Clippers G Chris Paul said that he has talked to coach Doc Rivers "about the possibility of sitting out" should Donald Sterling remain in control of the franchise at the start of the season, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. Paul said, "That's something me and Doc are both talking about. Something has to happen, and something needs to happen soon -- sooner rather than later." He added he and teammates Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are "all definitely going to talk about it." Paul: "It's unacceptable." Goodman noted closing arguments in the court case regarding ownership of the team "are set for Monday, at which point the judge will determine whether to authorize" the $2B sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer or "throw the situation into further confusion" (ESPN.com, 7/24).
SO MUCH FOR THE OFFSEASON: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was profiled Thursday night by ESPN's Hannah Storm, who noted the summer "used to be quiet time in the NBA, but not anymore," with the ongoing Clippers saga making headlines, along with the free agency moves by Cavaliers F LeBron James and Knicks F Carmelo Anthony. Storm said when Sterling's "racially charged remarks to his girlfriend were made public" this spring, Silver "had to quickly contemplate the punishment." But Storm added, "The commissioner's battle with Sterling may continue for a long time. Though Sterling's wife has sold the team to Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion, the banned former owner's litigation against his wife and the league means this crisis isn't ending any time soon" ("In Focus With Hannah Storm," ESPN, 7/24).
The NFL wants the Packers to play a game in London, but it "has to be a road game," because the club is "not going to give up the cash cow that is a home game" at Lambeau Field, according to Silverstein & McGinn of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy on Thursday at the team's annual shareholders meeting said that he is "completely on board" with playing as a road team in London. Murphy: "We would never give up a home game. It's too important for the community." He added, "I think our fans here would love to travel to London. I think it would be a great experience. ... There's only certain teams that play home games in London, and so those have to match up." Murphy also said that he "doubted the NFL would ever make the Packers give up a home game, so it's just a matter of finding the right road one" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/25).
PRICE PRICE BABY: In Green Bay, Richard Ryman reports Murphy told shareholders that he "anticipates the team would introduce variable pricing" for the '15 season. He noted that 10 or more NFL teams are "using variable pricing to some degree." Murphy: "We'll learn from their experiences. One thing we want to see is the reaction of fans across the league." Ryman notes the Packers currently "rank 17th in the 32-team league in ticket prices." Meanwhile, Murphy responded to comments made by Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban in March that the NFL is "risking overexposure." Murphy: "The league is very popular, but I think we do have to be careful you don't over-saturate the market, particularly in prime time. The ratings continue to be strong, but you have to step back and make sure you're doing the right thing" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 7/25). In Milwaukee, Bob McGinn writes of variable pricing, "Complicating the issue in Green Bay is the green (seven games) and gold (three games) season-ticket packages." The gold (Milwaukee) package for more than a decade has "included the second and fifth regular-season games." Former Packers President Bob Harlan "didn't want fans driving back to southeastern Wisconsin late in the season on possible icy roads." Murphy said he would "probably be reluctant to change" the fifth game as the last for the gold. The Packers after surveying fans also "no longer will require them to pay for playoff tickets before the game is scheduled" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/25).
WHAT'S NEW: Murphy "reiterated that he is hoping" former NFLer Brett Favre "returns to Lambeau Field for a game this year." Murphy: "I'm very hopeful that when he does come back that he will be fully, fully supported by our fans. I'm confident in that. ... We are talking about bringing him back for a game this year" (AP, 7/24). Murphy said that the Packers are "helping with production of an upcoming movie" about Pro Football HOFer Vince Lombardi. ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reported it is "being produced by Legendary Pictures, the same company that made '42,' the Jackie Robinson story." The movie will "be released in conjunction with the 50th Super Bowl" in '16 (ESPN.com, 7/24). Murphy said that the Packers "applied to host" the '15 Draft after the NFL said that it "will hold it in a city other than" N.Y. (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 7/25).
CHEESEHEADS, ASSEMBLE! In Green Bay, Rachel Minske notes a crowd of nearly 15,000 attended Thursday's annual shareholders meeting in Lambeau Field. The stadium's parking lot "was sprinkled with tailgaters" prior to the 11:00am CT meeting. A highlight reel from the '13 season "played on the stadium's massive video boards" before various committee members, Packers GM Ted Thompson and Murphy "took the stage to deliver comments." Shareholders "had the opportunity to check out the new Packers Pro Shop before the Atrium doors opened to the public" at 2:00pm (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 7/25).
The MLBPA "filed a grievance" against the Astros this week, contending the club tried to "manipulate the signings" of three players from the '14 MLB Draft, according to MURRAYCHASS.com. The Astros claim the club "needed to sign" No. 1 overall pick P Brady Aiken "to be able to sign" fifth-round pick P Jacob Nix and 21st-round pick P Mac Marshall. The failure to sign all three is supposedly "tied to the relatively new draft rules." Under the system, which the union agreed to in the '11 CBA, the commissioner’s office "assigns each club recommended figures as signing bonuses for players selected in the first 10 rounds of the draft." Clubs can sign players for "more or less than what is called the slot figure, but if a club’s total bonuses exceed its pool total, it incurs penalties in the form of a tax on the excessive amount or loss of future draft choices." The union could "argue its case on several bases." One is the "alleged manipulation of the Aiken deal to use it to sign Nix and Marshall as well." Another is the Astros’ "release of medical information about Aiken’s elbow." Since he was "not their player, they had no authority to disclose confidential medical information in violation of the privacy rule of the federal HIPAA law" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 7/24). In Houston, Evan Drellich wrote in the case of a grievance, the MLBPA's filing is "not required to be made public, and in most cases, grievances are resolved quietly." But this matter has the "gravity of the first overall pick in the draft." A grievance can "lead to arbitration, but can also be settled ahead of a hearing" (CHRON.com, 7/24).
