Michael Singer: Tim Connelly opens his remarks as presi…

Michael Singer: Tim Connelly opens his remarks as president of the Timberwolves thanking his ex-colleagues in Denver. Cites the Kroenkes, Michael Malone and Calvin Booth. “This (opportunity) is a culmination of their hard work.”

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Dane Moore: Glen Taylor explained the equity portion of Tim Connelly's contract as "basically on a bonus program" -- where "if the team does well, he does better". Connelly said he didn't want to comment on the equity portion of his agreement to join the Timberwolves.
Darren Wolfson: Former #Gophers guard Payton Willis works out for the #Timberwolves tomorrow a.m. Then, at 2 p.m. the Wolves will introduce new POBO Tim Connelly. Willis also will workout for the Memphis Grizzlies this week. He looks smooth in recent work w/his trainer.
Darren Wolfson: Will Tim Connelly eventually bring some of his own people in? 100 percent. That's a question of when will that happen, not if it will happen. Adam Simon of the Miami Heat is one name that's popular that's out there. Adam and Tim, I hear are very close.
The term "equity" has been thrown around all week in the wake of Minnesota's hiring of Tim Connelly as its new president basketball of operations. The implication is that Connelly received some sort of ownership stake on top of a reported five-year, $40 million deal to leave Denver and take over the Timberwolves' basketball operations. Sources with knowledge of the deal said this week that the equity piece of Connelly's deal has been overstated.
Michael Singer: Have heard two names who could be joining Tim Connelly in Minnesota, per sources: Darrell Arthur and Dell Demps. Arthur recently started working for the #Nuggets, and Demps gave Connelly one of his first breaks in New Orleans. Both are very close with Connelly.
“To be able to go get a guy like that when these guys don’t just grow on trees because of availability, and I think Minnesota targeted Connelly,” he said. “At $8 million per year over the next five years. We talked about ownership equity— it’s still unclear how that will come to fruition, but I’m told the opportunity to capitalize on that will be if Minnesota sells one day… when you package all that together from base salary to ownership equity, this is one of the most lucrative landmark contracts and in for an executive in the NBA. It just became an offer that was too lucrative and too good to pass up overall.”
Darren Wolfson: JD Davison of Alabama was among draft prospects in with the #Timberwolves today. Bigger headline: New POBO Tim Connelly is said to have been in the gym. In other words, he’s already grinding. #RaisedByWolves
The new contract more than doubles his salary with the Nuggets, sources said, and the equity component is a unique structure within the NBA that potentially makes the deal far more lucrative. Lore and Rodriguez, the partners who plan on succeeding Taylor as majority owners in 2023, knew the Timberwolves had to push hard to offer a compensation package that would get Connelly to leave a city he loves, an ownership group he trusts and a team he built over the last nine years into a potential Western Conference contender next season.
Tim Connelly, Denver’s president of basketball operations since 2013, is leaving to take the same position in Minnesota, a source told The Denver Post. The Timberwolves offered him five years and $40 million, plus equity, another source said, who added the deal more than doubles what he was making with the Nuggets. The Nuggets countered but there was still a significant gap between the two offers, a source said.
The decision to leave was particularly difficult for Connelly considering how close the Nuggets are to title contention and the deep relationships he’s established inside the organization with players and coach Michael Malone. Under Connelly’s watch, the Nuggets have reached the second round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, which had only been done once since 1994. Connelly, according to multiple sources, wasn’t eager to leave Denver and wasn’t searching for a new organization to help develop.
Darren Wolfson: A current pres. of bball operations who knows new #Timberwolves boss Tim Connelly well: "One of the greatest folks you would ever meet." Tim has kids that are 7 & 6, is married, big family guy. His brothers Joe, Pat, Dan, & Kevin all work/have worked in hoops. Pat VP w/ Bulls.
