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Volume 24 No. 160


Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov are in "serious discussions to team up on a bid to buy the Sacramento Kings and partner with the city of Sacramento on a plan to help finance a new downtown sports arena," according to a front-page piece by Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. A source said that Burkle and Mastrov are "both committed to keeping the team in Sacramento and building the Kings into a contender." The source added that the teaming of Burkle and Mastrov is "seen by city officials as a 'dream team' counteroffer to the group that this week reached a deal with the Maloof family to buy the Kings and move the franchise to Seattle." The news that Burkle was "back in the hunt for the Kings" capped an earlier announcement by city Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday that "20 prominent Sacramentans had agreed to invest $1 million apiece for a minority stake in the team." Johnson in a press conference said that "ultrawealthy people with ties to California had expressed interest in buying the Kings, and that he hoped to unveil at least one as early as this week." The purchase offer would be "combined with a concrete plan to finance a new downtown sports arena when Johnson makes his pitch to reject the Seattle deal directly to the NBA's board of governors." Sources said that the Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has "agreed to buy the 65 percent of the Kings owned by the Maloofs and their Oklahoma business partner, Bob Hernreich." The agreement "values the Kings franchise at $525 million, meaning the Seattle group is willing to pay $341 million for the Maloof and Hernreich shares." Johnson's "wealthy investors would be expected to cover the majority of the $341 million offered by the Hansen group." Johnson said that he was "confident that his message would resonate with the NBA" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23). In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis listed the 20 local investors who have agreed to contribute $1M each to keep the Kings in Sacramento (, 1/22).

SACRAMENTO'S SHOT: In Seattle, Bob Condotta reports the proposed Sacramento ownership group of Burkle and Mastrov also would "help finalize an arena deal as part of Johnson's four-point 'Playing to Win' plan to keep the team in Sacramento." Johnson said that he is "basing the plan on a similar approach used by San Francisco in 1992 to prevent the [MLB] Giants from moving to Tampa Bay" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/23). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states the attempt to keep the team in Sacramento "might seem like a half court heave at the buzzer," but those shots "sometimes go in, right?" That is why Sacramento "needs to fight hard to keep the Kings" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes, "It's long shots and Hail Marys now. ... But until you see those moving vans drive up? It's not over" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23). Also in Sacramento, Jason Jones notes tonight's game against the Suns is the "first at Sleep Train Arena since the Maloofs, Hansen and the NBA confirmed the agreement." When reports of the negotiations surfaced this month, signs that were "pro-Sacramento and anti-Seattle and anti-Maloof could be seen sprinkled throughout the arena." With an agreement in place, there "figures to be a bigger statement made by fans tonight." Kings G Tyreke Evans said, "We go out and people ask us are we staying, are we leaving, but we're just like them. We have no clue. We just go out there and play. Nobody wants to see the Kings leave, so it's a tough situation for the fans" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/23).

SEATTLE'S SITUATION: In Seattle, Lynn Thompson writes the latest designs for the proposed arena in the city's Sodo neighborhood "show shimmering walls of water along the west facade and on the stepped plaza to the main entryway." Hansen's architectural team yesterday "outlined ideas to make the facility environmentally sustainable, from capturing and reusing rainwater to solar heating and generating energy for the surrounding neighborhood." Meanwhile, the Mariners yesterday "again questioned whether South Massachusetts Street, at the north end of the arena site, and Occidental Avenue South, which approaches the site from the north, could realistically be closed during arena events." Hansen's design team has said that it would "like to close those streets on game days to create a pedestrian concourse." Mariners attorney Melody McCutcheon said that Hansen's reps had "preliminary conversations with Mariners management to address the street-use issues as well as whether the Mariners parking garage could be shared with the new arena" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/23).

Baseball HOFer Sandy Koufax will “officially join” the Dodgers this season “as a special advisor” to team Chair Mark Walter, according to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. TIMES. Koufax is “scheduled to attend a portion of spring training to work with pitchers and consult with the team throughout the year.” Guggenheim Partners, the Dodgers’ new owners, have “made some nice moves, some intriguing moves and some absolutely blockbuster moves since they took over last May,” including the reported deal with Time Warner Cable for the team's TV rights. However, they “upped their game" with a "completely brilliant move” yesterday. There is being “fan-friendly, and then there is this.” Koufax “separated himself” from the Dodgers while the team was owned by News Corp. He has “made spring training appearances in recent years, but this is the first time he’s been welcomed back in an official capacity” (, 1/22). Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten, who broke the news on Fox Sports Radio's "Jay Mohr Sports," said Koufax “has been very supportive of our efforts,” and he “appreciates all the things we’re doing to help bring the Dodgers back to where they once were.” Host Jay Mohr said, "It’s not like he just shows up and shakes hands and it’s good for the business. He is actually going to be a Dodger employee.” Kasten said, “That’s right. I think we’re going to let the relationship evolve. There are a lot of things Sandy can do and we’re going to make it comfortable for him” (“Jay Mohr Sports,” Fox Sports Radio, 1/22).

