Kings co-Owner George Maloof yesterday said that his family “hasn't ruled Sacramento out” in the battle to purchase the team but “remains committed to selling the Kings to a group in Seattle offering a record price for an NBA franchise,” according to Lillis, Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Maloof was “circumspect about whether his family would seriously consider the Sacramento bid.” NBA owners at today's BOG meeting in Dallas are expected to vote on the bid from the Seattle-based group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, and Maloof said that he is “hoping to get league approval for one of his two deals” with the group. Maloof: "Nothing against the Sacramento group, but they have a backup offer, and we have a binding agreement with Chris. That is just the way the deal progressed. We have a backup from Vivek [Ranadive], but we're being true to the deal with Chris." Lillis, Bizjak & Kasler report Maloof “pointed to the price difference between the Sacramento and Seattle bids as a significant issue.” Hansen and Ballmer's offer of $406M for the 65% share of the team held by the Maloofs and their partner, Robert Hernreich, values the team at $625M. Ranadive's group has offered $341M and has placed 50% of his offer into an escrow account. Maloof said that Sacramento would have “nothing to fear from a ‘backup plan’ in which Hansen and Ballmer would buy 20 percent of the Kings and commit to building an arena in downtown Sacramento.” Maloof: "Our intention would be to try to do an arena, for the ninth time. We've never not worked in good faith." He “insisted that Hansen and Ballmer ... would be good partners in the effort to build an arena at Downtown Plaza.” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, "That's something that does a disservice to the NBA if you're just going to sell to the highest bidder. What would that tell every other small- or medium-sized market? That you always have to worry about your franchises” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/15).
RATTLING THE CAGE: NBCSPORTS.com’s Aaron Bruski cited sources as saying that Ballmer has “taken on a larger role in decision-making for the Seattle ownership group.” Sources said that “the same bravado he has employed with Microsoft is turning heads” at the NBA, and “not in a good way.” Sources said that the “recent power plays made by Seattle and the Maloof family have ‘started to weigh on the NBA to the point where any Ballmer-led proposal now or in the future could fall on deaf ears if he doesn’t change course.’” A source said that if the Seattle group continues to “pursue a scorched earth policy with the Sacramento marketplace, they would jeopardize the city’s ability to secure an NBA team down the road should an opportunity present itself” (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/14).
SEATTLE SLIPPING AWAY? In Seattle, Danny Westneat writes if the NBA today votes against selling the Kings to the Seattle group, “Don’t count out the possibility that whatever political momentum there was for building an arena and bringing back the Sonics might dry up and blow away.” City council member Tim Burgess said, “If they say ‘no,’ there is going to be some energy that dissipates around here, I’m sure of that.” City council member Tom Rasmussen said, “I’m not sold on the idea of an arena yet.” Rasmussen added that he is “opposed to the idea of allowing an L.A. Live entertainment complex” in the Sodo area of the city. Burgess said if Seattle loses today’s vote, “I’m honestly not sure what will happen to the council’s support. We put together a pretty strong coalition. To be told ‘no,’ though, it would be quite a blow” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/15).
KINGS' COURT: The BEE’s Lillis, Bizjak & Kasler report three city residents yesterday filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court “alleging the city has broken the law on several fronts” in its $448M downtown arena deal. The suit “contends the city fraudulently under-valued the size of the subsidy it is providing developers as part of a tentative deal to build a sports and entertainment arena in Downtown Plaza.” The plaintiffs allege the city "concealed or suppressed material facts" and Johnson and City Manager John Shirey "failed to disclose in the Term Sheet ... that they had privately agreed with the Sacramento Investor Group to subsidize its purchase of the Kings franchise." The group led by Ranadive “signed a deal in February with the city to partner in building an arena” to keep the Kings in the city. The lawsuit alleges that this public-private partnership with a group of investors “amounts to an illegal give-away of public funds” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/15).