Nuggets president Tim Connelly is heading to Minnesota this weekend as the next step in the Timberwolves’ recruitment of him, a league source confirmed to The Denver Post. Connelly, who’s overseen the Nuggets since 2013, is planning to meet with Wolves owner Glen Taylor. ESPN first reported the development. With a stable organization, a reigning two-time MVP and a place where his family is comfortable, Connelly has no reason to leave the Nuggets. The only X-factor? Compensation. It’s believed the Timberwolves’ offer is more than double his current salary. Minnesota’s interest didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, it was discussed when Connelly, team governor Josh Kroenke and coach Michael Malone all went to Serbia to surprise Nikola Jokic with his MVP trophy. News of Minnesota’s interest in poaching Connelly from Denver got out on Wednesday. Publicly, it’s been more than 48 hours since Denver’s ownership has had a chance to counter or ensure Connelly doesn’t even listen to Minnesota’s proposal. Privately, they’ve had far longer than that.
Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly is traveling to meet with Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor this weekend in the next step in the team's pursuit to hire Connelly and make him one of the NBA's highest-compensated executives, sources told ESPN. Connelly has discussed the job extensively with Timberwolves minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez in the past week, and meeting with Taylor is next in the process, sources said.
Chris Hine: Connelly and Timberwolves inching closer to a deal. Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez have had significant influence over the process, but Glen Taylor as current controlling owner still has the final sign off on any deal.
Mike Singer: News came out Wednesday night tying Tim to Minnesota. It didn’t come out of nowhere. There’d been interest for a while, & it was discussed while group was in Serbia. The #Nuggets & the Kroenkes have had ample time to address and/or counter. It doesn’t look like they’re going to.
Michael Singer: Not entirely surprising, but #Nuggets president Tim Connelly's been radio silent with a lot of people close to him. I strongly believe he doesn't want to leave Denver, and I also think he'd stay if the Kroenkes could make him a competitive offer.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have emerged as a potential threat to poach Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, league sources told The Denver Post. The Timberwolves identified a list of four big-name GMs — Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, Golden State’s Bob Myers, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Connelly — to fill their vacancy, according to a person with direct knowledge of discussions. And the Nuggets’ long-time president was deemed the most “gettable,” from a financial standpoint, according to another source.
The Timberwolves identified a list of four big-name GMs — Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, Golden State’s Bob Myers, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Connelly — to fill their vacancy, according to a person with intimate knowledge of discussions. And the Nuggets’ long-time president was deemed the most “gettable,” from a financial standpoint, according to another source. Connelly, according to sources, is in an option year of his contract.
Ryan Blackburn: There's a lot to unpack with the Tim Connelly report, and as surprising as it is, there have been some signs. Notably, Calvin Booth, Denver' current general manager (under Connelly at POBO) spoke to media at Denver's post-season press conference a couple weeks ago.
The Timberwolves are in serious talks with Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly about the franchise’s vacant President of Basketball Operations role, sources tell The Athletic. The Timberwolves recently requested permission from the Nuggets to speak with Connelly, and the sides have moved beyond exploratory conversations, sources said. There have been no agreements reached yet, and nothing appears imminent, sources said.
Connelly has emerged as a serious target for the Timberwolves and marks the first known external candidate for the organization’s lead basketball department position. Sachin Gupta, the Timberwolves’ executive vice president, remains a significant part of the organization’s long-term vision and is a candidate to continue overseeing basketball operations, sources said.
Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor said Gupta would be evaluated after the season to determine if they would go forward with him or look elsewhere. The Wolves have not ruled out the possibility that Gupta will remain in charge, sources said. But the talks with Connelly represent a real consideration of hiring someone above Gupta.
Dane Moore: With the NBA lottery tonight and draft conversations heating up, Sachin Gupta remains in charge of the Timberwolves front office while, sources say, new ownership remains focused on hiring a “top 5” president of basketball operations to work with Gupta in the front office.
Perhaps there's an alternative avenue in Los Angeles, where the franchise retains Pelinka under his current title of vice president of basketball operations and general manager, and hires another executive as president, similar to how Magic Johnson originally held the president position alongside Pelinka. That arrangement has become increasingly common in NBA front offices, like how Philadelphia anointed Daryl Morey atop the Sixers' front office, previously helmed by general manager Elton Brand. Or how Danny Ainge was named Utah Jazz CEO despite having Justin Zanik operating as general manager. Along those lines, league sources continue mentioning the possibility Minnesota brings in a president above interim general manager Sachin Gupta. 