GOOD MOVE FOR TEAM: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes under the header, "With Huge TV Deal, Koufax Return, Dodgers Come Up Aces." He had a "similar role, albeit unofficial," with the Mets and team Owner Fred Wilpon, a "close friend" of Koufax. D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall, also a friend of Koufax, said, "Sandy is excited, and this is what people want" (USA TODAY, 1/23).'s Craig Calcaterra wrote it is a "nice move for the Dodgers, both substantively and for p.r. purposes" (, 1/22).

The Marlins for years had "identified 2015" for bringing the MLB All-Star Game to South Florida, but it “appears they'll have to wait until 2017 at the earliest,” according to Juan Rodriguez of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. While the next opportunity for the Marlins to host the event will be '17, that is “not a given” as several NL clubs with “new facilities built before Marlins Park like the Nationals, Phillies and Padres are itching to host.” Marlins President David Samson yesterday in a statement said of the Reds hosting the '15 All-Star Game, “We recognize that Cincinnati's ballpark opened many years before Marlins Park. We remain confident and hopeful that Miami will host a future All-Star game.” Rodriguez asked, “Were the Marlins snubbed this time around for punitive reasons?” The Marlins “slashing payroll again probably didn't help their cause, and neither do all those vacant store fronts along the Marlins Park south garage" (, 1/22). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi wrote the Marlins were “supposed to get the 2000 game” but MLB instead gave the honor to Atlanta, “in part because of questions about the Marlins following the dismantling of the 1997 team.” The Marlins “upended their roster again this winter, angering their fan base -- and apparently the league” (, 1/22). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is “so darned upset at the Marlins, he again pulled a discussed All-Star Game away from South Florida.” This is Selig's "way of showing just how steamed he is at Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria for the team’s most recent fire sale" (, 1/22). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes, “Baseball isn’t behind the Marlins any more. If the fans won’t boycott this flimsy organization, Selig will” (PALM BEACH POST, 1/23).

: In DC, James Wagner noted ’17 also is the “soonest potential year” for the Nationals to host the All-Star Game. It is “unclear why Cincinnati beat out other competing teams for the ’15 game, but the slow-moving development surrounding Nationals Park could have been a factor.” The competition for the ’17 game includes Petco Park and Citizens Bank Park, "also fairly new stadiums that have yet to host the event.” Also in the mix is Wrigley Field, which “turns 100 next year and team executives are hoping to renovate the stadium" (, 1/22).

In light of the Suns replacing coach Alvin Gentry with interim coach Lindsey Hunter, and a reported altercation between team GM Lance Blanks and C Jermaine O’Neal on Monday, the franchise has “become a national joke,” according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Suns “aren’t talented enough to win games” and they are one of the few organizations that can "make the naming of an interim coach a public relations nightmare.” Boivin asks, “What did owner Robert Sarver expect?” Sarver hired Blanks and President Lon Babby, who “never had held those positions before,” as Babby was an agent and Blanks an Assistant GM. That inexperience combined with an owner who "had been a wildly successful businessman but never in the sports arena and you have a concoction that is a recipe for failure” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/23). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley wrote under the header, “Lindsey Hunter Hire Another Public Relations Disaster For Bumbling Phoenix Suns.” When Dan Majerle “refused to serve as an assistant coach under recently-promoted Lindsey Hunter, red flags returned to Planet Orange.” Majerle's exit "says many alarming things about the direction of this organization.” The perception of the Suns is "near an all-time low” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/22). The AP’s Bob Baum wrote the Suns are “getting hammered on local radio talk shows, in part because of the extreme popularity of Gentry, in part because of the hiring of the inexperienced and only recently arrived Hunter, and in part because fans compare the troubled franchise to the one that [former Suns GM] Jerry Colangelo operated for so many years, usually as a winner” (AP, 1/22).

