Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Another story to watch: The Nets spend to win

In my end-of-year NBA awards, I honored the Brooklyn Nets for the league’s biggest turnaround but cautioned about a dip at the gate in year two. I’ll eat those words because what Mikhail Prokhorov has done to spend money around the team is one of the most fun stories in sports.

So you want players? How about Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. Want to take a chance on a compelling coaching hire? Go get Jason Kidd. Need to spend and increase payroll? Let’s hit a league-high $101 million. Worried about the luxury tax? Get ready for an estimated $82 million tax bill, with half redistributed to other, less fortunate teams.

And how does that affect the gate? Well, since the signings, Brett Yormark’s sales team has sold $3 million in new full-season tickets and will likely go into next year with a season-ticket base capped at 13,000. So any sense of a dropoff of interest in Brooklyn seems foolish.

Meanwhile, competition with the Knicks grows stronger and the top markets in the Eastern Conference figure to be Miami, New York/Brooklyn, Chicago and, OK, Indiana. Not a bad story for the league.

> BUYING THE BUZZ?: Staying on the NBA: In our newsroom headquarters in Charlotte, a lot of buzz about the Bobcats’ plans to return as the Hornets in 2014, a name they held from the team’s inception in 1988 until it relocated in 2002. Local reaction has been positive and the move has received good press. But mixed feelings pervade this newsroom among those who are regulars for games or season-ticket holders.

A lifelong Charlottean in his 30s is excited and feels the buzz is back. Others are not so sure. One told me it reeked of desperation. A short-term solution to a long-term problem — and that’s the failure to win.

Another expressed frustration that he had to explain to his kids why their favorite team isn’t going to be the Bobcats any more. “While the vocal minority that has never spent a dime to support this franchise celebrated, I had to tell two 6-year-olds who have never known any team other than the Bobcats that their favorite team is changing its name,” he told me.

I have written before that I believe Bob Johnson was one of the most ill-suited owners that I could recall in pro sports, and naming the franchise after himself was just one of many mistakes. I sense that Michael Jordan and his top brass felt they needed something significant to change the tone around this team, and believed a $3 million to $5 million rebranding would be not just cosmetic but also cathartic for an indifferent fan base looking for a reason to believe.

But signing more players of the caliber of Al Jefferson, winning more than 40 games — which they have done once in nine years of existence — as well as benefiting from the new CBA in both team building and revenue sharing will boost fan interest and the bottom line far more than a name change.

> STANDING ‘O’ FOR GRANGER: A strong hire by the Sacramento Kings in tabbing longtime NBA TMBO executive Chris Granger as club president. In case you missed it, NBA team presidents met earlier this month at the Wynn Las Vegas and paid tribute to Granger as he prepared to leave the league office.
As our NBA beat writer John Lombardo filed on our newsroom blog, after Granger gave his final presentation, he was given a standing ovation, with Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts delivering a speech praising Granger and the “legacy” of the TMBO division. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver also praised Granger in front of the team presidents.

> ESPN’S HIRES: While previews around the launch of Fox Sports 1 are all over the trades, this one included, ESPN successfully stole headlines with its well-timed hiring of Keith Olbermann and Nate Silver. The moves by John Skipper stood out to me on a couple of fronts: first, adding two  intelligent analysts of both sports and pop culture; second, adding star power — for however polarizing Olbermann is, he can draw for a network that probably need an  above-the-fold mainstream personality.

With Silver, ESPN gets someone who appeals to a passionate group of analytics disciples, and it keeps the network out front in presenting data-driven debate and graphics.  As FS1 is positioned as “jockularity,” ESPN is taking aim at “smart” sports fan while having fun. We’ll see what sticks.

> KUDOS TO KING: While on media, I credit Peter King for launching the new “The MMQB” site. I also admire his constant push to reinvent himself and his skill set. “I’m 56 years old and I’m trying every way I can to figure out how to not become a dinosaur,” he told us.

The new offering is a dramatic shift in layout and presentation (but please add a print function to your stories!). In addition, now a national audience will get to appreciate the work of King’s new hire, Greg Bedard. I followed Bedard’s work when he was covering the Patriots for the Boston Globe, and his weekly Wednesday game breakdowns and analysis were incredibly insightful and required reading.

> PEARCE’S MOVING STORY: I enjoyed the HBO documentary “The Crash Reel: The Fall and Rise of Snowboarder Kevin Pearce” and suggest you put it on your viewing list. At nearly 1:50, it’s roughly 20 minutes too long and it lost my attention when it drifted into head injuries across sports. In addition, I wonder whether Shaun White, his family and handlers wish he were portrayed in a better light.

But the core story of how Kevin Pearce and his family dealt with his horrific accident before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was at times numbing but overall courageous. After watching the film, I talked to colleague Tripp Mickle about it, and I marveled at the various forms of footage that this film had — of the accident, to the family’s heartbreaking first visit of Kevin in a Utah hospital, for example.

Tripp talked to the film’s director, Lucy Walker, and she told him they started on the filming 2 1/2 years ago and got footage from 232 places. “That might be a record in the documentary world. It was an archaeological dig,” she told Tripp.

The family’s openness to showing all the areas of Kevin’s recovery helped viewers understand the difficulties and challenges the family faced — one witnessed surgeries, sensitive family discussions over dinners and even Pearce’s visit with his mother to his psychologist. Nothing was out of bounds, and it painted a complete portrait of the family’s emotional struggles.

“There was nothing they ever didn’t want us to film. Pia [Pearce, Kevin’s mom] certainly has an attitude that with a disability you shouldn’t be quiet about it. You should be courageous enough to share it,” Walker told Tripp.
Pia Pearce’s role in this film can’t be overstated. I marveled at her strength and consistent, loving support of Kevin, while also managing the family dynamic. I hope you get a chance to check it out.

> TWO TO VIEW: Finally, “Mud” (Matthew McConaughey was fantastic as a fugitive hiding in Arkansas who befriends two young boys) and “The Way, Way Back” have been my two favorite films of the summer so far. Still watching “The Newsroom” in season two, but with a bit less enthusiasm over the story lines. If you want something different, check out Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” Edgy and dark with fantastic acting by Liev Schreiber and a menacing Jon Voight.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at