NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday said that the bid made by Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov to buy the Kings and keep the team in Sacramento "does not measure up in dollars" to the team's tentative deal with the Seattle group, according to Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Stern: "The counter bid has got very strong financial people behind it, but it is not quite there in comparison to the Seattle bid. There is a substantial variance." He suggested that the bid “falls short enough that it likely won't be considered by the NBA unless the Sacramento group increases its offer.” But Stern said that he “has been in contact” with the Sacramento group, adding that he believes the group will "increase its bid in the coming weeks.” Mastrov on Friday said, "We are going to be aggressive. ... We have a long way to go. We are going to continue to work with the NBA.” Stern said that he "has set up an April 3 meeting" in N.Y. with some league owners to "review where the bids stand," and that he will invite the mayors of Seattle and Sacramento and the two potential purchase groups. He said of the two cities both vying for the Kings, "We've never had anything like this, at least in the last 36 years that I'm aware of." Meanwhile, Stern “hinted there may be more than one bid from people interested in keeping the team in Sacramento, but he did not mention names.” He said that he told current Kings limited partner John Kehriotis “to ‘go for it,’ if Kehriotis feels he can mount a competitive bid" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/9).
READING BETWEEN THE LINES: Sources said that the gap between the Seattle and Sacramento bids is "substantial and well into eight figures.” But in Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote while Stern’s comments were “succinct and sobering, perhaps even alarming,” his mood “wasn't all doom and gloom.” Stern on several occasions "tempered his remarks with encouraging words for Sacramento and at one point praised the mayor and city leaders for their 'Herculean efforts.'" Meanwhile, in an “obvious jab at the Maloofs, Stern referred to the Mastrov/Burkle proposal as an ‘expression of intent’ and ‘a somewhat labored process set up by the Maloofs as to how we would get to an agreement with the Sacramento purchase group’" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/10). Stern said, "If an ownership group has decided to exit our league, it doesn't retain the ultimate right to tell us where it's going to be located" (AP, 3/9).
FIND YOURSELF A CITY TO LIVE IN: The BEE's Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler in a front-page piece write the city of Sacramento “appears to have the sympathy” of Stern, but ultimately the decision will “have little to do with sympathy.” The city “must improve its offer for the team.” Mastrov said that he “wasn't troubled by Stern's assessment.” Still, sizing up the two cities “remains difficult.” For every point “in Sacramento's favor, there's one for Seattle” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/11). NBCSPORTS.com’s Aaron Bruski cited sources as saying that the “TV Homes per team metric is one of the reasons small-to-mid markets like Orlando, Sacramento, and Seattle are coveted by the league.” Other teams in the city “cut into the NBA’s TV viewership in Seattle." Sources said that the "same issue mitigates the advantage the Emerald City has in terms of potential sponsors.” A source added that it “didn’t make sense for the league to pit the ownership groups against one another," as the NBA "still wants to do business with both well into the future” (NBCSPORTS.com, 3/9). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said Stern wants the Kings' move to Seattle "to be part of his legacy,” but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is "dogged and determined” to keep the team. Wilbon: “Why didn’t Seattle close the door and close the deal on this already? Sacramento keeps in there. KJ is in there, he’s agitating. He’s holding on to that team for his city. I totally admire him.” ESPN’s Bill Simmons said Seattle is “in the driver’s seat” to get a new NBA franchise (“Kia NBA Countdown,” ESPN, 3/8).
SLEEPLESS? In Seattle, Drew DeSilver noted hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who is leading the bid to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle, disclosed that his Valiant Capital Partners fund had “a net loss" of 7.44% in Q3 '12. Hansen in a letter to investors wrote “investing, not basketball, is and has always been” his passion (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/10).