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Volume 24 No. 115

Franchises

The Bulls yesterday named former coach Doug Collins Senior Adviser of Basketball Operations, and in many ways he will be "tasked to replicate the success" Jerry West had in his time as an adviser with the Warriors, according to K.C. Johnson of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Collins will report to Senior VP/Basketball Operations John Paxson and "won't be replacing" GM Gar Forman, who ownership "still backs despite vocal fans calling for his job as well as a reputation in some NBA circles for spin control over accountability." Paxson said Collins will "not be a decision-maker" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/20). In Chicago, David Haugh notes Collins' stature "appealed" to Paxson, who knew the Bulls were "on the verge of embarking on a rebuilding project that requires some fresh eyes and fertile thoughts." A Labor Day dinner between Collins, Bulls Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and President & COO Michael Reinsdorf "sealed the deal." For an organization that "can be resistant to change," it just "added boldness to the building." There is "nothing not to like about the addition of Collins." Collins yesterday called ESPN to "end his relationship after four years." The net will "miss the acumen of basketball's best analyst," and broadcasting's "loss is the Bulls' gain" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/20). The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson tweeted Collins' exit from ESPN is "unfortunate," as he was a "very good game analyst." But "even without Collins, ESPN still has plenty of NBA game analysts" (TWITTER.com, 9/19).

MAKING THE CONNECTION: THE ATHLETIC's Sean Highkin wrote no one "yet knows quite what Collins will do." But bringing in a "respected basketball lifer to be another voice in the room" is a "great idea." Paxson acknowledged that his "longstanding relationship with Collins led in part to this move" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/19). CSNCHICAGO.com's Vincent Goodwill wrote Collins’ "connection to Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf, a growing relationship with Michael Reinsdorf and ability to relate" with coach Fred Hoiberg due to the "misery of coaching should align a front office to the floor in ways that has been in doubt for the past several seasons" (CSNCHICAGO.com, 9/19). 

BUSINESS AS USUAL: In Chicago, Joe Cowley writes Forman is now "safe to continue with his machinations." Sources said that in the last four years, staff members have had phones and laptops "confiscated a handful of times to check for criticism and media leaks." Several players have said that they "no longer could trust members of the coaching staff because of information that was relayed to Forman." Even outside media members "aren’t safe." Forman was "so angry" with ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy’s on-air criticism during the '14-15 season that he "confronted Van Gundy in a bathroom at halftime of a game" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/20).

The 76ers have "unveiled plans for a 'Spirit of 76' marketing campaign" for the '17-18 season, according to John George of the PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL. 76ers CRO Chris Heck said that the campaign is a "continuation of last’s season’s 'Spirit of the Champion' campaign in which the Sixers sought to celebrate their past while promoting their future." The team will "host a series of 'Spirit of 76' theme nights on Fridays at the Wachovia Center, featuring the players sporting what the team is calling 'city edition' uniforms." The campaign will also "feature a 'bell' logo" that the team said was "inspired by imagery from the city’s 1976 bicentennial celebration." "Spirit of 76" imagery will also be "found on season ticket member ticket boxes and on the souvenir ticket stock for premium clients." The 76ers also plan to "unveil three new sculptures of 76ers legends at the Camden training complex." The names of the players to be honored will be "revealed at a later date." The team will also have a special "tribute court" for the "Spirit of 76" games. The special court, for the second year, will be "signed by season ticket members." Meanwhile, the 76ers said that they had "surpassed 14,000 season tickets sold for the upcoming season" -- a record for the 67-year-old franchise. The team also "anticipates sellouts of all 41 home games" during the regular season (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/20).

