(updated below continuously)
Forget Lil Jon. John Kincade has finally revealed the identity of his shadowy "Balkan":
Yeah, we've never heard of him either. A quick Google search turns up a bearded, affable-looking "J.B. Smith" who teaches music at Arizona State University (presumably not the same guy) and a "J.B. Smith" who manufactures "oil country tubular fittings, swages, and bull plugs" (who the fuck knows?).
I don't want to be rash, but I'm going to assume the reason we're now hearing this is because he's given up.
Apparently this same J.B. Smith tried to
INSTANT IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS: Your TBC editor isn't sure that this is necessarily something to be ecstatic about. No one knows for certain what's going on behind the scenes, but it certainly seems that the Atlanta Spirit have gone from wanting to sell all three of their possessions to wanting to unload just the Thrashers. Apparently this Smith character wants all three, while True North are interested in only the Thrashers. You can see where this is leading.
UPDATE:...and then there's the question of just how much money Smith's group actually has. Craig Custance summarizes the situation here:
An NHL source told Sporting News that the belief is Smith doesn't have the necessary financial backing to make such a significant purchase, and questioned the validity of Smith's group. In 2009, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Smith announced that he would be a major investor in the NFL' Pittsburgh Steelers but sources later told the paper that there were never negotiations between Smith and the Rooney family.
SOOOO this guy might not have the financial backing to pull this off. And he never even negotiated with the Steelers-owning Rooney family? Strange.
UPDATE: AJC reporting that the Spirit are definitely trying to sell the Hawks and the Thrashers, but separately, so as to maximize profits. Apparently "the Spirit and outgoing San Diego Padres owner John Moores are in an exclusive negotiating period regarding the Hawks and the Philips Arena operating rights." Fancy!
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: In the most bizarre turn of events in this whole Balkan saga, that Jay Clemons guy is suddenly (?) working for Smith. To be precise: he's quit Sports Illustrated to handle all of Smith's dealings with the media. I'm sure everyone in the Thrashers Twitterverse will now take everything he says with a grain of salt, not allow themselves to be taken for a ride by a PR man, etc. Right?
ANOTHER: This Winnipeg Free Press report is probably worth considering. Apparently all of J.B. Smith's money is "in China."
Oh, and now True North is appealing to the Manitoba provincial government to assume some of the debt on their arena so they can free up more money to buy the Thrashers. In other words: If the team does move to Winnipeg, they'll probably end up just as comical a money-suck as the Thrashers. OR who knows, maybe they'll benefit from the relative strength of the Canadian economy, with its moose-shaped bathtubs full of loonies.