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CEO: Timberwolves’ jersey ads will ‘change the way teams evaluate these types of deals’

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves are getting into the jersey advertisement game with a Fitbit patch in a three-year deal.

The Timberwolves announced the marketing collaboration for the team’s first jersey patch on Tuesday. Fitbit also will be featured in the newly renovated Target Center, with the team exploring ways the wearable technology can help players, employees and fans track their health and fitness during practices, games and everyday activities.

Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson said the team sees the partnership as more than a small patch in the corner of newly designed jerseys unveiled later this summer. The Timberwolves were among four other teams bidding for Fitbit’s business.

“This is going to change the way teams evaluate these types of deals and relationships going forward,” Casson said. “This is different than anything I’ve seen before.”

The Wolves plan to use Fitbit’s technology throughout the organization, including logging the new concession offerings at Target Center into the Fitbit food section to help fans make healthier choices at the games. The wearables will be used with the Iowa Wolves, the Des Moines-based development league team recently purchased by the Timberwolves, as a test for performance enhancement that might be incorporated with the NBA team. Areas of interest include sleep, recovery from workouts and nutrition.

“They weren’t just looking at this as a jersey sponsorship,” Fitbit chief marketing officer Tim Rosa said. “They were looking at it as an opportunity to tell a bigger story around innovation and health and wellness.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau is on board, Casson said.

Jersey patches are just starting to take hold in the NBA. Boston, Sacramento, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Cleveland are among the teams to announce deals with various sponsors. The Wolves have been exploring potential deals for months.

They considered local companies and had conversations with several Chinese companies after John Jiang joined the team as the NBA’s first Chinese minority owner. In the end, they chose San Francisco-based Fitbit for its recognizable brand and the company’s ability to partner with the franchise on several health and wellness fronts.

“We think we’re going to evolve weekly with the types of things we’re thinking of doing and capable of doing,” Casson said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

Rosa said Duluth, Minnesota, ranked first on the company’s “Fittest Cities” list in 2017 while Minneapolis ranked second in 2016. Fitbit also has business relationships with several prominent Minnesota companies that do business with the Wolves, including UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy and the Mayo Clinic, which partners with the Timberwolves on their practice facility.

The Iowa Wolves will wear a Fitbit jersey patch, and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx will use the wearable technology. The Lynx feature the Mayo Clinic and Verizon on the front of their jerseys.

“The ability to work with a team and work on specific things around sleep or activities in the offseason, it’s pretty exciting,” Rosa said. “It’s a mutual benefit that a team has access to all of this plyometric data. There’s a lot of room for improvement and understanding your body and how to enhance performance.”

 

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.