Two-Week Notice: NBA Extends Deadline For Kings' Relocation Request To May 2
With questions "lingering over whether Sacramento or Anaheim is the best fit" for the Kings, NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday said that the league is "extending until May 2 the deadline for the Kings to request a move to Southern California," according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The move gives Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a "team of developers studying an arena project two weeks to convince the league that Sacramento is a viable home for the Kings." At the same time, Anaheim officials "now have two weeks to convince the NBA that their proposal to lure the team is sound." Stern said that in the next two weeks, a league committee led by Thunder Chair Clay Bennett "will look at whether Johnson has hard facts to back up his Thursday pitch to the NBA owners." Johnson told them that "arena efforts are progressing well," and that he has $7M in "committed sponsorships and ticket sales for the Kings" should they stay in Sacramento. Stern said, "The mayor's vision is for a downtown arena. ... We don't know if that's real or a pie in the sky. We don't know whether we can find that out in a couple of weeks, but we are going to knock ourselves out to do it." He added Power Balance Pavilion is "not the arena of the future" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/16). Stern said there is "incomplete documentation" in the Anaheim proposal. Stern: "The committee wanted more time to understand certain financing issues, certain television issues, certain issues regarding enhancement to fan experience and raised revenue expectations at the building (Honda Center). And if the entire issue of relocation were approved, what would be an appropriate relocation fee? ... It just seemed to be a good idea to put it off for a couple weeks" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/16). ESPN's J.A. Adande said, “I hear that they're not sure the Kings have done their due diligence; there's concerns about this is being forced down their throat, three teams in one market" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/15).
TURN OF MOMENTUM? In L.A., Lance Pugmire wrote the two-week delay is an "alarming turn for Anaheim's attempt to land a third NBA team in Southern California." While Stern's decision is "viewed by some involved in the process as a nod to the 25-year loyalty of Sacramento's fervent fan base, it complicates the Kings' plans for arrival in Anaheim by next season." An NBA team official said that the league "is intrigued by the 11th-hour entry" of Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and "impressed by how quickly Johnson mobilized what Stern said was $9 million in team sponsorship and season-ticket buyers." League officials added that the "model of allowing Burkle and Johnson to work toward a new downtown arena on a 230-acre plot is considered no less impressive than the financially struggling Maloofs' attempt to move into the nearly 20-year-old arena in Anaheim" (L.A. TIMES, 4/16). However, the Maloof brothers have said that they "will not sell the team and Stern said the issue of new ownership was not discussed." Stern: "Right now that’s not a high priority on our agenda" (NYTIMES.com, 4/15). More Stern: "I know Mr. Burkle. He's an owner in the NHL. His name has been involved in discussions for other franchises, and we know his good reputation in our industry. (But) the sale of the team, or, indeed, the relocation of another team to Sacramento, those are not high agenda items" (NBA.com, 4/15). Kings co-Owner George Maloof said on Friday, "They never approached us. We told (the Burkle group) a month ago we weren't interested and all of a sudden, they just show up. Not very cool" (SACBEE.com, 4/15).
START THE COUNTDOWN: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote under the header, "It May Not Be Too Late To Keep Kings." The situation and the "dynamics are changing by the day, possibly by the hour," and Stern's announcement on Friday is a "major development for a league that routinely rubber-stamps relocations" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/17). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote, "For now, Sacramento is still major-league. It might only be that for two more weeks. It’ll be the longest two weeks in the history of the city" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/17). But in Orange County, Randy Youngman wrote, "Is the two-week extension of the NBA relocation deadline a setback in Anaheim's efforts to bring the Sacramento Kings to Orange County? Very unlikely. If you read between the lines in Commissioner David Stern's answers to questions during Friday's news conference at the conclusion of the NBA Board of Governors meetings, it's easy to infer his skepticism about another new arena proposal in Sacramento" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/17). In Boston, Gary Washburn profiled Mayor Johnson's ongoing efforts to keep the Kings in Sacramento (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/17).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB? SI.com's Sam Amick noted the Stern-appointed relocation committee studying the Maloofs' efforts to move the Kings to Sacramento is led by Bennett, the "man behind the SuperSonics franchise's move to Oklahoma City and a most-curious selection for the post." But Stern "dismissed an assertion that Bennett would have a conflict of interest in the matter." Stern said, "I don't think there's any conflict at all. ... He favors what's best for the league and the Kings" (SI.com, 4/16). But in Seattle, Danny O'Neil wrote under the header, "Clay Bennett In Charge Of NBA Relocation? You Make Up The Punchline." O'Neil: "It is galling if you're a Kings fan, problematic if you're an NBA fan and it's laughably predictable for Sonics fans. After all, gallows humor is about all we're left with when it comes to the NBA" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger responded to Stern's appointment of Bennett, writing, "In other news, a fox has been hired to guard the henhouse, Kobe Bryant has been named chairman of the league's newly created diversity committee, Rasheed Wallace will begin filming an NBA TV documentary on sportsmanship and civility, and the Marlboro man has been appointed U.S. Surgeon General to determine whether any ill effects may result from smoking" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/15).