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Volume 24 No. 155


Banned Clippers Owner Donald Sterling "plans to still sue the NBA," despite announcing last week that he would agree to give up his fight to keep the team and accept the $2B sale arranged by his wife, according to Bresnahan & Rainey of the L.A. TIMES. Sterling in a statement through his attorney said, "The action taken by (NBA Commissioner) Adam Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of the freedoms that are afforded to all Americans. I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights. While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled." Bresnahan & Rainey note while Sterling "may be ready to continue to press his case against the NBA," his wife, Rochelle Sterling, also can "go to court in an attempt to clarify her right to control the team and its sale" (L.A. TIMES, 6/10). ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne noted Sterling's attorneys Max Blecher and Bobby Samini yesterday declined to comment on "whether the NBA's refusal to drop Sterling's lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine is the impetus for his change of heart." NBA Exec VP/Communications Mike Bass said, "There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling's penalty in any way whatsoever. Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication." Silver in a CNN interview taped Sunday and released yesterday said the league will be able to "take a deep breath" when the sale is complete. Silver: "He's unsold his club several times over the years. There's well-noted incidents in the league when he was right there at a closing and at the last minute decided not to sell. And until he signs that document, we still have a pending litigation with him" (, 6/9). 

PLAN B: In N.Y., Scott Cacciola notes in a front-page piece when Rochelle Sterling and Steve Ballmer on May 29 "agreed in principle to the deal," Rochelle and her advisers gathered in a conference room with Donald Sterling "on speakerphone." He told the room that he "refused to sell -- at any price -- and vowed to fight the NBA." He then "hung up." Pierce O'Donnell, Rochelle's lawyer, then reportedly said to the room of lawyers, investment bankers and financial advisers, "Time to go to Plan B." Cacciola notes it was a "reference to a provision in the trust that controlled the Clippers that stipulated that if Mr. or Mrs. Sterling was found to have a cognitive impairment, the other had a fiduciary responsibility to become sole trustee." That "legal maneuver, so closely held that some of Mrs. Sterling’s advisers were unaware it existed, capped a hectic, weekslong effort to wrest control of the team from Mr. Sterling." Sources said that on May 13, the day after Rochelle "watched her husband give a rambling interview" to CNN's Anderson Cooper, she called Donald and "urged him to undergo neurological testing." She reportedly "told friends that she was motivated by concern for her husband." Donald "agreed to an appointment for that Friday, May 16, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center." Sources said that O'Donnell was "well aware of the legal ramifications of the hospital visit" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10).

Thunder G Derek Fisher yesterday "reached a five-year deal" with Knicks President Phil Jackson to "become the next head coach" of the franchise, according to Frank Isola of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The Knicks this morning introduced Fisher at a press conference, marking the "first significant hire of the Jackson administration." Warriors coach Steve Kerr was Jackson’s "first choice," but Kerr had "reservations about working under" Knicks Owner James Dolan. It also "appears as if Dolan was not thrilled with the idea of hiring Kerr." Dolan has a "better history with Fisher," as he and the former NBPA President "sat on opposite sides of the negotiating table during the NBA lockout three years ago and forged a relationship." Despite Fisher’s "inexperience, he fulfills several requirements that Jackson ... has for his head coach." Fisher played under Jackson in L.A. where they "won five titles together." Fisher also "knows the triangle offense and won’t feel threatened by having Jackson mentor him and occasionally be on the court working alongside him" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10). In N.Y., Marc Berman notes one "concern was whether Fisher would want to move" to N.Y. while his "four young kids" live in L.A. Fisher is an Arkansas native, but recently said N.Y. "grew on him." Fisher "spent weeks at a time" in N.Y. during the '11 lockout, and one of his daughters also was "suffering from a rare eye disease six years ago and traveled often to New York to see a top eye specialist" (N.Y. POST, 6/10).

TAKING A GAMBLE? In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes choosing Fisher can "easily be perceived as a gamble by Jackson, but he has always been clear about his preference to hire a young coach whom he could mentor," and Fisher "fits the bill" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote this is Jackson's "chance to prove he can build a team, and build a coach along with it." But as someone who has "never done this before, Fisher still represents a major gamble" (, 6/9). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes hiring Fisher will "get the Knicks a minor victory" during his introductory press conference, as he can "handle himself in front of a bank of microphones." But "nobody can guarantee Knicks fans, not even Jackson, that there will be bigger, more important wins on the Garden’s floor in the future because Derek Fisher is now the coach" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10).

