The Broncos at 6-8 could post their first back-to-back losing seasons in 46 years, and the team has become an "irrelevant franchise, affecting the number of no-shows at games, the profitability and popularity of the team and the plans to develop an entertainment center" south of Broncos Stadium at Mile High, according to Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. Team President & CEO Joe Ellis "didn't want the potential of another power struggle within the organization" amid an ownership dispute between Owner Pat Bowlen's brother and his daughters. Despite Ellis' wishes, the "ownership/trustee disputes/lawsuit/controversies among family members are disrupting the Broncos." Sources said that Broncos President of Football Operations & GM John Elway and former coach Mike Shanahan "seriously discussed a deal last December" for Shanahan to return as the coach. But the contract "was not finalized" because Ellis, who also "serves on the Pat Bowlen Trust board, refused to agree." Ellis and Shanahan had "major conflicts" in the '00s, and Ellis' "authority base grew" as Pat Bowlen became more concerned with his memory-loss complications. Sources have said that Ellis "persuaded Bowlen to dump Shanahan" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 12/18).
NO END IN SIGHT: In Denver, Mark Kiszla wrote the stories on the "ownership squabble" have "all been driven" by Beth Bowlen-Wallace, Pat Bowlen's daughter from his first marriage. Bowlen-Wallace "understandably claims she is ready to take over now and feels shut out by the trust." Kiszla: "I am not so certain she has checked all the ownership boxes in a way that inspires much confidence." Pat Bowlen seemed to identify Brittany Bowlen as the "child most likely to carry on the family name in the football business before he ceded control to the trust." Bowlen-Wallace was "not impressive in her first stint with the Broncos," but the dispute between her and Ellis is "personal, maybe for no other reason than Ellis will not give Beth what she wants: control of her father's team" (DENVERPOST.com, 12/17).
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that the team "complained to the league about its road-heavy start to the season." In L.A., Andrew Greif noted the Clippers have "maintained that they are at a disadvantage as the third Staples Center tenant because they have fewer open windows for scheduling home games." The Clippers "are hoping to open their own arena in Inglewood" by '24. Rivers: "I gave up this fight a long time ago. This is something that really frustrated me my first two years coaching here. ... I don't even look at [the schedule] because we're not going to get a good one. It's what it is" (L.A. TIMES, 12/17).
THE PERFECT FIT: In Indianapolis, Dana Hunsinger Benbow in a front-page piece notes the Pacers' hiring of longtime WNBA exec Kelly Krauskopf as Assistant GM is a "historic one for the NBA." She is the "first woman in league history to be assistant general manager in the role's modern day format." Essentially, Krauskopf "will be building the team." She said, "It's kind of a surreal moment. I really believe this: If you just put your head down and work hard and really try to understand what kind of opportunities are in front of you, you never know." Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard: "It's going to be made a big deal about (her being a woman) and the truth is she is just the best person for the job, period, end of discussion" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 12/18).
CHANGE OF SCENERY? In Philadelphia, Keith Pompey cited league sources as saying that the 76ers ownership group "isn't in total agreement" on what to do with former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. Pompey: "Should they just cut their losses and take in an expiring contract at the appropriate time?" Or "would it better to wait and see if the well-liked Fultz can overcome his shooting woes and get past the things that’ve made his tenure a huge distraction?" Some in the ownership group, which "doesn’t like to look bad, are now pondering if it’s too early to give up on a guy that had so much promise" at the Univ. of Washington (PHILLY.com, 12/15).
STAYING THE COURSE: In Cleveland, Chris Fedor noted Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert is "preaching patience during a transitional season," as the team dropped to 7-23 on Sunday for the "third-worst mark in the Eastern Conference." Gilbert: "Our future plans are, as they've always been, commit to keep building the franchise into a perennial team that competes for a championship. ... We will be competing in a shorter period of time than people think. As you build this thing for the long term, I think you are going to see something emerge here in the next couple of years that will be a core and base" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/16).
In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross' season is "about to begin" now that the team likely will miss the playoffs. There is "nothing quite like the moment" at the end of a Dolphins game that "marks the end of another Dolphins season and feels like the end of a lot of people's jobs, too." That is something that "everyone's grown awkwardly accustomed to around this franchise" over the past two decades. Three years into coach Adam Gase's regime, with such "obvious problems across the board, firing people is pretty much the easy part." Hyde: "Can the owner fix his football side?" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 12/17).
HONEYMOON PHASE: In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes the "honeymoon period" for new Orioles Exec VP/Baseball Operations Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde "figures to be a long one, since everyone seems to understand that turning last year's 115-loss team back into a consistent winner will require a lot of time and patience." For the next "few years at least, you probably won't be reading anonymously sourced tweets about friction in the front office." There will be "no unconfirmed reports that the GM and the manager don't get along," and no "behind-the-scenes struggle for the full faith of ownership" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/18).