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Timberwolves and Wild in limbo with Bally Sports North as another deadline approaches

With their seasons about to start, several NBA and NHL teams – including the Timberwolves and Wild – are in limbo with their TV futures, including how games will be shown this season and how they will do so get paid.

An article Monday in Sports Business Journal summarized the situation, calling this a “pivotal week for the future of Diamond Sports,” owner of regional broadcasters Bally Sports, which shows games for 15 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams.

SBJ notes that there are two important deadlines before the end of the week: Diamond’s contract to show games on Comcast, the largest cable/satellite provider in the United States, expires this week; and Diamond has until Saturday to submit a restructuring plan to the bankruptcy court that satisfies creditors.

As if that wasn’t enough, Diamond’s contract with DirecTV expires at the end of October and its contract with Charter expires in February.

As I mentioned on the Daily Delivery podcast on Tuesday, the pressing Comcast deadline is exactly what teams are keeping an eye on because it’s widely believed that Diamond can’t survive without a deal to air games on that cable carrier.

If these sides reach an agreement, at least a temporary status quo would be maintained. Upcoming NHL and NBA regular season games beginning in October are expected to be shown on Bally channels.

However, if contract negotiations between Diamond and Comcast fail (and fail), the cascading effect could be significant. The vast majority of NBA teams are scheduled to receive initial broadcast rights payments from Diamond on October 1 or November 1, SBJ reported, and that money could be at risk.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a black cloud right now, but without a doubt a gray cloud hanging over us,” Orland Magic CEO Alex Martins told SBJ. “We’re all kind of sitting there waiting to see what happens with the Bally bankruptcy.”

It could even end up with the NBA and NHL taking over broadcast rights on the eve of their seasons, which would give fans access to the teams they want but raise questions about how much teams would be paid for those rights.

If this all sounds familiar, a similar process has been playing out in Major League Baseball (and the Twins) this season. MLB eventually took over the Padres and Diamondbacks broadcasts after Diamond gave up those rights. Diamond also skipped payments to the Twins and several other teams before finally paying up. The Twins’ contract with Bally Sports North expires at the end of this season.

For NBA and NHL teams, it’s a wait-and-see game. Deadlines usually encourage action, even if the negotiations are contentious.

The big story a few weeks ago was Charter’s standoff with Disney/ESPN, and after more than a week of removing those sports channels from the homes of some 15 million Charter subscribers, the two sides reached an agreement – conveniently just hours before Monday night Football.

Maybe this will have a similar 11 hour resolution. Until then, the gray cloud will remain.

Here are four more things you should know today:

*If the season ended today, the Twins would play the Astros in the Wild Card round. All I can say is that it’s good that the season doesn’t end today.

*This quote from Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell on Monday about the team’s fumble problem caught my attention. “Either guys are going to do it, or we have to bring guys in that have ball security.”

*The Wild are No. 7 on this ESPN list of how they fare going forward.

*The Big Ten West may be worse than ever, which makes the Gophers’ loss to Northwestern all the more frustrating.

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