GIVING HIM ROOM TO GROW: ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy said Fisher is "going to fall back a lot onto how Phil Jackson sees the game," and he'll teach it as such." But he added Jackson "will be wise enough to allow him room to develop and grow" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/9). NBA TV's Sam Mitchell said of Jackson, “It’s not that he didn’t want a guy with experience. He wants a guy that knows him, that knows his system, that’s played for him, that he’s comfortable with" ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 6/9). ESPN's Adnan Virk said, "Fisher's signing by the Knicks is at the very least encouraging and by and large will be viewed as a cagey move from Phil Jackson" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/10). But in N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "You have to believe Jackson didn’t hire Derek Fisher because he wanted to hire an independent basketball thinker." From the start, Jackson "has been perfectly frank about that." Fisher will "almost certainly be a wholly moldable clump of coaching clay that Jackson can work with, which means Jackson can dabble in what he knows best without actually having to work practices and games across the grueling NBA season" (N.Y. POST, 6/10). ESPN’s Mike Golic said of Fisher, “He’s like a pawn in this one, is he not? He’s coming in as a head coach, but he’s going to take his direction from Phil Jackson" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 6/10).

: In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes, "This is why Dolan brought Jackson here, at a premium price: to sell the Aura of Phil. Gravitas enables you to stumble and not get crushed for it." The Knicks are "likely to be awful again next season -- with or without Carmelo Anthony -- but Phil Jackson has to sell the notion that he has everything under control" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/10). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "So we have a team president who has never been a team president. ... We have a coach who never coached. And we have front office underbosses like Steve Mills and Allan Houston, whose main qualifications seem to be that Dolan likes having them around" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10).

The Hornets yesterday launched the Charlotte Hornets Teacher Innovation Fund, which will "provide money for teachers to try new classroom strategies," and team Owner Michael Jordan used the occasion to "make his first public comments on the positive community reaction to his choice" to rebrand the team away from the Bobcats, according to Mark Price of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Jordan said of the rebrand, "It lets me know that we did the right thing. I think the name is something the community considered itself owning. Support for the team was unparalleled when they first moved to Charlotte, and I think (the city) felt like they got robbed when the team moved. Now we’re giving them the name back, and we hope they again feel that connection.” He added that the "biggest challenge now is to build a team 'that the city can be proud of, and I think we’re on the verge of doing that.'" Meanwhile, the Hornets began the new teacher's fund "with a $250,000 grant, including dollars provided" by Lowe’s and FS Carolinas/SportSouth. Jordan said that he "intends to use his name and the team’s popularity to attract other corporate donors to further build the fund." Hornets officials also said that the team's intent "is to provide $70,000 a year in grants to local teachers for use in innovative approaches to teaching." Grants will "range from $1,000 to $5,000 per teacher, depending on their needs" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/10). In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg notes the Hornets last Thursday re-introduced the club's mascot, Hugo, at Time Warner Cable Arena, and his debut "started a series of appearances throughout the city." Like the team's logo, the new mascot uniform "has been tweaked with a more aggressive, contemporary design." New Hugo merchandise "went on sale Thursday at the arena team shop." Nike "designed the new logo and also the uniforms slated to be introduced June 19." The Hornets later this month "will unveil their home floor" (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/6 issue).

WNBA Sparks co-Owner Mark Walter said that he and his partners bought the team because they "can afford to take the long view ... which he described as a 'project' with 'a lot of social value,'" according to Melissa Harris of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Walter on Friday "sat courtside" during the Sparks-Sky game and later gave an interview from his downtown Chicago office. Walter said he wants to "bring this whole league up and the team and its visibility." He added, "That's going to take some investment. If you didn't do that, they could break even next year. ... I'd rather lose money and build it into a much, much better sport and franchise and league than trying to make a certain amount of money next year. It's like anything else. Once that starts rolling, I have a lot of confidence in the quality of that sport and the players and the games." Walter, who also is co-Owner of the Dodgers, said, "We're definitely going to take our (Dodgers) sponsors and talk to them a lot about how they ought to be looking at the Sparks. And not just for money. They ought to be doing this because it's the right thing to do." Walter: "We like to invest thinking in terms of I'll call it verticals. And verticals change. You might think energy's a good time. You might think real estate is a good time. Content, we think, is valuable. Whether that will become overpriced or not overpriced, I don't know. But it's valuable. That is a strategy" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/8).