Brevard County (Fla.) Commission Chair Andy Anderson said that the Nationals "plan to move their spring-training operations out of Viera, possibly after" the '15 season, according to a front-page piece by Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY. Anderson said that he had "received word that the Nationals are in talks with another county interested in using a combination of state funds and county tourism tax money to build a new stadium." He said that the Nationals will "not be renewing their lease at Space Coast Stadium in Viera." Anderson said that an official announcement is "expected within weeks." Anderson added that it is "unfortunate that state money is being used by one Florida community to lure a major league spring-training operation from another Florida community." Anderson: “I’m not mad at the Nationals. The Nationals are not at fault. I’m just mad at how the system worked. The Nationals have been a good community partner, but they’ve been offered a deal they can’t refuse.” The Nationals have "indicated that they definitely will hold spring training in Viera" in '14. Anderson said that if a new stadium is "built for the team in another county, it is unlikely it would be ready for the 2015 season," so the Nationals likely would be in Viera in '15 as well. Anderson said that one "potential site for a new stadium for the Nationals is the Osceola Heritage Park complex in Kissimmee," where the Astros hold Spring Training (FLORIDA TODAY, 5/15).
CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora ranked the top 11 front offices in the NFL, and he chose the Ravens as No. 1 because they have a "legend pulling the strings" in GM Ozzie Newsome, and someone who "immediately grasped the delicate line he walks as decision maker and delegator" in team Owner Steve Bisciotti. Bisciotti "knows when and where to stick his nose in, with the signing of Joe Flacco to a record deal the latest example." Newsome's "eventual successor," Assistant GM Eric DeCosta, is "already in the building and the future should be bright for quite some time." That continuity is "huge when you are trying to evaluate organizations and their ability to maintain." La Canfora based his rankings on a "wide range of how the team has drafted and signed players, if they know when to cut the cord and when to stop overpaying their own veterans." La Canfora: "Have they been able to win with different people at the helm and have they avoided any lengthy stays at the bottom?" La Canfora wrote he is "weighing things as well on the degree of success over the past 36 months, which is why a team that just might understand this whole management and ownership thing better than any other, the Pittsburgh Steelers, comes in a little lower than perhaps they deserve to be." The chart below lists La Canfora's rankings (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/14).
The Astros Wives' Black Ties & Baseball Caps Gala is "no more," and it "did not go quietly amid an uproar on social media," according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Two "key factors led to the demise of the annual event: The Astros Wives Organization lost its unofficial backing of the Astros, who are focusing their charitable foundation in other areas, and the group was faced with a younger baseball team with fewer spouses to carry the torch." The Astros Wives Organization is a nonprofit group "not technically affiliated with the club," although its events were "promoted on the Astros’ website" as recently as '11. As public opinion on social media "was turning against the Astros, the team released statements that questioned the integrity of the wives organization." Team VP/Community Relations and Astros in Action Foundation Exec Dir Meg Vaillancourt said, "We learned that in recent years, in our opinion, it appeared far too much of the funds raised by the gala seemed to go towards expenses, rather than to the charity" (CHRON.com, 5/14).
In Toronto, Kurtis Larson noted Toronto FC President & GM Kevin Payne "took a strip off MLS on Monday for what he called 'inappropriate' actions precipitated by the league." Payne referred to TFC "as 'lab rats' to hone young referees." He said, "Six of our 10 referees (this season) have refereed 10 games or fewer (during their MLS careers)." Numbers provided by TFC on Monday indicated that referees "in charge of L.A. Galaxy games this season have averaged around 100 games of experience." The Red Bulls and Sounders, the league’s "other two darling clubs, have similar numbers" (TORONTO SUN, 5/14).
GOING FORWARD IN REVERSE: In DC, Steven Goff notes DC United is "off to the worst start in the club's 18-season history." Last season's "late run to the third-best record in MLS and a berth in the Eastern Conference finals created a false sense of standing." DC United management "figured -- wrongly -- the cash-conscious club could contend for a championship without opening the checkbook for another impact player." Many fans "wonder what happened to" the $2M-plus the club received from Belgian Pro League club R.S.C. Anderlecht for selling MF Andy Najar. First, the payments are "made in installments, not all at once, so United was not in position to make an immediate purchase." Second, the money was "put toward managing the salary cap" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/13).
TURF BURN: In Portland, Geoffrey Arnold noted the growing number of serious knee injuries suffered by Timbers players has "raised questions about" the team's artificial turf field. Most MLS players "prefer to play on grass, and at their practice facility in Beaverton, the Timbers train exclusively on grass." Four of the 19 MLS teams "play on artificial turf." The surface at Jeld-Wen Field "is manufactured by FieldTurf" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/12).