NBA Reps Will Continue Research Into Keeping Kings In Sacramento
In an indication the NBA is "seriously looking at keeping the Kings in Sacramento, NBA staffers will be in town Monday to conduct in-depth research on the region's ability to financially support the team next season," according to sources cited by Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The visit "would come on the heels of a hectic day Thursday," when Thunder Owner and NBA relocation committee Chair Clay Bennett and NBA Exec Counsel Harvey Benjamin "came to town to conduct meetings with Mayor Kevin Johnson and area business leaders, including listening to Sacramento's last-second pitch to remain a major league basketball city." A "keynote of Johnson's presentation" to Bennett and Benjamin was a "list of businesses he said are willing to invest $9.2 million next year in new corporate sponsorships, season-ticket purchases and luxury suite leases." The sources said that NBA staffers are "expected to vet that list in detail next week with both calls and visits to local businesses." Bennett and Benjamin "are expected to remain in Sacramento for more meetings" Friday, and "one is expected to be with Kings representatives." NBA Commissioner David Stern last week indicated that the league "not only wants to know more about the level of corporate support in Sacramento but also will be scrutinizing the deal the Kings have fashioned in Anaheim." That includes the "TV deal, considered a key financing stream for NBA teams." Adding to the drama Thursday was Comcast Sportsnet California GM Larry Eldridge, who said that his station is "willing to increase the value of its contract with the team if it stays in Sacramento." A source said that "should the league agree to give the Kings one more season in Sacramento, that timeline would come" with the restriction that "plans for a new arena must be finalized by next March in order for the city to keep the team." Stern "has said repeatedly that Sacramento needs a new arena if it wants to stay in the NBA," and reps Thursday heard a presentation from Icon Venue Group President & CEO Tim Romani, whose firm is "leading Sacramento's latest arena study" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/22). Johnson Thursday said, "If you go back a week ago from today, we thought it was virtually over. And not only did we prevent the team from leaving, we got a chance to show them who we are" (AP, 4/21).
FULL STEAM AHEAD: In California, Randy Youngman reports despite "signs of growing opposition" to a relocation to Anaheim, "all indications are the Maloofs, the Kings' owners, plan to file for relocation before the May 2 deadline imposed by the NBA." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke Thursday during an interview with ESPN Radio 710 L.A. pointed out Lakers Owner Jerry Buss "has led the charge" against relocation. Leiweke said that AEG, "as a Lakers minority partner, was 'on the same page' as Buss." Honda Center operator Anaheim Arena Management, which "has been negotiating with the Maloofs," is "lining up corporate sponsors and compiling contact information for those interested in purchasing tickets." An AAM spokesperson said that as of Thursday, there were "more than 3,000 names on a list that translates into about 12,000 seats when it is combined with Ducks season-ticket holders who already have expressed an interest in purchasing their seats for NBA games" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/22).
NO BOON FROM TV: SI.com's Sam Amick cited a source as saying that the "television rights riches that had long been seen as a major motivating factor for the Maloofs aren't quite as lucrative as they had hoped." The TV plan presented to the NBA's BOG last week "included a possible partnership" worth $20M annually with KDOC-Ind., which is co-owned by Ducks Owner Henry Samueli. The length of the deal "is not known, and it might merely be a stopgap solution to bridge the gap between now and the Lakers' eventual departure" from FS West in '12. But the fact that preliminary discussions between the Kings and FS West "went nowhere and paved the way for a lesser platform is certainly surprising." The $20M figure "would hardly impress those doing the vetting considering the league-wide average is also believed to be $20 million and the Los Angeles area media market is the second largest in the country." By comparison, sources said that the Clippers' TV contract with FS West is worth $22.5M annually (SI.com, 4/20).