Top Pirates prospect Gregory Polanco will make his MLB debut tonight in a home game against the Cubs, leading PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW columnist Dejan Kovacevic to write, "PNC Park had better sell out. I’m talking every seat, every suite, every standing-room inch on the rotunda." Kovacevic: "Because after all this fuss, after all this bluster to the point of people concocting all kinds of stuff that had no foundation in fact, after all this oh-my-God-how-can-we-win-without-this-guy, we’ll know this was just a small, vocal group making all this noise. ... There are way more than 38,000 people in Pittsburgh to buy the remaining tickets to fill the place up." There are "no excuses, like they were when 8,000 seats sat empty" for P Gerrit Cole's debut (, 6/9). The Pirates are averaging 26,482 fans at PNC Park through 33 home games this season, ranking 18th in MLB (THE DAILY).

MONEY TALKS: In Pittsburgh, Bill Brink notes Polanco "turned down a multiyear contract offer from the Pirates in spring training, before he had ever appeared on a major league roster." The contract "would have removed from consideration the beginning of Polanco's service time clock." By keeping him in the minors to start the season, the Pirates "preserved another year of control over Polanco and made it less likely that he will become eligible for a fourth year of arbitration as a Super Two player" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/10). Also in Pittsburgh, Rob Biertempfel reports the deal that Polanco "turned down" was a seven-year, $25M offer. The deal "included three option years that could have raised the total value" to more than $50M (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/10). FS1's C.J. Nitkowski said, "The Pirates have always had to do things economically. When they have a prospect, somebody they think will last, six, seven eight years with their team, they wait late to call him up. They wait until the middle of June. That guarantees he will not reach super-two status. That means he will not reach arbitration eligibility within his first two-plus years. There's no definite date. You play it safe and bring guys up in the middle of June. To make it simple, less money they have to pay him earlier" (“MLB Whiparound,” FS1, 6/9).

In Minneapolis, La Velle Neal III reports Twins GM Terry Ryan is "taking more daily control of the front office" as he works his way back "after five months following cancer treatment." He was "actually the closer" on the team's signing of 1B Kendrys Morales. Ryan "still has to go through physical therapy for swallowing." But Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony said that teams should "start calling Ryan directly to talk about players." Antony added that Ryan is "the only one who knows how he feels, but he looks like he has got his spark back." Ryan "should be on the team’s next road trip toward the end of the month" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/10).

SELLING THE CELL: In Chicago, David Haugh noted the White Sox last Friday released a "cool commercial" in which they "sell the idea that U.S. Cellular Field during the ninth inning has become Chicago's new baseball hot spot." That is when the team has "won an American League-leading six games in their final at-bats." Broadcaster Hawk Harrelson exclaims in the 30-second spot, "Our kids just will not quit!" the White Sox "plan on going nowhere but further up the standings and deeper into the city's consciousness as a legitimate divisional contender" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/8).

FAN CAT-ALYST: Jaguars President Mark Lamping during the team's annual state of the franchise news conference yesterday said that season-ticket renewals are up 10% and new season-ticket sales are up 46% "from last year at this time."'s Michael DiRocco noted some of that is "undoubtedly due to the upgrades the team made in free agency," but it is "also due to improvements to EverBank Field." There is "no denying there is finally some buzz around the franchise, as evidenced by the record 6,214 fans that showed up for the second day of a two-day rookie minicamp." The stadium improvements "can only help keep that going" (, 6/9).

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes the Revolution, who "remain atop the table" in MLS, "have a chance to capitalize on the current state of affairs on the Boston sports scene." Gasper: "People always ask and debate what kind of sports town Boston is. ... The simple answer is that this isn’t a baseball, hockey, football, or basketball town. It’s a Winners town, period." The Revolution on Sunday "drew a season-high 23,950 to Gillette Stadium on a picturesque" afternoon, marking the "seventh-largest stand-alone Revolution crowd" in venue history (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/10).