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Volume 24 No. 156


As of last night, there were "no reports that Sacramento had made an updated formal, written offer" to the NBA to keep the Kings, and it was "unclear if its offer would match the increased bid made" by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and the Seattle group bidding on the team on Friday, according to a front-page piece by Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES (4/15). In Sacramento, Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak noted the Sacramento group "held back" from "delivering a counter to an increased bid for the franchise from Seattle, instead portraying the new offer as a move of desperation that is unlikely to sway the NBA's decision on which city will get the franchise." It remained "unclear ... when the Sacramento group would file its own formal and written offer for the team -- or whether that bid would match the new offer on the table from" the Seattle group led by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. N.Y. Sports attorney Irwin Raij said that the NBA has the "right to accept a lower offer." Kings Owner the Maloof family on Saturday was "quiet ... about whether they were still open to considering a backup bid from Sacramento" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/14).

RAISING THE STAKES: The BEE's Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak noted the Seattle group "announced late Friday they have raised their offer for the team." The announcement by Hansen came "hours after Sacramento's investor group ... made it clear it would match Hansen's original offer." Hansen on his website Friday said that he has "increased his offer" by $25M, but there was "some confusion about how much additional money the family would get" for its 65% share. Hansen said that his new offer "raises the total value of the team" by $25M -- to $550M. That "implies that the payout to the Maloofs would actually increase" by $16M -- to a total of $357M. A source said that the Maloofs were "considering extending their original 5 p.m. Friday deadline for getting a formal bid from Sacramento." Another source said meeting the Maloofs' deadline "is not an NBA requirement" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/13).'s Ken Berger noted any other "financial comparison between the two offers also would have to account for there being no relocation fee associated with a successful bid by the Sacramento group to keep the team in Northern California" (, 4/12).

GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE...: USA TODAY's Sam Amick noted the Sacramento group, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson and Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadive, has been "operating with the understanding that the league would not allow the situation to evolve into a bidding war." It is "unclear how the league could keep that from happening, however, not only because of the anti-trust lawsuits that could come into play but because owners around the league would almost certainly be in favor of additional value being brought into their high-priced club." If a bidding war "does indeed ensue, then Seattle would be in phenomenal standing considering the deep pockets" of Ballmer (, 4/13). The SEATTLE TIMES' Condotta noted the chances the Kings' future "will get settled" when the NBA BOG meets "appeared to improve Saturday when it was revealed that the NBA's combined relocation and finance committee will begin deliberating ... over the Kings on Wednesday." That meeting comes "one day in advance of the regularly scheduled BOG meetings, which are Thursday and Friday." However, "no official announcement of a decision ... will apparently come until Friday at the earliest" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/14).

THE TIME IS NOW: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote it is "time" for NBA Commissioner David Stern to "pick up the crayons, restore some sanity to his league, and convince his owners there is only one way to keep two terrific cities from tearing each other apart: expansion." While the Kings' "fate ultimately rests with the league's 29 other owners ... never underestimate the clout of the commissioner." It is "time for Stern to call in his chits and press the flesh one more time." It means "preserving the Kings and reinventing the SuperSonics, while strengthening the league's overall ownership" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/14). Also in Sacramento, Marcos Breton wrote any relocation "begins with an acknowledgment that the franchise and its market are no longer compatible." That is "not the case here." The relationship between the Maloof family and Sacramento "ran its course a long time ago." But the relationship between the NBA and the Sacramento market has been "strong and promises to grow stronger still with a new ownership group that would build the team a new arena downtown." There is "no good reason to move the Kings from Sacramento." That "reality trumps Seattle's many virtues." That leaves "only the question of which market will make more money for NBA owners," and the answer "simply isn't clear enough to grant Seattle the team." A "wealthy and motivated ownership group in Sacramento would find revenue possibilities that the current owners have lacked the capacity to identify and cultivate." A new Sacramento ownership group also could "craft far more lucrative television and naming rights deals than the current owners" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/14).

SPLITTING HAIRS: In Seattle, Chris Daniels reported Stern, "widely thought to be a strong supporter of moving the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, has been working to bolster efforts to keep the Kings in place." Sources said that a "split has emerged between Stern and team owners over the fate of the Kings." The sources said that Stern has been "personally seeking investors to join a new Kings ownership group" (, 4/10). Also in Seattle, Nick Eaton wrote Stern is "not particularly liked in Seattle." Sonics fans are "once again at the mercy of Stern and his NBA." Eaton, citing Daniels' report, said, "As if Sonics fans needed another reason to dislike Stern" (, 4/11).'s Ian Thomsen wrote the NBA's "heart says Sacramento, and its head says Seattle." The '08 "departure of the Sonics has appeared to influence Stern's approach to the movement of franchises -- and therefore made it more difficult for Seattle to regain an NBA franchise." An NBA owner said, "He can't have a second incident of helping a team leave a market. Seattle was bad enough. And I'm sure he feels that Seattle had a chance to keep the team the first time around." The owner added, "The bottom line is that the incumbent always gets the last shot. You don't want teams moving around" (, 4/13).

BLOCKED SHOT: In Seattle, Lynn Thompson wrote Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh “dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking construction" of a new arena in the city's Sodo neighborhood. Middaugh “determined that there are too many unknowns to the proposed arena deal to rule now.” The lawsuit, filed in January, “alleged the arrangement” to construct the arena calls for $200M in public money "to be repaid through arena revenue, violates the terms" of Seattle's Initiative 91. The initiative states that the city "must make a profit on investments" into sports facilities. Middaugh said the city “must still complete an environmental review and final documents.” She added that “only when the final terms are known can the court determine whether the agreement meets the terms of I-91” (, 4/12). A SEATTLE TIMES editorial stated the “assumption” is the Kings have “a home to move to in Seattle’s Sodo district.” But that is “presumptuous at best.” Putting a third sports facility “into the city’s industrial zone is no casual decision.” A “hasty decision to build another sports venue would likely compromise public investments made to support the efficient movement of freight in and out of Sodo” (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/14).

