SBD/April 4, 2013/Franchises

NBA's Stern Says League Needs "More Data And Information" Before Deciding Fate Of Kings

Johnson (r) said he does not believe the NBA wants to relocate the Kings
NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday said the league needs "a lot more data and information" before it can decide whether the Kings move to Seattle or stay put, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Following a "long day of closed-door presentations in a Manhattan hotel, where contingents from Sacramento and Seattle separately pitched their cases for ownership of the Kings franchise, NBA officials offered no timeline for deciding the fate of the franchise." Stern said both presentations were "extraordinary." But he added that the league wants "more details on publicly subsidized arena plans in both cities and how each side plans to deal with obstacles, including potential legal challenges." The NBA also is "looking for more information on how the competing bids to buy the team are structured." As a result, the league's final decision "may not come until after" its annual BOG meeting April 18-19. Stern: "We've never had a situation like this." Stern in March said that Sacramento's initial bid to keep the Kings was too low, but yesterday said the current offering price "is not one of the issues" holding up the decision. California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that the committee of owners asked "pointed questions about California's environmental laws and whether they could interfere with a proposed new arena at Downtown Plaza." He said the state is prepared "to do whatever it takes to avoid unnecessary delay." Warriors Vice Chair and Kings bidder Vivek Ranadivé "talked about his desire to turn the Kings into a technology force and described 'sport as an agent of change.'" Meanwhile, Kings co-Owners George, Joe and Gavin Maloof "sat in" on Seattle's presentation (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/4).

SEATTLE'S PLEA: Stern, when asked if there was a "drop dead" date for a decision said, "There may be, but it isn't here yet." King County Exec Dow Constantine said, "If I was confident going in, I am even more confident, optimistic now." In Seattle, Bob Condotta in a front-page piece notes Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said that their role was to "assure the NBA there were no insurmountable hurdles in Seattle's arena plan." Constantine: "They really wanted to know about the things that traditionally have been the hardest to pin down, like the political will, for example. And we were able to convincingly, I think, answer those questions." Condotta notes NBA expansion "was not discussed during the Seattle presentation," and Stern said that it remains something the league "is not favoring." Constantine, when asked if he had a sense of the BOG's feelings, said, "They were playing it a little close to the vest. But you could tell that the owners liked a lot of what they heard about the financials, about the state of development of the proposal and I imagine they also put themselves in the shoes of the owners, the Maloofs, thinking 'How would I feel if I was in this position having an agreement with these guys to sell the team?'" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/4). Seattle's KING-TV reporter Chris Daniels tweeted George Maloof was "very emotional," saying that Hansen would be a "good steward of the franchise."

NOT GOING ANYWHERE? Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, "The NBA does not want to move a team from one market to another, period. ... They normally move a team from one market to another when the fans don't support it or you can't build a building. That's not the case in Sacramento." USA TODAY's Zillgitt & Amick note the Hansen-Ballmer group has "already given the Maloofs" a $30M, nonrefundable deposit. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said that the deposit "came with contingencies." Silver: "We're not going to speak to the specifics. And I tell you, it's two entirely different situations. Again, when the Seattle group put down the down payment, that was a contingent deal based on, of course, the ability to purchase and relocate the team. We're dealing with a different circumstance in terms of potential Sacramento buyers" (USA TODAY, 4/4). Stern said that the committee will "meet again" before the BOG meeting (AP, 4/3). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes NBA execs "didn't quite expect this." Instead of gaining some "clarity in this two-city tango for one team, ... Stern and several of his owners went off to dinner Wednesday with an even bigger mess on their hands." The Sacramento group "completely mucked this up" for the NBA. The Sacramento contingent "transformed a once neat and tidy process into that mud-wrestling match, that arm-twisting duel, that backroom brawl." But they did "exactly what they needed to do." Voisin: "How does the NBA turn away from Sacramento now?" While NBA officials "want a franchise in Seattle, they continue to wince at the mere mention of relocation" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/4).

RUNNING THE POINT: SPORTS ON EARTH's Shaun Powell writes of Johnson, "Point guard, point man, does it make a difference? Kevin Johnson is all that. He has shown himself to be an All-Star at both, and because of his tireless efforts over the last few months, the betting money says the Kings aren’t going anywhere." If everything is "equal, then why would the NBA encourage a franchise relocation? For what reasons? On what basis?" The owners would be "hypocrites if they held open the door for the Kings and allowed them to leave Sacramento, even if a fair number of owners desperately want back in the Seattle market" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/4). TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott wrote Hansen was "cagey when asked about right and wrong ways of getting an NBA team." One possible reason: Thunder Owner Clay Bennett, "who sneakily arranged the Sonics' departure, heads the NBA's relocation committee and is key to the NBA's decision-making" (ESPN.com, 4/3). The BEE's Voisin writes, "I think the league should devote an entire staff to dealing with arena issues that will continue to affect the NBA as long as franchises exist in 29 cities." Voisin: "Buildings get old. Owners go broke. It happens" (SACBEE.com, 4/4).
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