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Volume 24 No. 133

NBA Season Preview

TNT last night drew its best overnight rating for an NBA season-opening doubleheader since '13. The combination of Celtics-Cavaliers and Rockets-Warriors led to a 3.5 overnight, which is the best figure since the net drew a 3.6 for Bulls-Heat and Clippers-Lakers to start the '13-14 season. Last night was up 46% from the openers last year (2.4 overnight), which featured Knicks-Cavs and Spurs-Warriors. Last night featured Dodgers-Cubs NLCS Game 3, while opening night last year went up against Cubs-Indians World Series Game 1. The '15 NBA season-opening doubleheader (2.0 overnight) also went up against World Series Game 1. The strong ratings will give TNT a primetime win among all cable nets for the night, despite its sister network, TBS, having the top program in Cubs-Dodgers. The dual win for Turner Sports is likely a first for the company. Celtics-Cavs drew a 4.0 overnight in the early window from 8:00-10:30pm ET, up 82% from Knicks-Cavs last year. Rockets-Warriors in the late window last night from 10:30pm-1:30am drew a 3.1 overnight, up 25% from Spurs-Warriors last year. The NLCS matchup on TBS aired from 9:00pm-12:45am. Also strong for TNT was "Inside the NBA" following the doubleheader. The program drew a 1.2 overnight in the often soft-rated 1:30-2:30am window (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

HANDLE WITH CARE:'s Richard Deitsch writes last night was "not an easy situation for TNT" after Celtics F Gordon Hayward broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in the first quarter, but the net "did very well, especially the announcers laying out after the injury." Producer Jeff Randolph and director Lonnie Dale had to "make quick decisions on the images around Quicken Loans Arena and they did it very well." There were "quick cuts to players and fans in disbelief." Randolph "showed a replay from afar, followed by a top down shot of Hayward." TNT showed the medical team "taking care of Hayward but the cameras did not get too close." On-court reporter Kristen Ledlow throughout the rest of the game "provided updates on Hayward’s condition and possible transfer points from the arena." Randolph said, "We knew it was extremely serious and we wanted to avoid any close-up shots of the injury. ... When we did show a replay, we provided a look at what happened, but from the farthest possible angle. That one replay was meant to give our audience a sense of the magnitude of what had transpired and we then returned to live action" (, 10/18). NBA writer/podcaster Sean Highkin tweeted, "Good on Ernie and the TNT crew for giving a warning before showing the Hayward replay so people could look away." But much of the reaction to TNT was negative. TSN's Matthew Scianitti: "Thanks TNT for showing me how Gordon Hayward's body can be pointed one way, and then his foot be pointed towards an alternate dimension." Raptors G Lorenzo Brown: "That should never be shown on TV or social media again." 247 Sports' Riley Gates: "Holy hell. Gordon Hayward just snapped his leg and TNT SHOWED THE WHOLE THING!" SportsRuckus co-Founder Jesse Peel: "The Cavs bench reaction told me all I needed to know about the Gordon Hayward injury...didn't need the close up TNT."

The Cavaliers last night during the season opener against the Celtics "decided not to show a tribute video" for former G Kyrie Irving in his return to Cleveland after being traded in the offseason, according to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Cavs Exec VP/Communications Tad Carper said that multiple execs, including Owner Dan Gilbert, "chose not to show the video because 'we were expecting to run it at a floating opportunity based on the right moment, and we felt that moment never presented itself.'" Carper said that the decision to cancel the video was "not 'directly' tied to the gruesome ankle injury" that Celtics F Gordon Hayward suffered in the first quarter. A source said that several Cavs players were "upset Monday upon hearing that a video was planned" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/18). THE ATHLETIC's Jason Lloyd writes opposition from Cavs players, coupled with "boos directed at Irving" throughout the night, "perhaps made the decision a bit easier" (, 10/18).'s Chris Forsberg noted Irving "heard hearty boos in pregame introductions and each time he touched the ball." He was the "first player announced during introductions, and boos overwhelmed any cheers." Irving also "heard a smattering of boos from the arriving crowd" as he "hit the floor for his pregame shooting routine." Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the game that he "expected Irving to get a mixed reaction throughout the game but hoped fans would show appreciation for his six years in Cleveland" (, 10/17). In Akron, Marla Ridenour writes the boos directed at Irving during the intros "weren’t overtly angry." The reception also "could have been uglier" after Irving in a recent interview "called Boston a 'real, live sports city'" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/18).