FIGHT CLUB?’s Ken Berger cited sources as saying that Blanks and O'Neal were “involved in a heated, expletive-filled argument after interim coach Lindsey Hunter's first practice Monday.” A source said it was a "clearing of the air." But Berger wrote there are "many issues remaining for the Suns to clear up before Hunter makes his coaching debut" tonight against the Kings (, 1/22).

Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis estimated that about 70 season-ticket accounts were "canceled during the lockout, or roughly 150 seats." He said that he "wasn't worried about the effect the lockout would have on the Caps." Leonsis: "People understood. People knew we were going to come back. And they're back. We're sold out. They're happy. They're happy to be here amongst their friends" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/23).

FANBOYS: New Jersey-based 16W Marketing Partner and Devils season-ticket holder Frank Vuono said of fans' response to the NHL's return, "Maybe there are a few fans still ticked off about the lockout. But for people like me -- and there are 12,500 diehards like me -- it doesn't matter. That's across the board in this sport. This sport is just different. Its fans might get ticked, but they won't quit, unless you do something drastic like charge them for PSLs. The core audience is always strong" (, 1/23).

ALL APOLOGIES: Penguins President & CEO David Morehouse said of the team issuing an apology after the lockout, "It was important because it wasn't contrived. We said we're sorry because we were sorry." In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi notes "roughly 18,000-20,000" fans attended last week's team scrimmage at Consol Energy Center. Morehouse said, "I was surprised with how young everybody was. It shouldn't be surprising because, when we look at our research, that is a group we target and the young fans often can't get tickets because of the (six-year) sellout streak" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/23).

THE NEW DEAL: In Ottawa, Vito Pilieci notes the Senators' new agreement with StubHub marks the team's "third try at a marketplace system to allow people to move tickets they know they can't use." The Senators, who "own, created their own system before moving to an offering from ticketing giant Ticketmaster." The agreement with Ticketmaster, which "lasted three years, has now ended, allowing for the Senators to sign a 'long-term agreement' with StubHub." Senators President Cyril Leeder "would not say how long the deal will last" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/23).

KIND OF BLUE: Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said of the team's necessary attendance mark in order to break even, "Our goal is to reach paid attendance that is at the league average -- somewhere between 15,500 and 16,000. ... A market of this size has proven it can do that, but the quality of the (hockey) product is going to push that. That’s the end game." Priest, when asked how the club can get fans back after the lockout and a losing record in '11-12, said, "It's the product on the ice. You have to deliver an exciting entertainment experience that's world class. When you do that, people will find their way back" (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST, 1/18 issue).

In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington writes of the DWI arrest yesterday of Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff, “The exasperating fact that another Cowboy didn’t learn a lesson from [Cowboys DT Josh] Brent’s fateful decision to drink and drive just six weeks ago not only makes Ratliff seem dangerously indifferent, it exposes the Cowboys to further scrutiny as an organization at times simply out of control.” But the death of Cowboys LB Jerry Brown and arrests of Brent and Ratliff “won’t change anything at Valley Ranch, if that’s what you were wondering.” The “culture” Owner Jerry Jones has “created at Valley Ranch is one of the problems [Jason] Garrett has battled since he became head coach.” It is “not just whether players will work hard or do their jobs.” It is “being accountable, which should extend outside the borders of a football field” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/23).

TIGHT SHIP: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the Clippers are the “anti-Lakers,” and “for once, that is a very good thing.” Plaschke: “Could it actually be that Clippers ownership has been more smart and sound than Lakers ownership this season? Actually, yes. And it hasn't been close. Right now, would you want your favorite NBA team run by [Clippers Owner] Donald Sterling or [Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel] Jimmy Buss? The fact that it's even a legitimate question is an answer” (L.A. TIMES, 1/23).

AERO PAIN: In Houston, Galindo & Barron reported the future of the AHL Houston Aeros and the league in the city “are now in question.” The team’s lease at Toyota Center “expires at the end of this season, and if the team can’t work out a deal with their landlord the Rockets, then pro hockey in Houston could be at a crossroads after 19 years in the IHL and AHL.” Rockets CEO Tad Brown said of the Aeros, “We’re still in discussions -- the preliminary stage. Nothing to report.” Options for other venues in Houston are “limited.” Reliant Arena had been “discussed briefly but doesn’t appear to be an option” (, 1/18).