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Volume 24 No. 156


The Rockets officially introduced G Jeremy Lin Thursday and during the hour-long press conference, team brass "labored to portray the signing of Lin as strictly a basketball decision, as if acknowledging any influence of the business reasons behind the courtship opened some portal to their nefarious intentions," according to MK Bower of Rockets Owner Les Alexander said the club has "sold a lot more tickets than we anticipated selling at this time of the season." But he also "dismissed valuing a marketing bonanza lacking on-court success by pondering: 'If you don't win, what difference does it make?'" Bower wrote at this stage, with Lin's "popularity as integral to his remarkable story as his perimeter jump shot, the Rockets are prepared to take full advantage of everything Lin brings to the table on and off the court." Since Monday, as rumors that Lin "would rejoin the Rockets strengthened, the Rockets have sold as many seats as they did during their 22-game winning streak from Jan. 29 through March 16, 2008." Beyond those figures, the Rockets "opted not to delve too deeply into the feasible financial effect of Lin serving as the face of their franchise." The correlation between Lin and former Rockets C Yao Ming appears "obvious and unavoidable." In much the "same way the Rockets fielded questions relating to their dual interests in drafting Yao first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft, they have been forced to revisit their history regarding their motives with Lin." The potential exists for Lin "to provide a measure of similar results, particularly if the Rockets can capitalize on his presence by further bolstering their roster and tasting success" (, 7/19). Rockets GM Daryl Morey said the financial benefit “is quite limited” for the Rockets with the signing of Lin. Morey: “We don’t get any of the merchandise, except in arena and things like that. It’s a lot less than people expect” ("TrueHoop TV,", 7/19).

ATTRACTION NEEDED:'s Fran Blinebury noted after three straight seasons "of being the last team to miss the playoffs and carrying the best record," the club was "in need of an attraction that would make the masses remember that the Rockets were still operating an NBA franchise." Alexander said, "I think the spotlight's important. We're gonna be on national TV now because of Jeremy and I think free agents want to be on teams that are in the national spotlight. So I think from a basketball standpoint we really improve our negotiations with many, many free agents." For now, Lin "will be the face of the franchise" (, 7/19).

PAYING FOR ITSELF:'s Sean Gregory wrote as long as he "doesn’t regress on the court, Lin’s high salary ... could pay for itself, thanks to Houston’s global branding machine." Given the club's "prior inroads into China with Yao, the Rockets could afford to take more of a financial risk with Lin, who has started only 25 games in his NBA career." Lin will "probably put more Houston fans in seats." Last season, the Rockets finished 22nd in the NBA "in home attendance, averaging 15,363 fans per game -- that’s 85.1% of the Toyota Center’s capacity." So there is "room for growth, and Lin can provide a boost" (, 7/19). In N.Y., Kate Murphy notes the Rockets' acquisition of Lin "was savvy if the team wanted to continue its popularity in China." When Yao was "on the roster, Rockets games had a Chinese audience as large as 30 million, according to CCTV5, the Chinese sports channel. And the NBA said it subsequently had amassed more than 41 million combined followers on Sina and Tencent," the Chinese versions of Twitter (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20).

As the Pirates remain in contention for a spot in the playoffs, the organization “gets closer to its goal of setting a franchise record for attendance,” according to Dan Majors of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The “magic number is 2,436,140, one more than the total that turned out in 2001, the year PNC Park opened.” Pirates Exec VP & CMO Lou DePaoli said, “In the 42 home games played through the All-Star break, attendance has been up 12.25 percent over last year. And last year finished up 22 percent over 2010. So you're seeing some pretty significant attendance growth at PNC Park a couple of years in a row.” This season, the Pirates have drawn 1,069,946 fans for an average of 25,475 per game. At that pace, the Pirates “would end up with about 2,038,000 tickets sold.” DePaoli said, “Our goal is to try to beat that 2.4 million. It's still mathematically possible to get there, but we'd need some really strong crowds from here on out.” The “good news of the local team selling more tickets carries with it the bad news of fewer tickets left to buy.” The team has five Saturday games remaining, and “all of them are just about sold out” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/20).

Under the deal that brought MLS to Chester, Pa., the Union "agreed to pay the impoverished city $500,000 a year in lieu of property taxes," but that "hasn't exactly been happening," according to William Bender of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. The team now owes the city $1M "after missing last month's deadline for its 2012 installment." It has "yet to cough up the 2010 cash, though they paid 2011's bill." Chester Mayor John Linder said, "We have not received the payments to date, but we are talking with them about everything." Linder has been "seeking to collect the past-due payments and raise additional revenue from the team and, most likely, its fans." He has "proposed a 20 percent parking tax and 10 percent amusement tax aimed at the Union." Team CEO Nick Sakiewicz has previously said that the proposed taxes "would be 'catastrophic' for the team," costing it $2M annually, or 10% of its gross revenue. Sakiewicz Thursday "disputed Linder's description of the missed payments." He said that the amount owed in '10 "was being renegotiated due to 'costs we incurred on the city's behalf' that year." A source said that construction setbacks that delayed the opening of the $122M stadium in '10 and "unforeseen costs are among the reasons why the team hasn't paid the $500,000 that was due that year." The source added that the two sides "are engaged in 'intensive negotiations' that could lead to an agreement on the new taxes and back payments" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/20).

Wizards and Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis in a Q&A on Wednesday "addressed the issues he has faced and continues to face in running half of Washington's four major-revenue sports teams," according to Mike Wise of the WASHINGTON POST. Below are excerpts from the Q&A:

Leonsis said there are "two big questions" facing the NBA: "Can teams win or is it just the three-star system that works in the NBA?" Leonsis said of the Wizards, "We have a great city, a great fan base, but we’re trying to become a ‘have team.’ And we’re not yet. We’re not a destination."

THE NEXT BIG THING: Leonsis: "We've made big investments on the analytic and the technology side. ... We’re also one of the few teams have installed this super heat-seeking missile cameras. ... We have these HD cameras. [A] Stanford kid does it for us. This thing creates real-time heat maps. Literally you can get down to the pixels on the floor. Where are the shots being taken, where are the shots being made, where are the picks being made.”

ARE WE THERE YET? Leonsis said he is the "first to admit I haven't broken the code yet." He added, "Until you win a championship, you can't have a definitive point of view. …We can't talk honestly, authentically about a championship until you say, 'We've improved. We've made the playoffs. Then, it's 'Oh we're in the playoffs and now how do we improve the team.' It's the third year of the rebuild (with the Wizards)."

STICK WITH WHAT WORKS: Wise noted Leonsis has not "fired a general manager yet." Leonsis replied, "I haven't had to yet. You have to look at the arc of the team. It's not just how the team is performing. It's how the fan base is performing. The Caps have 98 percent renewals. 98 percent. ... We raised prices. We sell out every game. … So the decisions have been empirical" (, 7/19).