More than half of the NBA's 30 teams have signed jersey patch deals "for an average" of $9.3M annually, according to a source cited by Lombardo & Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The average patch deal value compiled by Wasserman, which did deal evaluations for 15 NBA teams, including the Warriors' record $20M yearly deal with Japanese tech company Rakuten, is "in line" with the $9M average initially forecasted by the agency. Wasserman Managing Partner Elizabeth Lindsey said, "It has been trending slightly up from projections." But Lombardo & Lefton note selling the high-priced inventory has proved "no easy task given it had never been done in any of the four top U.S. stick and ball leagues." That "unfamiliarity, along with the deeply integrated and high valuations of the deals, is why the league gave teams an 18-month runway to sell the patches." Big-market teams without jersey patch deals last week included the Bulls, Clippers and Rockets, as those teams "continued to look for the right partner -- and right price." Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark said, "It's a different kind of sale; the narrative is different, the approach has to be different." He added, "This isn't just a signage, branding or exposure story. It has to be a bigger play." Lombardo & Lefton note the league "expects to have about two-thirds of NBA teams with deals in place this season" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/16 issue).

STILL AVAILABLE: In Dallas, Brad Townsend notes when the Mavericks open their season tonight, they will "not be one of those teams -- at least not yet" -- with a jersey patch. Mavs Owner Mark Cuban said last week that the franchise "wasn't close to completing a sponsorship deal." Mavs Exec VP George Killebrew said that Cuban himself is "handling the negotiations and is talking with 'several' interested companies" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).

WISHES DO COME TRUE: The Lakers this season will wear a jersey patch that reads "Wish," and in California, Jeff Miller notes players last month were "briefed on the deal and other specifics." Lakers F Larry Nance Jr. said, "They wanted us to know what to say if we were asked about it. I had heard of it, but I wasn't too familiar with it. They didn't want us saying, 'I don't know what it is? They paid us money, I guess." Miller notes most Lakers players "had no clue" that Wish is a S.F.-based mobile shopping platform that "features cut-rate prices on pretty much everything." Nance: "As long as we don't become soccer teams or NASCAR drivers where you can't actually see the name of the team anymore. ... But just a little patch? I think it's awesome" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/18).

Ultimate Software
Blue Diamond
Walt Disney World
Western Union
Flagstar Bank
Sun Life

There are "thousands of reasons" to like the $140M Target Center renovation, which is "nearly complete" heading into the T'Wolves' home opener on Friday, according to Jace Frederick of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Extra windows were placed throughout the concourse, making Target Center "look bigger," even while "staying in its same smallish footprint in the heart of downtown Minneapolis." The atrium that "houses a new lobby and bar on the club level look out into the city, making the view out of -- and into -- the arena more pleasant." The new Lexus Club "delivers an all-inclusive experience," while a beer garden "overlooks the court." A second entrance "should ease walking congestion before and after games," as it has gates with the ability to handle 25-33% of the arena's new capacity (18,798). The T'Wolves' new locker room also is "spacious and clean, with a circular design that creates more open room." Even the visiting locker room, which the Lynx will use during the WNBA season, is "now bigger with better lockers." T'Wolves Chief Strategy Officer Ted Johnson said, "People are pleasantly surprised when they see how we've been able to open it up." T'Wolves F Shabazz Muhammad added, "This place has actually some life in it" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/17).

RIGHT ON TARGET: In Minneapolis, Rochelle Olson wrote the arena renovation was "needed for a 27-year-old facility that showed its age." Most of the changes are in the "concourses and hospitality areas." The venue "lost 400 seats, but wasn't reconfigured." Two of the "bigger changes: The additions of a skyway from Ramp A that creates a new entrance on the southwest corner of the building and a two-story atrium on the northeast side of the building that faces downtown, serving as a new glittery lobby." The centerpiece of the atrium is a "multi-light chandelier in the shape of a basketball net." Suspended above it and "visible from the upper level is a metal basketball sculpture." Olson noted wood-style finishes, metal trim and warmer lighting "fill the formerly bleak gray concourses" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/17). Also in Minneapolis, Michael Rand wrote, "It's Target Center, but it's not Target Center. That's good." The T'Wolves "put the money in the right places." The concourses are "wider and spruced up" and there are now "natural gathering spots where there used to be dead ends, wasted space or foreboding walls." It is as though everything the T'Wolves have done in the last decade-plus has been "shoved into an old storage closet and painted over with dark blue" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/17).

Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank recently discussed the team's restructured front office, his use of analytics and his interactions with new team consultant Jerry West as part of a Q&A with Elliott Teaford of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Excerpts are below, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Do you view the Clippers as a new franchise since Steve Ballmer bought the team?
Frank: You can’t hide from what happened in the past, but you have the wealthiest owner in all of sports who is doing whatever it takes to build a championship-driven, world-class, player-centered environment. The guy has a proven track record of leading one of the most powerful companies in the world (Microsoft). He’s great. He’s always available. You always let Steve know in advance.

Q: What did it mean to strip Doc Rivers of his front-office duties during the offseason?
Frank: Doc and I are partners. Doc still has a huge voice in what we’re doing. What it allowed us to do is build our infrastructure, where we can attract other “A Level” people who can address some gaps we had in our organization. Between hiring Michael Winger [as GM], Trent Redden and Mark Hughes [as Assistant GMs] and Matt Elijah [as Manager of Strategic Planning] and guys we already had in the organization like [Special Advisor] Dave Wohl and some of the other people we had, we were looking at putting together a really special team.

Q: What kind of direction are you getting from Jerry West?
Frank: I’m a believer that nothing ever happens just once. With Jerry, you actually have a living history of different situations that have happened to your team. He’s lived it. Instead of studying the history, he is that history. You can pick his brain. Plus, he still loves to watch games. He watches every freakin’ NBA game. He gives you different perspectives. He’s always going to shoot it straight. He’s just an unbelievable resource as a consultant.

Q: Have you embraced the new analytics, the fancy stats as a useful tool?
Frank: It’s a weapon. You’ve got to take advantage. Doc takes advantage from a coaching standpoint. Analytics aren’t new. ... We can look at 10 possessions and we can tell what happened. Analytics can look at 10,000 possessions. It may raise an antenna and you can go back and watch the film. Different combinations. You never know. A certain player, if he gets fouled twice in a quarter, how it impacts his aggressiveness to attack the rim. You get so many different queries. It’s a great tool. 

The Suns this season will be the first team to employ Dropit, a reverse-auction app designed to increase fan engagement at venues. Fans downloading the app -- which will be encouraged by messages on Suns' social media feeds, ads on the Suns' home page and a pregame LED takeover inside Talking Stick Resort Arena -- can participate in a 60-second “reverse auction,” in which prices go steadily downward. Dropit debuts Monday for the Suns' game against the Kings. It will be deployed at halftime to bid on a VIP Suns game experience, valued at $3,000. The Suns and Dropit hope to sell programs to sponsors and will use it at a minimum of 10 games. “Many fans are holding their (mobile) devices while watching games, so we see this as a way to get them more involved,” said Suns Chief Commercial Officer & Senior VP/Business Innovation Dan Costello. Other than fan engagement, the app collects demographic data from fans opting in, along with their email addresses and phone numbers. “We learn a lot about each user: teams and sponsors want that,” said Dropit COO Brendan Howell. The app, developed in New Zealand, has been tested with the 49ers in preseason and during some Cactus League Spring Training games.

The Thunder in the offseason acquired Fs Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, and in Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes the team was "all in on staying not just relevant, but returning to championship caliber." GM Sam Presti was "all in on working every available corner to upgrade the roster." Ownership was "all in on committing absurd amounts of money to a payroll" and G Russell Westbrook was "all in on being the franchise cornerstone." Ownership has "committed to a payroll" north of $130M for this season, which could mean a payroll tax over $25M, and if George and Anthony "stick around in the future, that tax could skyrocket" to as high as $140M. The Thunder's "commitment to winning is unassailable" (OKLAHOMAN, 10/18).