Gupta has spent his first days trying to connect with as many people in the organization as possible. He has spoken with every player to assure them that the goals for this season have not changed. He is meeting daily with coach Chris Finch in a partnership that both say has been seamless and has already forged a strong relationship with the ownership group, which has assured him that he will have all of the authority necessary to make any deals he thinks will help the team. “The first thing is I just wanted to make sure that, after the shock of it all, that people felt reassured that what happened was in no way a reflection on anyone else, that we have stability and that we just move forward,” Gupta said. “That was the big thing. I think everyone here knows who I am and knows what I’m about. I think people are just excited with the start of the year and knowing that with me there’s always an open ear that truly will be a collaborative process going forward.”
Gupta is much quieter by nature. He prefers to listen rather than dictate in meetings and wants to empower those underneath him. He also figures to be less of a presence in the locker room, giving the coaches and players more of their own space to operate, with the understanding that his door is always open if anyone wants to talk. “I’m not going to be in the middle of the huddle at center court giving a rah-rah speech. But I’m always available,” he said. “I’m a listener. I believe in servant leadership and I just want to be available. I view my role as helping everyone, players, staff, to put them in the best position possible to succeed as individuals, as a team, on the floor and off the floor.”
One of Gupta’s first moves in charge was to bring back Zarko Durisic, a very popular and respected scout who has been with the team since the 1990s but did not have his contract renewed by Rosas earlier this summer. Durisic was walking around the practice facility again this week, a little morale boost for a front office that had been put through the wringer in recent months.
Gersson Rosas came to work on Wednesday morning like it was any other day. On the Timberwolves practice facility courts, players were going through informal workouts to prepare for the beginning of training camp, which was less than a week away. Rosas gathered the players on the court, sources told The Athletic, and delivered a message to them about the importance of the work they were putting in. The pep talk of sorts was common from Rosas, a president of basketball operations who enjoyed making his voice heard. Players had grown used to these moments in Rosas’ two-plus seasons on the job, so the feeling throughout the gym on Wednesday was one of business as usual.
He was one of the most visible lead executives in the league, regularly conducting interviews to articulate his vision. Within the team, Rosas blurred the lines between the front office and locker room, addressing the team regularly and making his expectations clear. He held an unwavering belief in his plan and faith that the pains the team experienced in the short term would one day pay off.
At the time that plan was put into place, it was hard to envision having to fire Rosas this quickly. But sources say the deep dive Lore and Rodriguez were doing into the franchise started to raise concerns to them about the disenchantment in the front office earlier this summer. That coupled with the team’s lack of success led Lore and Rodriguez to believe a change was going to have to be made eventually. When more details surrounding Rosas’ relationship with another member of the Wolves staff emerged this week and they learned that people in the organization were becoming more and more uncomfortable, the timeline on that decision-making sped up. Taylor agreed and ultimately made the drive to tell Rosas face to face.
Now, after the relationship grew strained this summer, he finds himself as the lead basketball decision-maker. Gupta was named as the immediate successor, but the Wolves did not bestow the “interim” label on his job title that often comes in situations where firings happen quickly either in season or, in this case, right before it begins. He has quickly formed some strong relationships with the ownership group, sources said, and will go into this season with a chance to win the job outright.
The emergence earlier this month of Rosas' consensual romantic relationship with a female team staff member, after Rosas' tense dealings with eventual successor Sachin Gupta over a Houston offer to Gupta that he was prevented from accepting, gave Taylor the needed justifications to make the change now. Photographic evidence of Rosas in a romantic clinch with his co-worker was widely circulated across the league on Wednesday after his dismissal and promptly usurped even the Simmons situation as the No. 1 topic on the NBA grapevine.
Example: During the Las Vegas summer league, word circulated that Lore and Rodriguez would have loved to have made a run at Toronto's Masai Ujiri to lead Minnesota's front office. Ujiri recently signed a lucrative contract extension to stay with the Raptors — and the Wolves realistically had no shot at him — but the whispered interest only reinforces the notion that Lore and Rodriguez want to make splashy hires.