Mariners P Felix Hernandez, who prior to this season signed a seven-year, $175M contract, is the "face of the franchise," and is at the "forefront of the Mariners' marketing plans," according to Jerry Brewer of the SEATTLE TIMES. Hernandez "helps shape the perception of this franchise in ways that defy the fact he appears in only 20 percent of their games." Mariners VP/Marketing Kevin Martinez said, "He's front and center because he's the one fans have connected with the most. While he doesn't play every day, his presence is felt." Brewer wrote when the Mariners were paying RF Ichiro Suzuki $18M a year, they "used to intimate that his international fame helped the team receive a substantial return on investment." Though Hernandez is "perhaps the best in baseball at what he does, he doesn't have the same worldwide cachet, at least not yet." The Mariners "made a baseball decision, not a butts-in-seats decision, when they committed to paying Hernandez." Still, there is a "great value to having Hernandez beyond how well he performs every fifth day." The Mariners started the King's Court fan section at Safeco Field after Hernandez won the '10 AL Cy Young Award. He "salutes the King's Court as he takes the mound, and he's genuinely touched that he has his own cheering section." Hernandez, a Venezuelan, also has "improved his English enough to be an enthusiastic and entertaining contributor to the Mariners' popular commercials." His on-field "greatness and popularity makes it easy for the Mariners to sell him, but his level of engagement makes the possibilities endless." Hernandez is "simply willing to do whatever it takes to make people believe in the Mariners" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/12).

TRENDING DOWN: In Seattle, Larry Stone noted the 12 smallest crowds in Safeco Field history "have all come since 2011, and eight of those have been in April -- including the two lowest (for now) on Tuesday and Wednesday last week against the Astros (10,745 and 10,493)." It appeared that a "bit of a buzz was building for the ballclub in spring training," but after winning the first two games of the season against the A's, it has been "a perfect buzz-kill storm." Seattle's days as "one of the reliably rabid baseball towns are long past." Crowds at Safeco Field have been "on a steady, precipitous drop ever since the 2002 peak of 3,540,482, tops in the major leagues and just short of a full-season sellout." Mariners season tickets after last season "dropped to between 8,000 and 8,500, the lowest since Safeco Field opened, down from a high of about 22,000 in 2002." The Mariners will "continue to sell season-ticket packages until mid-May," but the final numbers are "expected to be slightly down" from last year. The team is "working from an attendance base in the 8,000s, reliant on walk-up sales for the rest."  April is "never ... a great walk-up month" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/14).

T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor in a Q&A with the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS' Ray Richardson spoke "on a variety of topics as the Wolves' season draws to a close, including his attempts to sell the franchise" and the status of President of Basketball Operations David Kahn. Below is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: David Kahn's contract expires this summer. Have you thought much about whether you want to retain him as the team's president of basketball operations?
Taylor: I haven't come to the time to make a decision on that. ... I don't have a time frame to address David's situation. He and I have been talking about the draft and other things as we go into the offseason. At some point, I know I need to make a decision.

Q: What's the latest on your attempts to sell the team?
Taylor: I haven't come up with anybody who meets all the needs. One of my problems is that I haven't found anybody who lives in Minnesota or has a Minnesota background. The interest has come from people outside the state. I'm interested in a local person buying the team on a limited-partner basis. Right now, I don't have a strong feeling that I want to get rid of the team. I still enjoy it. I was thinking of a long run to try to find a successor, but I might keep things the way they are.

Q: Flip Saunders was helping you find an ownership group. Have you had talks with him about rejoining the Wolves?
Taylor: First of all, Flip was just trying to help a friend who had an outside group, but that group never submitted a bid. I have a coach and I have a GM. Me and Flip have not talked about those things. What we talk about mostly is his work at ESPN and what's going on in the league (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/13).

Fans sitting in a suite behind home plate for Friday night's Dodgers-D’Backs game were asked by D’Backs Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick “to change out of their blue Dodgers shirts or else move to a different suite,” according to Nick Piecoro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. D’Backs Senior VP/Communications Josh Rawitch said that the fans “agreed, changing into Diamondbacks merchandise provided by the team.” He added that the fans “would have been refunded had they chose to be relocated.” Rawitch said that because of the “high visibility of the seats, the team has a policy forbidding fans from wearing opposing team’s gear before they purchase the suite, which ranges in price from $3,250 to $3,500 depending on the night.” Rawitch: “We don’t tell them they can’t cheer for the other team. We just ask them to adhere to the policy that we give them when we sell them the tickets.” The team said that it has “the right to dictate what fans do and do not wear, just as teams can determine whether fans are allowed to bring signage into stadiums” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/14).

The Yankees are using a New York state anti-scalping law to "keep legal ticket reseller StubHub away from the Stadium -- but when it comes to traditional illegal scalpers outside their gates, the team is giving them an intentional walk," according to Mangan, Sheehan & Greene of the N.Y. POST. Before last night’s game against the Orioles, Yankees security "was practically giving scalper referrals." When a reporter was "charged twice the face value of a $20 ticket, she complained to a cop, who was not sympathetic." The police officer responded, "That’s how they make their money. Next time ... look at the ticket before you buy it." Meanwhile, the Yankees have "gotten an injunction banishing StubHub to at least 1,500 feet from the stadium." Team President Randy Levine said that there "should be no double standard and that the state’s anti-scalping law will be universally enforced" (N.Y. POST, 4/15).