SHOW MUST GO ON: On Long Island, Greg Logan noted Nets GM Sean Marks on Monday confirmed that Owner Mikhail Prokhorov is "deeply into negotiations to sell the team." Marks added that he "not only will remain committed to his long-term vision but also would expect any prospective owner to speak with him before the sale to learn details of that plan and the unwavering support Prokhorov has provided." Marks: "If he finds the right strategic partner, which is what he’s asked for, then, he would probably look to sell the team. But that’s out of my realm.” Marks said that he was "not aware of a particular timeline for the sale and was unsure whether Prokhorov ... would surrender control of the Nets." Prokhorov is said to "prefer" selling 49% with a "three-year window to gain majority control" (NEWSDAY, 10/17).

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote the Magic's "most exciting new addition" this offseason is President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, who along with his "handpicked GM" -- John Hammond -- "know what they’re doing." The duo has a "combined 63 years of front-office experience." The Magic are "trying yet again to get it right." Bianchi: "And don’t kid yourself, it’s not going to happen immediately." This season is "about Weltman and Hammond getting a chance to assess the current players on the roster and then deciding who the Magic should invest in moving forward" (, 10/16).

COURSE CORRECTION: A Heat spokesperson said that the team will move its South Florida charity golf tournament to "another course" in '18 after holding it at Trump Doral the last four years. In DC, David Fahrenthold noted the event "benefits the Miami Heat Charitable Fund, which is administered by a larger nonprofit group, the Miami Foundation" (, 10/17).

After gaining a reputation over the years as a respected basketball mind, ESPN's Doris Burke is breaking new ground in broadcasting this season as the first full-time female NBA game analyst. But Burke prefers not to be labeled as a pioneer. She feels she is “no different than the other women who have been plugging away at this for a long time.” But with more and more women taking NBA TV roles, Burke is excited that attitudes are beginning to change and hopes that passionate and knowledgeable basketball minds continue to get their chance -- regardless of gender. Burke spoke with THE DAILY about focusing solely on the NBA for the first time in her career and what storylines she finds intriguing this season.

Q: What does this new role mean to you? What can it mean to aspiring female TV talent?
Burke: I’ve been an NBA fan since the Johnson-Bird era. I’ve been broadcasting in some way since ’92, so I’m just really jazzed and I’m thrilled that my bosses felt like I had earned the opportunity to step in. I’m watching (NBC Sports Washington’s) Kara Lawson and (YES Network’s) Sarah Kustok, who were named analysts on their respective local packages -- and don’t feel like I had anything to do with that, quite frankly. They are knowledgeable, passionate basketball people. I was also fortunate in that I entered the business at a really good time. When I left coaching in ’92, women’s basketball coverage was exploding. I’m not diminishing the hard work to get where I am, but I’ve been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

Q: With a sole focus on the NBA this season, how do you feel you'll be able to better immerse yourself?
Burke: Toward the middle or end of last season, I asked my bosses to replace me on women’s college basketball, just because there were times where it was challenging to keep up with three different sports. To be responsible for men’s college, women’s college and the NBA would sometimes prove challenging. There were times leading into each of those broadcasts where I felt "Gosh, there’s still information for me to consume." This season I have the opportunity to immerse myself even more into the ins and outs of the NBA. I’ll be able to pay attention to the storylines, maybe more than ever, and it will make my coverage a bit easier.

Q: What’s your routine right now as you prepare for games?
Burke: Every morning, I receive an email containing all the articles written across every NBA city. So the first several hours of my day involve going through those. If I have a broadcast coming up, I’ll either watch the live telecast or a replay the next day of the games involving the teams I’ll be covering. I’ll just kind of lock in on those particular teams. Two days out from a broadcast, I’ll get on Synergy Sports, because I want to, for example, look at (Hornets G) Malik Monk’s last 25-30 baskets and get a sense of his tendencies. I’ll find out in pick-and-roll situations whether he likes a one-dribble pull-up, or if he goes left he’s going to drive to the basket. ESPN also has an incredible research staff and they might send me a packet of information. Now that I’m home for a couple of days, I’ll still be listening to (ESPN's) Zach Lowe or Adrian Wojnarowski or an SI podcast to keep up. Once I’m in the respective NBA city, we’ll go to shootarounds, meet with the teams and sit with a particular player. The day of game, within 90 minutes of the start time, we’ll sit with respective head coaches and talk about their teams and matchups and things like that.