The Tigers have the second-fewest wins in the AL this season, and Comerica Park attendance "will be the lowest" since '05, a year before the team made it to the World Series and began a 10-season run that delivered five post-season trips and four years when home crowds "smashed the 3 million mark," according to a front-page piece by Lynn Henning of the DETROIT NEWS. The Tigers had "six home dates remaining" heading into yesterday's game against the A's. They were 16th in "per-game attendance at 28,930 per game" and were 16th in "overall tickets sold at 2,169,717." A year ago, the team was 13th in each category (31,173 and 2,493,859). The slide in '17 has been "most noticeable on weekends when sellout crowds of 40,000 or more often were the summer norm during seasons when the Tigers were playoff-grade." The team has had "only one sellout" in '17, on Opening Day. A source said that the team has "sold about 15,500 full-season equivalencies" in '17, "down from the peak of almost 27,000 season sales" in '08. TV and radio ratings also have "slipped." Games on FS Detroit are averaging a 5.04 local rating this year, down about 30% from the '16 season average of 7.01. At mid-season, Tigers ratings were still "hanging in the 7.0 range but began to wilt as their playoff chances dissolved and, not coincidentally," as players like P Justin Verlander and OF Justin Upton were traded. FS Detroit Senior VP & GM Greg Hammaren "acknowledged the late-season drop-off but said Tigers telecasts in 2017 will earn the third-highest revenue in FSD history" (DETROIT NEWS, 9/20).

The Giants were "expected to win 90-plus games" this season, but currently have MLB's worst record at 59-93, and now the club must win four of its last 10 to "avoid becoming the second in franchise history to lose 100," according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. When teams "fail in the face of high expectations," changes are "often made at a wholesale level." Giants President & CEO Larry Baer "reflects on a season that went sideways, the end of the sellout streak, the Giants’ strategy in the short to medium turn." Below are excerpts of a Q&A with Baer, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: You crossed the actual payroll threshold ($195M) for the third consecutive year in '17. Knowing the penalties go up for repeat offenders, are you looking at the '18 Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $197M as a hard salary cap for next season?
Baer: No. It’s not going to be a hard cap. But it is something that has implications that go way beyond having to write a check. For instance, when you lose a player to free agency, for a CBT team, the compensation is a fourth-round pick. If you’re not a CBT team, it’s a sandwich pick. That’s a big difference. Your international slot money is less if you’re a CBT team. I mean, there are just a lot of differences. Your revenue sharing components change if you’re a CBT team. And this is all in addition to the fines. And the whole thing is, we’ve been in the CBT for three years. Being in the CBT doesn’t assure you of anything. It doesn’t assure you’ll win more games.

Q: The sellout streak has ended, but the ballpark is mostly full most nights and crowds remain engaged when the team performs well. Do you envision a more challenging offseason in terms of renewals, etc.? And if you’re operating at less than full capacity in the future, or you forecast a dip in revenue on the baseball side, at what level do you believe the franchise can operate in terms of payroll?
Baer: Everything we’ve sensed so far, whether expressed in season tickets or sponsorships, we’re talking about very marginal decreases. We think from a revenue standpoint we’ll be pretty much as whole as we’ve been in the past. We just don’t see the drop off. ... We have 31,500 season-ticket holders and our initial soundings are they’re coming back.

Q: What is the temperature among ownership after such a disappointing season with such a high payroll?
Baer: We feel good about the future of the franchise. We feel good that we’ll be able to bounce back. We feel like this has been a frustrating and disappointing year but we’ve ... been doing this 25 years. So everybody’s fine and everybody is resolved to get the team back to where we want it to be (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/19).

In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes several events have been "canceled downtown and elsewhere" in the area since an officer was found not guilty in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, but tonight's preseason contest between the Blues and Blue Jackets will be "played at Scottrade Center." It will be one of the "few events held at a public facility downtown, and the first event at spiffed up Scottrade, since Friday’s verdict." Blues President & CEO of Business Operations Chris Zimmerman said that the "thought of cancellation never entered the mind of anyone in the organization" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/20).

LONG HIBERNATION? In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes there is "little dispute as to where the Bruins rank on the local sports totem pole at this hour" -- a "distant fourth." The Bruins "simply aren't in the conversation." While the team rebuilds, it is "impossible to ignore the success and noise around the other three teams in town." Bruins President Cam Neely said, "The success that the other organizations have had certainly pushes everybody to get to that level of success" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/20). Sportsnet Radio's Greg Brady tweeted, "I count 13 pro cities in USA where all 4 major leagues are represented.  How many markets would the NHL team not be last?" (TWITTER.com, 9/20).

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORS: USA TODAY's Alysha Tsuji noted the Sharks are "holding another Warriors Night this season" on Jan. 13. The team will be "giving out more cool Warriors-themed jerseys" (USATODAY.com, 9/19). Meanwhile, Ducks C Ryan Getzlaf and D Francois Beauchemin last night "took batting practice as part of the Angels’ annual night to pay homage to their NHL neighbors" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/20).