Ownership was made aware of Rosas' transgressions with the staffer when team officials were provided with photographic evidence of their connection, sources said. It seems few if any in Minnesota and around the league had general knowledge of Rosas' relationship until Wednesday, when the news quickly spread throughout the organization, and to rival team personnel, like wildfire. Rosas and the woman, each of whom is married, were seen kissing in a suite during a Minnesota United FC game last Saturday at Allianz Field​​, sources said. The soccer club was told to reserve luxury seating for several Timberwolves players and personnel, including assistant coach Pablo Prigioni. Two seats were filled by Rosas and the staffer.
Those pictures have been obtained by Bleacher Report. One photograph is a close-up shot, clearly showing Rosas and the woman sitting beside one another in light blue cushioned seats, behind the suite's protective plexiglass. A second photograph follows, where the two have leaned towards one another for a romantic embrace. Minnesota's statement announcing Rosas' departure provided no further context behind its decision, and as word of his affair swirled around the league Wednesday, several executives noted how Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor did not thank Rosas for his time atop the team's basketball department, as is customary in the business.
The revelation of Rosas' relationship comes after a series of tense staffing dynamics within his front office, and a level of discontent from some Timberwolves staffers pertaining to Rosas' leadership style, which has been described as isolationist. Any lead executive is privy to make final basketball decisions as they see fit, but several Minnesota figures told B/R they were dissatisfied by Rosas' penchant for disregarding consultations from his front office.
When the Timberwolves co-hosted a group predraft workout in July for 48 players over four days, it was open to attendance for all 30 teams, and rival team officials observed how Rosas never joined his own Minnesota staff during the event. While they all congregated in a section of the Target Center, sources said, Rosas instead spent the majority of the time on the opposite sideline with then-Jazz executive vice president Dennis Lindsey, a mentor dating back to their shared days in Houston and whose Jazz co-hosted the event. "[Rosas and his team] couldn't have been farther apart. It was extremely evident there was tension. It was really almost uncomfortable," said an Eastern Conference executive.
John Hollinger: Rumors of discontent from the staff in Minnesota had been bubbling up for at least a year, notably when then-VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta wanted to take a job with Houston and was prevented from doing so. Having worked in a front office, I can tell you that, technically, teams can block any move by staff under contract unless it’s contractually specified they can’t (i.e. some execs have it in their contract that they can’t be prevented from taking a higher position someplace else).
The Timberwolves named executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta as their new overseer of basketball operations, making him the first person of Indian origin to run a franchise’s basketball operations. Minnesota is expected to have a full search process, but team officials are fond of Gupta and will provide him a chance in the No. 1 role, sources said.
One person who said he had no qualms with how Rosas led and thought there was a collaborative environment did say that the overall vibe in the front office was tense. Some of that, he believed, was due to the disenchantment of other members of the staff, but he also believed the pandemic played a role. “It is not a root cause, but it’s an accelerant,” the source said in August just before the staff left for vacation. “It’s not the spark that lit the flame, but it’s something that makes the flame burn hotter. We haven’t had a day off in basically two years.”
Over his two seasons in Minnesota, several player agents privately had issues with Rosas’ negotiating tactics. Rosas had a responsibility to his organization and ownership, but scenarios would arise where representatives expected better treatment. Just this offseason, Rosas reneged during negotiations with restricted free agent Jordan McLaughlin and misled him about his role, according to a source directly involved in the talks. “Rosas was the cause of mishaps and pulled his promises,” the source said.
With a handful of days before the start of training camp, people across the NBA were stunned by the Timberwolves parting ways with Rosas. It was clear the heap of issues, from office morale to the lack of success, had decayed the Timberwolves’ front office and sources say those were the driving force behind the move. But why now? In recent days, the organization discovered that Rosas, who is married, had a consensual intimate relationship with a member of the organization, The Athletic has learned from multiple sources. It made several people within the organization uncomfortable, sources said. While this was not the reason for Rosas’ dismissal, it certainly impacted the timing. “This decision was made for performance reasons,” one high-ranking Timberwolves source said.
