "insure the top six contracts in terms of average annual value." A contract "cannot be insured for more than seven years." However, a contract can "always be insured for seven years, so the remainder of a long-term contract such as the one Crosby signed will always be insured" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/30).