FADE TO BLACK: SI.com's Ben Reiter wrote the "most likely answer" to what the Astros were thinking is that they were "not impervious to the torrent of negative public sentiments that had flooded into their offices once it had started to seem possible that they would not sign" Aiken. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said, “I do feel genuine empathy for the players involved. It was bad luck all around. I understand that from a fan’s perspective, we got nothing.” He added, "One thing that seems clear is that the idea that the Aiken affair has significantly damaged the Astros is overblown." Reiter noted it can be argued that the club "pushed the rules, but they did not violate them." In fact, the Astros "operated no differently from the way the majority of the league’s teams would have." But Reiter wrote, "It was, indeed, a black eye for the Astros. And yet, black eyes fade" (SI.com, 7/23).
MLS expansion club NYC FC on Thursday introduced former EPL club Chelsea MF Frank Lampard, who becomes the club's "fourth player and second of three to fill the Designated Player slot," according to Stefan Bondy of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Lampard: "We’re here to play serious football, serious soccer and try to win something. ... I’ve seen what MLS has done, the improvements over the years, the quality of players. That perception (that MLS is a cakewalk league) is dated. I think that has changed now" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/25). In N.Y., Andrew Das notes although the 36-year-old Lampard still had "options to remain in Europe ... he decided before leaving with England’s team for the World Cup in Brazil that his next home would be" in N.Y. Lampard: "The quality of the league has improved. I think we’ve seen that -- the quality of the players coming in to play here, the quality of the homegrown players, as you’ve seen in the U.S. team at the World Cup. Top players want to play in good-quality leagues, and MLS is a real option now" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/25).
TOO LATE? ESPN FC's Graham Parker wrote while nobody is doubting that Lampard will "be one of the best players in MLS when he starts playing in the league in 2015, there's something strangely deflating about seeing him show up now, for this project, at this stage of the league's development and this stage of his career." While all that "makes sense for NYCFC for all sorts of marketing and technical reasons right now, Lampard's signing feels, if not disappointing, at least anticlimactic." However, Parker wrote, "I'm not sure I buy the idea that it reinforces the perception of MLS as a retirement home." Nonetheless, it is "basically hard to imagine a scenario in which Lampard truly establishes any sense of history with NYCFC" (ESPNFC.com, 7/24).
THE BEAS KNEES: U.S. men's national team D DaMarcus Beasley on Thursday signed with the Dynamo, and in Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz writes it didn't take Beasley long to "see how much MLS and the sport grew in America" since he was last in the league a decade ago. Beasley: "This wasn't here when I was in MLS 10 years ago, from the stadiums to the media to the fans. Houston is pretty much averaging 20,000 a game, and that was unheard of back in 2000. It's grown leaps and bounds. I think it can only get bigger, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that. ... Now every team almost has state-of-the-art facilities, whether that's in Houston or Kansas City. We got to train in Kansas City, and they have one as well. That just shows the leaps and bounds that MLS has grown since I've been in the league" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/25).
In Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen reported Bucks co-Owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry have retained L.A.-based Mercury Public Affairs partner Adam Mendelsohn, who previously worked for former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and on behalf of the NBA Kings' "efforts to build an arena." Mendelsohn served on an "arena task force" established by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Until Mendelsohn's hire, Edens and Lasry had relied on the team's "internal public relations staff and a public relations representative" from Edens' Fortress Investment Group (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/24).
NARROWING THE FIELD: In San Diego, Dennis Lin reports the second round of the Padres' GM interviews "concluded Thursday" after MLB Senior VP/Baseball Operations Kim Ng had another interview. Other "finalists for the Padres' position" are Yankees Assistant GM Billy Eppler, Red Sox Assistant GM Mike Hazen and Rangers Assistant GM A.J. Preller. Sources said that Preller has "emerged as the favorite." He was recently promoted after three seasons as Senior Dir of Player Personnel and is considered "one of baseball's foremost evaluators of international talent" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/25).
CANCELLATION NOTICE: In Minneapolis, LaVelle Neal III notes the Twins on Thursday announced that the Aug. 23 team HOF induction ceremony for former MLBer Chuck Knoblauch at Target Field "has been canceled after Knoblauch was charged with misdemeanor assault on a family member.” Knoblauch is “listed on page 393 of the Twins media guide as the sole member of the Class of 2014, but indications are that will be removed from next year’s guide” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/25).
FISH FOOD: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote LeBron James’ departure from Miami did “more than change and diminish the Heat.” It “loosened basketball’s grip on South Florida.” Now, there is “a chance” for the Dolphins and Univ. of Miami football to “step up and make this feel once more like what it always used to be by acclimation and without debate: A football town.” Cote: “Our first love was all football ... until the Dolphins and Canes both fell off the national radar and saw their local impact wane around the same time, soon after the arrival of the new millennium.” Football has to “earn back the local passion it once had” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/24).