SBD/April 22, 2013/Franchises

Stern Gives No Indication On Potential Outcome Of NBA Kings Saga

Stern said that a decision on the Kings likely will not come until early May
NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday said that the competing Sacramento and Seattle bids for the Kings "'are in the same ballpark' ... pushing aside complaints" from Kings Owner the Maloof family "that the deal they've struck with investors from Seattle is markedly superior to the counteroffer from Sacramento," according to Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Stern offered "few clues about the outcome to the richest tug of war the league has ever seen." He said that a decision "probably won't come until early May." The Maloofs in a letter to the NBA said that Sacramento's "bid is 'deficient economically' when compared with the sweetened offer they've accepted" from the group led by Seattle hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The letter "confirms earlier reports that Hansen is offering more money." His recently "improved offer would value the whole team" at $550M, the "most ever paid for an NBA team." Sacramento "so far has only matched Hansen's original offer, which would give the Maloofs" $341M. The letter also questioned whether the Sacramento group has "sufficient cash." But Stern, who has "tangled with the Maloofs in the recent past, gave the bid far more credence than they did." Stern "bristled Friday at a Seattle TV reporter's suggestion that he's taking sides." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver: "There's no lobbying or campaigning going on by the league office." Stern said, "We're most concerned about the critical path of arenas to getting built." Kings co-Owner George Maloof said that his family would "like an answer soon." Maloof: "We respect the process, but we want it to be over." Silver said, "While we would have liked to have seen it move faster, we can't short-cut this process." Meanwhile, Stern "threw cold water" on the possibility of an expansion team in Seattle. Stern: "I don't want to say (expansion is) a complete non-starter" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/20).

DIFFICULT TASK: In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the Kings situation serves as "one of the more controversial topics in Stern's tenure." Silver "reiterated that this decision has been agonizing because while the owners want Seattle back in the fraternity ... Sacramento has done everything asked to retain the team." Silver: "I can’t remember anything in recent history where we’ve had so many lengthy meetings, so much deliberation." Stern added, "We have expended not only enormous man hours but enormous sums of money for outside consultants. This will be by far our most extensive review of anything like this in the league’s history.” Asked how Seattle could ever trust the NBA again if the Kings remain in Sacramento, Stern said, “I don’t know. We can only do what we do and tell you transparently what we do" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21).

SPLIT DECISION: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said that he has "spoken with several owners who 'feel very good about where we are'" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger cited an owner who said of the NBA BOG's upcoming vote, "I think it's 50-50. I think it could go either way." Stern said, "It's the only time in the last ... 47 years that I haven't known the answer. This is one that's just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well." Stern said that the "issue slated first" for a vote "will be the proposed relocation of the Kings." Relocation requires a "majority vote of the 30 owners to pass." A vote for relocation would "signify that subsequent approval of the sale" to the Seattle group "would be a foregone conclusion." A source said that some owners remain "skeptical about the viability of the Sacramento group's offer." An owner said, "The question about Sacramento is, can they come up with the money? It's kind of like 'The check's in the mail.' That's not good enough. The check's got to arrive" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/19). The AP's Gonzalez & Mahoney noted Stern has said previously that the "sale of the Kings would not become a bidding war." But a "bidding war is exactly what seems to have broken out" (AP, 4/19). In Seattle, Bob Condotta reported the "earliest a decision would be known is May 6." Condotta noted "few question the plan in Seattle, which is a larger media market and probably a safer long-term financial proposition." But the NBA and Stern "appear to feel a responsibility to Sacramento, to give it every opportunity to work things out" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21).

THE BLAME GAME: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer looks back and profiled the efforts of former Mayor Greg Nickels, who was “considered the last dunce in a series of dunces who made it too easy for the Sonics to be taken." In looking at the two situations, Nickels said, "There were different circumstances. I don't know how strong the public support was by then. The political support from the state Legislature and the city council wasn't there. ... Local ownership, they got out of the situation so quickly there was no time to intervene. Different circumstances, different towns, different times" (SEATTLE TIME, 4/21).

LOOKING TO L.A.: Also in Seattle, Lynn Thompson in a front-page piece writes Hansen plans to "create a smaller, Seattle version of L.A. Live" adjecent to a proposed arena in the Sodo neighborhood. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce recently led a "delegation of business and political leaders" to L.A. Part of their "mission was to experience L.A. Live and consider how such a venture might work in Seattle." Hansen: "L.A. Live is meant for the Los Angeles market. And it’s adjacent to its convention center, so it’s serving a more grandiose purpose. We want to create a small, concentrated gathering place that serves fans from all the sporting events. ... We want it to have a Seattle feel" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/22).
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