Hawks promise ticket holders refund if they miss playoffs

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ATLANTA - The Atlanta Hawks, who have not been to the playoffs in three seasons, are making a bet with full-season ticket holders: They will pay them $125 if the Hawks don't make the playoffs.

The offer is the first of its kind among Atlanta teams and uncommon in professional sports. Hawks president Stan Kasten called it an attempt to repair the team's public image and a testament to coach Lon Kruger's confidence.

``Lon came to upper management and said he wanted to do this, to change perceptions. He wanted the fans to know how strongly we believed in the team,'' Kasten said.

The wager could cost the team as much as $500,000, based on 2001 sales of about 4,000 full-season ticket packages at between $1,025 and $3,485 each. But Kruger isn't worried about losing the bet.

``We like our team. We expect to make the playoffs,'' he said.

And if the Hawks do make the playoffs, full-season ticket holders will get the first playoff game free.

Although the idea was Kruger's, Kasten said he talked to Hawks players Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, Jason Terry and Dion Glover before launching the program.

``They're going to be hearing about this all summer and every day during the season,'' Kasten said. ``They have no problem with it.''
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