NBA Commissioner David Stern “wanted to snuff any lingering tension” between Knicks Owner James Dolan and Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov during a meeting he orchestrated to “prevent a full-blown feud” between the two, according to sources cited by Fred Kerber of the N.Y. POST. A source “confirmed Stern assisted in getting the pair together in an attempt to prevent a wave of spitballs going back and forth over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.” The source said, “There was such a meeting and the parties both said it was a very cordial and pleasant one.” A separate source said that Prokhorov “stokes the rivalry fires because he believes the feud ‘is great for both teams’ and insisted it is ‘not at all personal’ against Dolan.” Sources added that Dolan was “furious about the 22-story, 21,375 square-foot billboard and called league officials to complain, a tactic he repeated last year after Prokhorov referred to him as ‘that little man’ in a New York Magazine article” (N.Y. POST, 8/27). SportsNet N.Y.’s Adam Schein said of Dolan's complaint, “Doesn’t this sound like a petulant child crying for mommy and daddy? What an embarrassment.” Host Marc Malusis said it "looks awful” that Dolan is that “bothered.” Schein added Dolan is "clueless" (“Loud Mouths,” SNY, 8/27).
Stewart-Haas Racing co-Owner Gene Haas yesterday "stole the show in nonchalantly revealing how he overruled and angered" co-Owner Tony Stewart in "deciding the team -- already trying to recover from expansion to a third car this season -- would add a fourth car in 2014," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Haas said, "I don't think Tony was exactly enthralled with what I did, but I think he saw it my way. Either that or get out of the building." Haas decided he would hire Kurt Busch with Haas Automation as primary sponsor -- "constituting roughly a blank check" of at least $15-20M -- "without consulting Stewart and deal with the consequences when the oft-irascible three-time champion learned of it." Haas said, "I probably overstepped my authority a tick. I'm not used to having too many authorities to work with. ... I did realize that Tony might be a little bit upset about it. He was. At first he said, 'Oh, wow, we can't really do this because this is going to be too much of a load on the team. We're not prepared for it. We don't have the space.' He actually is an astute businessman. He thought about all these little things. I didn't think about any of that." Ryan notes the "bifurcation" between Haas and Stewart "might qualify as the most bizarre episode of the 2013 season." SHR Competition Dir Greg Zipadelli said, "Tony was very much in favor of the fourth team. What Tony was against was us trying to get it done for next year." Haas said of his relationship with Stewart, "In a sense it's a check-and-balance system where the two powers balance each other out." Ryan writes there will be "many challenges ahead for SHR, though, starting with the expansion of its facilities" (USA TODAY, 8/28).
DIRECT REPORT: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote Busch "gets the benefit of having no sponsor to answer to -- with the sponsor primarily being the team owner." The team "does not have a car number, a crew chief or crew yet." Stewart was "unable to attend" yesterday's news conference "because he is pretty much limited to his home and the doctor’s office" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/27).
FEARSOME FOURSOME: In Orlando, George Diaz writes SHR's drivers "will be the NASCAR Dream Team of 2014." Fox analyst Larry McReynolds said, "If they can make it work, they can be a group that can truly compete with Hendrick [Motorsports] -- if they can make these personalities mesh." Diaz writes the SHR team is "volatile and has star power." Busch yesterday said, "You know, I got a bunch of phone calls, of course, in the last couple weeks. The last one before I came in here today was Kevin Harvick. Ten years ago we weren't in a place in our careers to do this." Haas said, "I take gambles, I made a decision, and I think I'm going to be proven right. I think we're going to win a lot more races than anybody ever thought possible" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/28). ESPN’s Marty Reid asked Busch, “It sounded like Gene Haas is not asking you to do a bunch of personal appearances, that he just wants you to focus on the racecar. Are we reading that right?” Busch said, "Absolutely, it’s all about going for those trophies and performing well on-track and my contract says so as well." ESPN’s Brad Daugherty said of the signing, "I don’t think there’s going to be as much drama as we believe or as we think there will be because of the attitudes and the personalities" (“NASCAR Now, ESPN2, 8/28).
The Falcons "already have set the price for suite and club seats" for next season, according to Leon Stafford of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The team received approval yesterday from the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to "raise the price of new club seats" between 3-5% for the '14 season, while increasing the cost of club-seat renewals by 3%. Falcons Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Jim Smith said that a total of 56 suites -- almost 50% of inventory -- are "up for renewal" for next year. More than 1,950 club seats and super-suite seats "also will be available." Stafford reports prices for suites will rise 3% in '14, with the same increase for "prices for new super suites or super-suite renewals." Smith said that the Falcons "set a record for season-ticket sales this year because they priced early, and the team wants to keep that momentum going" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/28). Meanwhile, the Georgia Lottery yesterday began selling new Falcons-themed scratch-off tickets, marking the "fourth consecutive year the franchise has partnered with them to create a game" (AP, 8/28).
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "stood strong last night in his response" to the grievance filed by the NFLPA on behalf of Aaron Hernandez seeking $82,000 in workout bonus money, according to Karen Guregian of the BOSTON HERALD. Kraft said, "We honor all of our contracts. We expect the people who sign them to honor their part of the contract." Guregian notes the Patriots "terminated Hernandez' contract" shortly after he was arrested June 26 on a murder charge. Since Hernandez "didn't live up to the contract by being arrested, all bets are off" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/28). Kraft said that the Hernandez situation has "caused the Patriots to review the way they conduct business." Kraft: "Every year, in all of our businesses, we re-calibrate what we’re doing to make sure we’re staying fresh and on top of things. Once you stop doing that, you’ll perish. This is a business that is the most competitive business I've ever been involved in. We've reviewed everything. We've been very diligent in the way we look at things. We'll try to do things as best as we can to achieve the results we want" (ESPN.com, 8/27).
In Chicago, Danny Ecker notes the Cubs recently "hired 10 full-time reps for an 18-month gig aimed at greater outreach toward potential customers and building a sales force for its future." Cubs VP/Sales & Partnerships Colin Faulkner said the new additions "bring the team's new-ticket sales head count to 40 employees," up from 24 last year. Ecker reports the Cubs "looked to other MLB teams that have implemented similar programs," like the Red Sox, Padres and Pirates (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 8/28).
FINALLY BUC THE TREND? In Pittsburgh, Rob Biertempfel noted the Pirates, on track to make the postseason for the first time since '92, have "mailed order forms for playoff-game ticket strips to its current full-season, 20-game and 10-game ticket holders." Among the cost options for the 11-game strips are $655 apiece for upper grandstand, $1,328 apiece for lower outfield box and $3,825 for the first row of the Lexus Club (TRIBLIVE.com, 8/26).
IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: THE MMQB's Peter King wrote, "Whoever designed those horrific new Jaguar helmets needs to go on vacation for a couple of weeks." Anyone who "looks at that black and tan thing and says, 'Cool,' is the same kind of person who wouldn't tell the emperor he was naked" (MMQB.SI.com, 8/26).
SKY IS THE LIMIT: In Chicago, David Haugh reports the addition of F Elena Delle Donne has helped the WNBA Sky see a 22% spike "in average attendance to nearly 7,000 fans." The more "visible Delle Donne becomes, the more the WNBA benefits, the impetus behind her decision not to play in Europe next offseason like so many peers." She said, "I want to do it differently, be a WNBA player who stays and keeps attention on the league. It's all part of my job to make it better for young girls who want to go pro someday" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/28).