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One of the perks of being the outside general counsel for the San Antonio Spurs is occasionally rubbing elbows with big-name athletes and celebrities. Just ask J. Tullos Wells. Wells, the managing partner of Bracewell & Giuliani in San Antonio, recalls his somewhat unusual introduction to ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” actress Eva Longoria, who dates Spurs guard Tony Parker. As Wells tells the story, he and his wife were driving to a game one day when they got caught in a traffic jam near the SBC Center, where the Spurs play. “This car was honking at me like crazy,” he says. Wells says the other driver was Parker, who yelled out his window, “Tell Pop it’s not my fault.” The “Pop” to which Parker referred was Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who was likely to be displeased that one of his players had failed to arrive early on a game day. Parker introduced Longoria, who plays Gabrielle Solis on the prime time soap opera, to Wells and his wife “as we were parked unwillingly on one of the streets near the arena,” says Wells, who has been the Spurs’ outside general counsel since 1995. And there are other perks to the job. Wells’ Spurs memorabilia includes two diamond-studded National Basketball Association championship rings, and he expects soon to add a third ring to his collection. The rings were gifts to Wells from the Spurs, who won a third national championship last month by defeating the Detroit Pistons. “There are only 29 other guys on the planet who get to do what I get to do,” says Wells. Wells loves basketball. He attends all of the Spurs’ home games and travels with the team occasionally for out-of-town games. He was in the crowd in San Antonio on June 23, when the Spurs clinched their third NBA title in seven seasons with an 81-74 win over the Pistons in the seventh game of the championship series. “It’s a much friendlier crowd in San Antonio,” Wells says, recalling the 1999 game in which the Spurs won their first national championship by defeating the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. “They love to heckle the opposing team,” Wells says of the Knicks’ fans. Wells says the New York crowd yelled profanities whenever action was under way on the court, but individual fans introduced themselves to him and were polite when there was a lull in the game. Frank Ruttenberg, another partner in Bracewell & Giuliani’s San Antonio office who works with Wells in representing the Spurs, says Wells must go to most of the Spurs’ games in case he needs to help the team file a protest with the NBA. Ruttenberg says the San Antonio team filed a protest in 2004 when the Los Angeles Lakers’ Derek Fisher caught an inbounds pass with 0.4 seconds remaining on the game clock and made a basket to defeat the Spurs by a score of 74-73. Wells and the Spurs didn’t win on that one, however. NBA Commissioner David Stern denied the protest. As Ruttenberg notes, Wells has helped the team with everything from filing protests to working on development of the SBC Center, the arena the Spurs lease from and operate for Bexar County. “On any given day, his job representing the Spurs could be just about anything,” Ruttenberg says. In addition to working for the Spurs, Wells also handles legal matters for the team’s affiliates — the San Antonio Silver Stars women’s basketball team and the San Antonio Rampage hockey team. He also assists the Spurs on matters relating to the SBC Center and in looking for other sports entertainment opportunities for San Antonio. The team and its affiliates are organized under the umbrella organization, Spurs Sports & Entertainment, Wells says. “It’s a business a lot like show business,” Wells says. “The team’s in the public eye a lot.” But on some days, the job may involve the mundane, such as getting a player out of jury duty during basketball season, Wells says. The job also can involve working on big development projects. One of Wells’ major assignments in the past involved assisting the Spurs’ management team in its negotiations with city of San Antonio and Bexar County officials for the planning and development of the SBC Center, which opened in October 2002. Rick Pych, the Spurs’ executive vice president for corporate development, recalls “quite a few difficult meetings” with city and county officials over the development of the approximately $200 million arena. Many of those meetings were in Wells’ law office, which provided a neutral venue, Pych says. “We spent a lot of long nights there,” he adds. Wells says he hired several law firms with expertise in construction, architectural and engineering contracts to assist with the arena project. “My job was to shepherd that as best I could,” Wells says. Another of his tasks on the project, Wells says, was to work with the County Coliseum Advisory Board and various community groups with an interest in the project. Wells says that rental car and hotel/motel occupancy taxes approved by Bexar County voters helped pay for constructing the arena, and the Spurs also contributed “a big chunk” of the funding. Getting the arena built wasn’t Wells’ only job. Wells says he also assisted the Spurs in negotiating the 25-year licensing and operating agreements for the arena. “At the end of the day, I pulled an all-nighter at the county courthouse with my clients and the consultants just to get everything done,” he says. Wells says he typically spends about 20 percent of his time on work for the Spurs. But when the Spurs were involved in negotiations for and construction of the SBC Center, his work for the team took up most of his time, he says. Pych says the Spurs’ reliance on Wells goes well beyond his providing the team with legal advice. Wells is one of the few people the team relies on for advice in terms of the role the Spurs should play in San Antonio, Pych says. Eric Barbosa, a Bracewell & Giuliani associate in San Antonio who also works on legal matters for the Spurs, says Wells works closely with the Spurs Foundation to get players out into the community for reading programs, drug awareness programs and other events. Barbosa says that when the Spurs had a Chinese player