Marc Stein: Today’s firing was announced by Glen Taylor, who is not scheduled to transfer operating control of the Wolves to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez until after the 2022-23 season. Reminder as we await an explanation for the timing: Minnesota has made the playoffs once in 17 seasons. pic.twitter.com/LWB7NBF9U7
Jake Fischer: In wake of Gersson Rosas' departure, word has circulated among league sources since Summer League that incoming Minnesota Timberwolves owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez have communicated they are fond of Sixers general manager Elton Brand. A name to keep an eye on here.
Dane Moore: For quite some time now there has been dissension in the Timberwolves front office and organization, sources say. Moving on from Gersson Rosas is not an out of the blue development. In a critical year, with new ownership, the Wolves decided to act now rather than delay.
Jeff Zillgitt: Statement from Timberwolves on dismissing Gersson Rosas: “Today, the Minnesota Timberwovles parted ways with President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. As an organization, we remain committed to building a winning team that our fans and city can be proud of.”
Marc J. Spears: Timberwolves and Lynx announce the promotion of Tru Pettigrew to Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Pettigrew will oversee the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy including all franchises – Timberwolves, Lynx, Iowa Wolves, and T-Wolves Gaming.
Per Eurohoops, “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said in a statement. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no’. We have a received a ‘yes’. We don’t have a problem with the [Minnesota Timberwolves] or the NBA. It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations [Gersson Rosas].
“Four hours before the game against USA, there was a meeting between the doctors of the national team and the doctors of the Timberwolves franchise who congratulated Juancho and the national team on the recovery,” Garbajosa said. “The answer about whether Juancho could play was a ‘yes’ and that the next evaluation will be after the Olympics. From that moment until Minnesota told us that he won’t play, there were a series of facts that showed that the decision isn’t of medical nature. Even the Timberwolves coach congratulated Juancho for being in Tokyo. No one doubted that he could play.”
Willy Hernangomez: #FreeJuancho FFG 🌟
How involved is Rudy Tomjanovich in the day-to-day operations with you guys? Gersson Rosas: He's a personnel consultant for us. He does a ton of scouting for us. He's been involved in draft and pro personnel. He was with us last year during the draft when we initially brought him in. And he's a guy that has incredible perspective. I mean, he was an All-Star and on a Hall of Fame career on the court, and then off the court, the guy's done every job in the NBA. He's scouted, he's coached internationally, an Olympic gold medal-winning coach, a ton of knowledge and a ton of perspective for us, and a very talented individual that we're very blessed to have as part of this organization.
There are currently seven Black head coaches in the NBA. Vanterpool, who interviewed this offseason for head-coaching openings with the Pelicans, Rockets and Bulls, appeared to be knocking on the door to become the eighth Black head coach in the league. “It’s wrong in many facets,” oneexecutive told HoopsHype. “It’s wrong with what’s going on in the world with social justice. To me, it just comes down to a relationship thing. Gersson is the man in charge and he knows who he wants. I think it needed to be handled differently. I think even if you hire Finch, you have to do your due diligence and you make David your guy for at least until the end of the season. What’s the point of keeping them on if they were part of the problem?”
One assistant coach who spoke to HoopsHype was disappointed that Vanterpool was passed over for the job again. The assistant questioned whether one day he’d also be able to get a head-coaching job partly because of his skin color. “It’s a slap in the face,” the assistant coachtold HoopsHype. “We don’t even get a chance to fail. Just give us the opportunity. We’ve got to be a proven commodity. How many times have you seen a young dynamo that’s a Black coach get an opportunity? Some of these white guys they hire are middle age or early 30s. Some of these GMs are too. Vanterpool’s been successful, he’s been in a quality program for several years and had success there. I just don’t get it. I think David is going to be okay, but it’s going to a weird situation with him being at work every day.”
“I’m sure Vanterpool feels cheated,” a second assistant coachtold HoopsHype. “He went there to take the next step as anassociate head coach, leaving a great job in Portland to be the clear cut No. 2 guy. It would’ve been a great opportunity for both sides to see what he’s capable of. They could always turn to Finch after the season if there’s no momentum. Who was scooping Finch ahead of them?” “I was surprised they’d hire an assistant from another team mid-season,” a secondexecutive told HoopsHype.
