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Volume 24 No. 113


NBA Commissioner David Stern’s final All-Star Weekend news conference Saturday in Houston "delivered no new answers" on the proposed move of the Kings to Seattle and Sacramento’s bid to keep the franchise, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Stern offered "few updates other than that NBA owners will address the proposed sale." Stern said that he did "not believe the decision would come down to economics." He said it was “plausible” the Kings could stay in Sacramento, “but I don’t have a vote. But I expect that the owners have a very open mind" (, 2/16). Stern said that he did "not envision a way Seattle and Sacramento could each emerge satisfied from their current tussle over the Kings." In Seattle, Bob Condotta noted while Stern "spoke in more detail on the topic than he has since the sale of the Kings was announced last month ... he gave few other concrete answers." Stern called the ownership group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "very strong." He also called the proposed arena in the Seattle Sodo neighborhood "quite strong," and when asked if there is anything more Seattle can do to ensure it is in the best position to have a team, answered "not that I'm aware of." After Stern spoke, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson "held an impromptu news conference in the same room." He said that he had "met with a few owners here to state his city's case." He offered "no new details on Sacramento's plan." Johnson also said that he "made the point that Sacramento's arena plan does not 'have lawsuits coming' and other challenges, such as an environmental impact review, and that Sacramento 'controls' the land on both of the possible sites of its proposed arena." Johnson: "Those are very, very critical components to be able to have a competitive advantage and we have that" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/17).

PLAYING IT STRAIGHT: In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis wrote Stern "played it right down the middle" in his news conference. He said that he has "no idea" how the owners will rule. Stern: "I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide." Johnson said one owner told him over the weekend, "I didn't realize you guys were that far ahead." Johnson said that he has "spent much of his time talking up Sacramento as an NBA city, reminding owners of the 19 seasons of sellouts." The team's attendance this year "ranks at the bottom of the league as the team has struggled on the court and fans have become increasingly turned off" by team Owner the Maloof family's efforts to sell the team. Johnson: "I'm reminding them of how great the Sacramento market has been." He added that he "thinks many owners are predisposed to keep the team in Sacramento because they don't want to see franchises relocate" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17). The SACRAMENTO BEE's Dale Kasler reported Johnson "spent hours in a series of closed-door meetings with key NBA officials." A source said the talks were "positive and productive" but would not identify the league officials who met with Johnson. The source said that the officials "seemed to appreciate that Sacramento has 'an approved arena plan.''' A source said that most NBA owners "aren't yet engaged on the Kings issue" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17).

WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND: USA TODAY's Sam Amick noted Johnson did not think anything Stern said during the weekend "dimmed the continued confidence he has in his efforts" to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Johnson, on his confidence: "No, [it's] just increased. ... Everybody we talk to, they're rooting for us -- whether they're in the league or not. I feel like we can control our own destiny" (, 2/17). Stern on Saturday said that he "has not and will not meet" with Johnson over the weekend (, 2/16). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote Stern "in no uncertain terms ... acknowledged that Sacramento is facing a formidable bid" of about $340M from the Hansen-Balmer group. But this "ordeal is all about new owners and a new building." Stern made that "very, very clear." He will "roll up his sleeves one more time, will get down and dirty if need be" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17).

SPLIT DECISION? In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote it is "apparent that Stern is split" on the Kings situation. Those close to him "believe he wants to leave his post next February with a solution for Seattle." But Stern also wants to "reward Sacramento for rescuing the Kings from Kansas City 27 years ago and approving the arena deal in a difficult economy." The fact Stern "appears split won’t help the competition between the cities." This is "by far Seattle’s best chance to regain a team, since expansion seems out of the question for now." Stern "won’t even broach that topic, leaving it up to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, his successor" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17).

Lions President Tom Lewand on Friday said that the team “will not raise ticket prices for 2013, after last year’s disappointing 4-12 season,” according to Dave Birkett of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Lewand said that invoices “already have gone out to season-ticket holders.” The Lions “raised ticket prices last year for the first time since after the 2007 season” (, 2/15). In Detroit, Chris McCosky noted Lewand was “not willing to get into specifics of the team's salary cap strategy or free agent priorities and targets, but rest assured, there is a plan in place.” The Lions currently have “between $3 million and $6 million in cap space.” Lions GM Martin Mayhew said that the team has “begun working on a contract extension with quarterback Matthew Stafford, which could save the team at least another $10 million.” Lewand indicated that the Lions “could be active shoppers in free agency,” which begins March 9 (DETROIT NEWS, 2/15). Meanwhile, Lewand on Friday said that he would “support a community effort to bring the Super Bowl back to Detroit for a third time if the region ever made an attempt.” He also was asked if Ford Field is “interested in hosting the NCAA football playoffs.” Lewand: “There’s a lot going on in the NCAA right now and we’ve had a lot of different conversations with different people around the college football landscape. But there are so many moving pieces right now that it’s hard to pinpoint anything, and just as I’m not inclined to get into the prediction business on where a contract negotiation may take us, I’m certainly not inclined to get into the prediction business on where the NCAA bowl landscape is going to go” (, 2/15).