on the team who spoke no English, Wells found a translator for that player, so he also could participate in community events. “That’s the level of care Tullos has the foresight to provide to propel the image of the San Antonio Spurs forward,” Barbosa says. Barbosa says Wells’ inter-relationship with the San Antonio community has helped him guide what is essentially a small-market team through the waters of the NBA to become one of the league’s most high-profile teams. In the 1990s, Wells led San Antonio’s effort to try to keep Kelly Air Force Base open and later helped bring in other industry to fill the employment void created when the base closed in 2001. A PLACE TO PLAY San Antonio is Wells’ adopted hometown. Wells grew up in Darien, Conn., a sort-of suburb of New York City. Darien had only one high school, making it easy for boys like him, with limited athletic talent, to participate in basketball, football, baseball and hockey. “The only thing I was really good at was track,” he says. When his father, an oil company executive, transferred from New York City to Houston, Wells got a chance to run track at Memorial High School. His team won the national championship in the mile medley relay, Wells says. “I thought I was going to be a track star,” he recalls. Wells says he and several high school chums went out for track while they were undergraduates at the University of Texas in Austin, but Wells soon realized there were a lot of runners who were faster than he was. “I decided to be a student,” Wells says. After graduating from UT with a degree in journalism, Wells went on to the University of Texas School of Law, graduating in 1974. He arrived in San Antonio in 1978 after three years with the Office of General Counsel for the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C. Politics drew him to San Antonio. “I came down here to work for the first Democrat in 80-plus years not to get elected” as governor, Wells says, referring to then-Texas Attorney General John Hill’s 1978 loss to Republican Bill Clements. Wells says he was a “gofer” in Hill’s campaign and supported himself as a plaintiffs’ civil-rights attorney at Branton & Mendelsohn. In 1985, Wells joined Matthews & Branscomb and left that firm in 1996 with a group of other lawyers who started Wells Pinckney & McHugh. Wells joined Bracewell & Patterson, now Bracewell & Giuliani, in 1999. Wells says he always intended to return to Washington. “I just never have,” he says. “When it’s 101 degrees outside I say, “I’d better go soon.’” His chance to become the Spurs outside general counsel came in 1995 when Jack Diller became the team’s chief executive officer. Diller, now president of the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators, says he came to the Spurs from the New York Knicks. “It was a new market to me and a different size market,” Diller says. Wells says the Spurs previously hired attorneys for projects. Diller wanted the team to have an outside general counsel to handle its legal matters, Wells says. “I was looking for someone who blended a strong knowledge of the San Antonio market with the ability to be creative in terms of reacting to the kinds of changes that had taken place in NBA basketball,” Diller says. When he arrived in San Antonio, Diller says, the Spurs were playing in a football stadium. To effectively compete with the teams in New York and Los Angeles, he says, the Spurs needed an arena in which to play its games. That need spurred the development of the SBC Center — the project that Wells helped make a reality. Diller says Wells also became a student of how to work the NBA’s salary cap so that the team would have the money for a valuable player when that player became available. As Diller explains, that involves planning ahead and conducting a team’s business today in a way that will position the team to take advantage of the cap at a time when other teams are not able to do so. Lawrence Payne, vice president of broadcasting for Spurs Sports & Entertainment, says the organization is very demanding. “We expect things to happen right away, and Tullos has been there for us,” Payne says. “Working for a pro team is something like working for a three-ring circus — it puts you all over the place.” His representation of the Spurs took Wells to London in 2001 for an arbitration relating to the team’s effort to acquire Parker, a French player who at the time was under contract with a team called Paris Basket Racing. Wells says the Federation Internationale de Basketball — the European equivalent of the NBA — has an agreement with the NBA that neither league will steal the other league’s players. But Wells says he believed Parker had a “viable out” in his contract after the end of the 2000-2001 season. Popovich, the Spurs’ head coach, accompanied Wells to London for the arbitration, which was held on Sept. 11, 2001. Wells says he was in the middle of putting on his case, when an assistant to the arbitrator stepped into the room to announce that there had been a terrible airplane crash in New York City. Wells says he rushed into the next room where there was a television just in time to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. With flights canceled around the world, Popovich and Wells spent the next five days in London after the arbitration concluded, because they couldn’t get flights home. His concern, Wells says, was being separated so long from his then 2-year-old daughter. “I had not planned to spend 11 days of my life in London,” he says. Over the years, Wells has engaged in good-natured ribbing and funny bets with the general counsel for other NBA teams. Wells says he and Jim Perzik, general counsel for the Los Angeles Lakers, bet on their teams in the playoffs in 2002. When the Spurs lost, Wells says he had to don a Lakers jersey and have a photo taken of himself in the jersey with other Bracewell lawyers and staff members gathered around him. Then he had to send the photo to Perzik, Wells says. Perzik says he still has the photo of Wells somewhere but that the Spurs have beaten the Lakers in the playoffs for the past few years. “So I haven’t had it out,” he says.

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