“I’d say they spent enough time around Vanterpool to feel that he wasn’t the guy leading the show that they wanted, and they clearly felt Finch was,” a fourthexecutive told HoopsHype. “There are 90 front of the bench assistants in the NBA, and most of them will not be head coaches,” the third assistant coachtold HoopsHype. “Obviously, it’s frustrating and seems like this would be David’s chance, but they interviewed him before Ryan got the job and then brought him on as an assistant.
In both instances, the executive disagreed with the backlash Marks and Rosas each received for hiring a white coach instead of a Black one. “If somebody’s going to say something like that, then go ask Masai Ujiri why he hired Nick Nurse instead of a Black coach,” theexecutive told HoopsHype. “Go ask Arturas Karnisovas why he hired Billy Donovan instead of a Black coach.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: The National Basketball Coaches Association issues statement on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ process in hiring new coach Chris Finch: "It's always bittersweet when one coach is fired and another is hired. But this is not about individual coaches. We would be remiss not to acknowledge a deeper concern and level of disappointment with the Minnesota head coach hiring process. The NBCA understands and respects each organization's right to hire and fire whomever and whenever it chooses. But it is also our responsibility to point out when an organization fails to conduct a thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds."
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBCA: "During this past off-season, we saw many NBA head coaching vacancies where teams led searches that were both diverse and transparent. This must be the standard. We must establish a level playing field and equal access to opportunity for all coaching candidates. The NBCA has been working closely with the League Office on a wide range of initiatives that will improve future coaching searches. In partnership with the NBA, we look forward to sharing details in the weeks to come."
Is the number one need just a little bit more size, maybe that's a four but maybe that four can also guard threes, you know, maybe has some position flexibility, but would that be about your number one need? Gersson Rosas: I would say it's pretty close. I mean, like anything, the number one need is to always get the best player available on the market and that's our focus. Number two, I do think we have some options there at the four, we want guys that have the opportunity to compete and play better, but if there are clear upgrades, we're always looking for that in any way so we can help move the program forward. And that's probably the position where we've had the most inconsistency in the most need defensively and in terms of rebounding.
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August 19, 2022 | 3:27 am EDT Update
“[LeBron James] recognizes that it could lead up all the way to the trade deadline before that type of deal could occur.” – Dave McMenamin on the Lakers improving their roster via potential Kyrie Irving, Buddy Hield/Myles Turner, or Utah trades.

Donovan Mitchell’s trade links to the New York Knicks are in full swing again after previous reports indicated that the Knicks have re-engaged negotiations with the Utah Jazz. The 25-year-old has added more fire to the flame after he was spotted in Rucker Park, one of the most iconic basketball spots in New York City, on Wednesday. Mitchell posted a photo of himself hanging out with some kids at the park. The Jazz star was clearly having quite the time (h/t ClutchPoints on Twitter):

Mike James: I don't have a problem with Stephen Curry

In the recent URBONUS podcast episode, James said that he has no bad feelings about Steph, and many took his words out of context. “I think I said a lot of controversial things in general because I think outside the box. But for some reason, every time I mention Steph Curry, everybody gets mad, and everybody assumes I don’t like him,” James smiled. “But I think he’s amazing. To be honest, he changed basketball. Like seven years ago, everybody started shooting threes and playing small ball. Not only because of him. Like 75% of him, and then like the other 25% the Warriors. I don’t have a problem with him,” James told on the BasketNews show.
During his show on 620 Rip City Radio in Portland, host Chad Doing mentioned that he had heard that the announcers would not go on the road with the Blazers. His co-host, Dwight Jaynes, then confirmed the report. “I have confirmed from several sources that that is the plan for the Trail Blazers,” Jaynes said. “That they will not be sending radio or television on the road with their team. Also, what I’ve heard and I’ve tried to check this out, I have not found any other team in the league that’s doing this. I believe they may be the only team in the league doing it — when they’re on the road. And I just think that’s really unfortunate and difficult.”