The Maple Leafs “played their first Super Jackpot on Saturday night with $20,000 at stake,” according to the TORONTO STAR. The Super Jackpot is “in place for every home game against a Canadian team.” The terms of the licence state that the jackpot will be “limited to $15,000 for home games against American teams.” Money raised from the team’s “50-50 draws pale in comparison to that in other NHL jurisdictions where such draws are allowed.” The Maple Leafs “typically give away $10,000 -- on Saturday it was $12,000 -- as compared to more than $50,000” by the Oilers. The reasons include “provincial regulations, the feeling among some fans that they pay enough to attend a Leafs game without also indulging in gambling and the fact the charitably inclined might rather get [a] full tax receipt” (TORONTO STAR, 2/17).

SUBDUED CELEBRATION: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk wrote honoring the 10 members of the Maple Leafs’ ’63 Stanley Cup champions during the Senators-Maple Leafs game on Saturday was “a decent idea in theory.” But it “would have been far better if the gaping empty rows of platinum and gold seats that greeted the greats were actually filled with respectful throngs,” and it would have been “nice if those throngs offered a rousing and lasting ovation.” The significance of Saturday’s ceremony, whether “because of bad messaging or short notice, seemed mostly lost on those who made the snowy trip.” The pregame crowd was "sparse,” and the ovation was “friendly, but it was far from frenetic” (TORONTO STAR, 2/17).

Astros Owner Jim Crane on Saturday spent just four hours at the team's Spring Training camp, but “acknowledged his fingerprints are now on the Astros," according to Brian Smith of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Crane “stole the show” when he “swooped in on a helicopter” as the team participated in its first official full-team workout. The Astros finished the '12 season with a 55-107 record, the worst in MLB. But Crane said, “We’re expecting to turn this into a winner and starting today.” Crane “wouldn’t place a timetable on the Astros’ rise.” He also “backed up a statement made … last week that the Astros lost money the last five years.” Crane: “The numbers are the numbers. As things progress with our TV contract, we’ll have more money to spend on players. So that’s the issue.” He added, “We’re not trying to run away with a sack of cash. We’re just going to run the team efficiently, spend money wisely and run a smart business like most of the good teams do.” Crane “referred to St. Louis, Atlanta and Oakland as MLB clubs that run efficient business models and ‘don’t spend money they don’t have.’” Smith noted the Astros are “projected to have an opening-day payroll worth $25 million.” Crane said, “We’re going to spend money we have, but we’re not going to spend more money than we have.” Smith added Crane was “expected to host President Barack Obama during an outing Sunday at the Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, Fla.” (, 2/16).

TEAM ON THE RIGHT PATH: SI's Joe Sheehan reports no player on the Astros' roster "earns more than $3 million, and the roster has a guaranteed payroll of just $14.6 million," $5M of which goes to P Wandy Rodriguez, who was traded to the Pirates last year. The team's Opening Day payroll will be "lower than any team's since the 2008 Marlins," and given the "dearth of long-term solutions on the roster ... the '14 and '15 payrolls will fall in that same range." However, "things are changing." Crane "has charged GM Jeff Luhnow with restocking the farm system, and he's allowed Luhnow to do so without making the kind of cosmetic moves ... that might appease local media, casual fans and the players' association." Sheehan notes research shows a team going from 55 to 60 wins "means little to the bottom line in the short term or long term." Sheehan: "It's just not worth paying bigger salaries to players who can only get you from terrible to slightly less terrible. Fans don't respond by buying tickets, media revenues don't improve and the chances of reaching the postseason remain remote" (SI, 2/18 issue).

Serie A club AS Roma President Jim Pallotta "enjoyed a warm reception from Italians" after he bought the club in '11, but  the "honeymoon was short-lived," according to Beth Healy of the BOSTON GLOBE. After a recent string of losses, disgruntled fans are "in revolt." Pallotta "promised to make AS Roma a contender in the elite Champions League, and the fans loved it." But after the recent run of defeats, they lately have been "chanting and waving signs that say, 'Yankee go home!' and 'Free AS Roma.'" In addition to Pallotta, the other investors are Red Sox investor Thomas DiBenedetto, North Bridge Ventures Partner Richard D'Amore and real estate investor Michael Ruane. DiBenedetto was president of Roma until last summer, when the group "raised a new round of money and Pallotta, the largest investor, raised his hand to take over." The owners "aim to build Roma into a global brand, along the lines" of EPL club Manchester United. They are "applying American sports business strategy, signing new players, and expanding media and marketing efforts in deals with Disney, Volkswagen, and others." Pallotta said, "At the end of the day, you’re branding Rome, right? And how many cities in the world are as aspirational as Rome?" Pallotta wants to turn the team, valued at $354M, "into a $1 billion franchise." Central to the plan is "building a new 60,000-seat arena by 2016 to replace the old Stadio Olimpico." Pallotta also "envisions" a HOF museum for Roma. DiBenedetto said that he has "confidence Pallotta is making the right moves." DiBenedetto added, "Hopefully Rome will have the patience to allow the football people to make that happen" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17).