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SBD/February 18, 2013/Franchises
Stern Appears "Split" On NBA Kings-Seattle Move; Says Owners Have Tough Decision
Published February 18, 2013
PLAYING IT STRAIGHT: In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis wrote Stern "played it right down the middle" in his news conference. He said that he has "no idea" how the owners will rule. Stern: "I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide." Johnson said one owner told him over the weekend, "I didn't realize you guys were that far ahead." Johnson said that he has "spent much of his time talking up Sacramento as an NBA city, reminding owners of the 19 seasons of sellouts." The team's attendance this year "ranks at the bottom of the league as the team has struggled on the court and fans have become increasingly turned off" by team Owner the Maloof family's efforts to sell the team. Johnson: "I'm reminding them of how great the Sacramento market has been." He added that he "thinks many owners are predisposed to keep the team in Sacramento because they don't want to see franchises relocate" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17). The SACRAMENTO BEE's Dale Kasler reported Johnson "spent hours in a series of closed-door meetings with key NBA officials." A source said the talks were "positive and productive" but would not identify the league officials who met with Johnson. The source said that the officials "seemed to appreciate that Sacramento has 'an approved arena plan.''' A source said that most NBA owners "aren't yet engaged on the Kings issue" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17).
WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND: USA TODAY's Sam Amick noted Johnson did not think anything Stern said during the weekend "dimmed the continued confidence he has in his efforts" to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Johnson, on his confidence: "No, [it's] just increased. ... Everybody we talk to, they're rooting for us -- whether they're in the league or not. I feel like we can control our own destiny" (USATODAY.com, 2/17). Stern on Saturday said that he "has not and will not meet" with Johnson over the weekend (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/16). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote Stern "in no uncertain terms ... acknowledged that Sacramento is facing a formidable bid" of about $340M from the Hansen-Balmer group. But this "ordeal is all about new owners and a new building." Stern made that "very, very clear." He will "roll up his sleeves one more time, will get down and dirty if need be" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/17).
SPLIT DECISION? In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote it is "apparent that Stern is split" on the Kings situation. Those close to him "believe he wants to leave his post next February with a solution for Seattle." But Stern also wants to "reward Sacramento for rescuing the Kings from Kansas City 27 years ago and approving the arena deal in a difficult economy." The fact Stern "appears split won’t help the competition between the cities." This is "by far Seattle’s best chance to regain a team, since expansion seems out of the question for now." Stern "won’t even broach that topic, leaving it up to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, his successor" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17).