The Heat’s front office this offseason “will be busy trying to figure out how to get its payroll to a manageable level because of an onerous luxury tax put in place during the last collective bargaining agreement,” that was “aimed at leveling the playing field,” according to Joseph Goodman of the MIAMI HERALD. How the Heat “navigates its offseason financially could be the difference” in keeping F LeBron James, G Dwyane Wade and F Chris Bosh “together past next season.” James, Wade and Bosh are “under contract for next season,” but if Heat Owner Micky Arison and President Pat Riley “keep everyone on the roster for another go, and sign a free agent to replace Juwan Howard, next year’s tax bill alone" would be around $38M. The Heat also “doesn’t have the luxury of draft picks this summer to help reduce costs.” Arison could “argue all he wants about how the Heat is actually one of the league’s small-market teams, but the ledger shows that his team is painfully over the league’s luxury-tax threshold, which is expected to be at" $71.6M next season. The new salary cap is “projected" at $58.5M for the '13-14 season. The Heat currently have $85.6M for 12 players” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/23). In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick wrote, “No matter what adjustments the Heat make, they are likely to remain well above the luxury tax threshold, and will pay a penalty of $1.50 for every dollar above.” The penalty for next season “will rise to $2.50 for every dollar above.” For all the “media speculation, Heat officials -- on and off the record -- have given no indication that they intend to break up the so-called Big 3” (PALM BEACH POST, 6/23).
T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor for the past several months “has been looking for a buyer for the club who would originally own a portion of the team and then eventually would take over majority ownership,” but after “not finding a suitable partner, Taylor changed his mind and bought the stock holdings of six partners who wanted out,” according to Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Taylor said, “I was looking at bringing somebody else in to do that, and it never worked out. So I just had told the partners that wanted to sell out, that had been with me for about 18 years, that if they wanted to sell out that I would buy their stock.” Hartman noted following the hiring of President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, Taylor “seems more involved than ever and he is probably more excited about this draft than any in recent memory” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/24).
The AFL Orlando Predators' decision to "give discounts for season-ticket renewals" if the team "wins fewer than 10 games has generated buzz," according to Andrew Ward of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. No matter "how many discounts he will have to give out," Predators Managing Partner Brett Bouchy "vows to make the guarantee every year he is with the Preds even though his franchise is the only one using this type of system." Under the guarantee, season-ticket holders "will receive a 10 percent increase in credit toward a future season-ticket purchase for each loss after the Preds' ninth." Bouchy offered a similar season-ticket refund promotion in '08 when he was owner of the Arizona Rattlers. The discount "would be 10 percent if Orlando wins nine of its 18 regular-season games, 20 percent if it wins eight, etc." However, for the season-long guarantee to succeed, Bouchy "needs season-ticket holders to come back." Season tickets to Preds games "range from $80 to $1,520," and "last season, the team had over 7,000 season-ticket holders." UCF professor Mark Soskin said of the guarentee, "The owners will either eat the loss or sell the team, or the franchise will fold or move." Bouchy in response said, "He just doesn't know sports business at all.'' He added that in the long run the guarantee "will benefit the franchise, because more fans will renew their season tickets at the end of the season" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 6/23).
In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher wrote the move by Canucks President & GM Mike Gillis and team ownership to hire John Tortorella as coach is a "calculated gamble which could reap significant rewards or land them out of the playoffs in the newly realigned NHL." Gillis is "gambling his job," and that is "consistent with what he’s all about, to say nothing of the push from the highly charged and recently disgruntled ownership." Gillis "didn’t get into this business to hang onto his job as long as possible so as to make as much money as possible." He took the job to "win a Stanley Cup, not for any other reason." This move is "entirely consistent with trying to give it one last shot to win" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 6/23). But NBC Sports Network’s Anson Carter said of Tortorella, “He’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire. You thought the media here in New York was tough? The media in Canada is a killer” (“NHL Live,” NBC Sports Network, 6/22).
LOW-RISK MOVE: In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan wrote Rangers’ management has "for too long made it too easy to make them a punch line, down to the actual curtain owner James Dolan passed in and out of to deliver a short opening statement of welcome" to new coach Alain Vigneault. But this time around, the Rangers’ "brain trust took the smart turn toward experience and enlightenment." Hockey HOFer Mark Messier "would have won his news conference, but with a team built to win now ... the risk was too high." Vigneault "had the résumé to win this head-to-head matchup" (Bergen RECORD, 6/22).
CITY OF GOODWILL: In Seattle, Geoff Baker writes the NHL has a "Plan B" for the Coyotes which involves "uprooting by September to a Seattle market with foggy ownership, no firm arena deal and questionable hockey demand." Quebec City is the "more plausible threat, given its new arena being built, solid temporary facility, local ownership and rabid fans." But the league would "rather expand there later and charge hundreds of millions in fees." That leaves "little else but Seattle to throw in Glendale’s face." Baker: "Even if no one calls the NHL’s bluff, it’s worth examining why we suddenly became leverage for a second sports league in two months" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/24).
USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale notes the Angels made the playoffs five times in Arte Moreno's first six full seasons as owner, but is “on track to miss the postseason a fourth straight season.” As a result, his reputation has “taken its share of hits,” including being “lambasted for lavishing riches on players who appear to be in decline," including 1B Albert Pujols and LF Josh Hamilton. Moreno was one of MLB’s “most accessible owners when he purchased the club” in ’03, but now he has “become almost a recluse with the local media.” Moreno said, "It's one thing to be criticized, but when people start taking attacking someone personally, really personally, that's a line you cross. And some of these people are just flat-ass cynical” (USA TODAY, 6/24).
OFFENSIVE ATTACK? ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the “big question about the Mets going forward” is whether they are "going to spend the money to augment the team around" Ps Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets only have about $40M in "payroll obligations for guys who are actually active and on their roster, so are they going to grow that" this offseason. Mets GM Sandy Alderson recently mentioned a payroll of around $80-90M next season, but sources said that if ownership "doesn’t expand the payroll to that level, they wonder how much longer Sandy will stay around” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN2, 6/23).
GROUND SWELL: In DC, Thomas Boswell wrote just as the crowds “grow at Nationals Park, boasting the biggest increase of any team in ’13, the air is steadily going out of the club that plays there.” This season the Nats’ average attendance of 33,894 has moved the club “into the sport’s top 10 (ninth) for the first time since the quaint days when baseball only had 16 teams.” In many cities, a rise like the Nationals’ current spike “hints at another jump to an eventual string of near-sellout years.” That is, if the team “plays well or, at least, does everything reasonable to contend and strengthen its bond with fans” (WASHINGTON POST, 6/24).