Q: What are some of the top storylines you’re following this season?
Burke: One of the prime storylines for me is the chemistry on the Cavaliers. (Coach) Ty Lue announced that Dwyane Wade would start the year at the two-guard. If you read the stories from (The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s) Joe Vardon or (ESPN’s) Dave McMenamin you had the sense that perhaps J.R. Smith might start and Wade might be featured on the second unit. Smith is probably not happy about coming off the bench after being the starter for multiple Finals teams. That requires sacrifice. So how does that play out? I also went to the opening couple days of Celtics’ training camp and was just gobsmacked at how different the roster is this season. I believe fully that the team has closed the gap on the Cavaliers and I’m curious to see the progression of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In the West, the Rockets and Thunder have certainly closed the gap. Do I still think the Warriors are the favorite? Of course, but there’s a lot to be played out there.

In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes former NBAer Paul Pierce is finding his transition to full-time ESPN analyst to be  a "natural, mature and essential transition." It is a spot that "came up when Bruce Bowen’s contract ran out, and he landed with the Clippers as their new Prime Ticket game analyst." As a guest analyst during the last two NBA Finals, Pierce "got his reps in." He said, "I had a good time. I developed a good chemistry with the team there. After I did the second one, and I just thought maybe this is something I could do after basketball. I enjoyed talking about the game. I enjoyed being around it. I’ve been around it my whole life. So why not make this a second career out of this?" Pierce will appear on “The Jump” and “NBA Countdown” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/18).

GET TO KNOW THEM: In Chicago, Phil Thompson noted locally based WGN-TV in the wake the Bulls' big offseason roster overhaul "playfully winks at the relative anonymity of the team's new arrivals in a new promotional video for its game broadcasts." Bulls Gs Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and F Lauri Markkanen "scribble their signatures on 'Hello' name tags and slaps them on their jerseys, and each says, 'My name is ...'" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/17).

NOTES:'s Myron Medcalf wrote LaVar Ball's reality TV venture "Ball in the Family" will "return for a second season" on the Facebook Watch streaming platform. New episodes will "arrive later this year" (, 10/17)....Rockets G Chris Paul's free agency process is the "subject of a three-part documentary series titled 'Chris Paul's Chapter 3' that debuts" tomorrow on ESPN. The first episode shows Paul's "frustration following the Clippers' ouster" against the Jazz in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and his "questioning the Clippers' culture." He "talked with his family and business partners about possibilities" with the Celtics and Spurs and visited Jay-Z and Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger for their advice (AP, 10/17)....ESPN is collaborating with comedy duo Desus Nice & The Kid Mero, from Viceland's "Desus & Mero" talk show, to create short videos featuring their commentary on NBA storylines (ESPN).

The NBA is rolling into the ’17-18 season with 26 league-level partners. Brown-Forman is in the first full season as an NBA league sponsor, promoting its Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand. Brown-Forman replaces Diageo, which exited its league deal just prior to last season. Also in the first season of an expanded deal is New Era, which serves as the league's headwear provider. Taco Bell is finishing up its league extension, while Kia Motors announced its renewal yesterday. The league’s banking category remains vacant, as BBVA, a sponsor since ’10, did not renew its deal. Samsung’s deal also is different for the NBA. Shortly after the start of the ’16-17 season, Samsung’s agreement evolved into a content partnership, whereas the brand previously held the league’s handset/tablet/TV rights. The list below also excludes any NBA deals that are considered promotional partnerships (THE DAILY).

2K Sports Video game software
Adidas Footwear
American Express Credit card
Anheuser-Busch InBev Beer (alcohol, non-alcoholic malt beverage) Online auto retailer
Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel's) Spirits
Cisco Information technology and networking solutions
EA Sports Video game software
ExxonMobil (Mobil 1) Motor oil, motor fuel, lubricant
FanDuel Daily fantasy sports
Foot Locker Athletic retailer
Harman Audio
Kaiser Permanente Healthcare
Kia Motors Automotive
Kumho Tire Tire
Nike On-court outfitter
New Era Headwear provider
PepsiCo (Gatorade) Sports drinks, nutrition
PepsiCo (Mountain Dew, Aquafina,
Brisk, Doritos, Ruffles)
Soft drink, water, iced tea, salted snacks
SAP Business analytic software, business intelligence software
Spalding Basketballs, backboards
State Farm Insurance
Taco Bell QSR
Tissot Timekeeper
Under Armour Draft combine title, Jr. NBA
Verizon Wireless service provider