Stern after NBA meeting: No Kings verdict until we hear more about arena plans

There was a ton of stadium news over the last 48 hours, but let’s get right to what I know you all want to hear about: What happened at the NBA meeting yesterday to determine whether the Sacramento Kings will move to Seattle or stay put?

Mayor Johnson and State Senator Steinberg arrived at the St. Regis hotel Wednesday morning to meet with the NBA and present their deal to keep the Kings.

Right, okay, the Sacramento contingent showed up, that’s nice. But then?

It may come down to who made the best presentation, but I doubt it. If it does, the Sacramento contingent led by Mayor Kevin Johnson was downright giddy following their meeting with the league’s joint relocation and finance committee.

At one point in their press conference, Johnson leaned over and hugged California Senator Darrell Steinberg. Again, I’m not sure what this all means.

So… anything on what happened inside the meetings? Anyone?

David Stern and Adam Silver held their own press conference afterwards and said that both sides gave great presentations, although no real details were released.

In other words: The NBA met (at the St. Regis Hotel for some reason, because apparently either NBA headquarters doesn’t have meeting rooms or, more likely, doesn’t have room service), both sides gave their presentations, and we’re not going to drop any hints on who the front-runner is, so back off, people.

Stern did provide a few hints at what the criteria for the decision will be, however, indicating, in the words of NBA.com’s David Aldridge, that the main questions “centered on the arena plans for each city — specifically, how soon they could go up, potential legal obstacles to the buildings in each city and the capital commitments that will be required from each group.” Stern called the existing arenas in Seattle and Sacramento “suboptimal” and noted that “there is no finality to the construction schedules in either city,” saying that the relocation committee has instructed the league to gather more information. In fact, the process could go beyond the April 17-18 league meetings, meaning a decision might not be made until an undetermined time in the future, though Stern said that “I wouldn’t expect it, if it does, to slide by a lot.”

Keeping in mind that Stern isn’t just reporting the facts of the meeting, he’s also sending a message to the two cities involved, that message seems to be: Nice arena plans, guys, but when can we actually see shovels hitting the ground? There’s been some speculation of late that Sacramento may actually have a leg up in that regard — though its arena finance plan hasn’t been officially approved by the city council and there are already threats of lawsuits and referendums, they have the advantage of the California law that was passed for AEG’s now-dead Los Angeles NFL stadium, which fast-tracks all development projects costing more than $100 million. In Seattle, development deals still need to take the slow track, with all that fussy “oversight” and “making sure it won’t be an environmental disaster” and stuff, meaning that even with its late start, Sacramento stands a better chance of opening a new arena by 2016 than Seattle does.

Would the NBA really make its decision based on one year’s difference in an arena opening schedule? Probably not, but still, Stern is sending a pretty clear message here: Talk to us till you’re blue in the face about how nice your cities are all you want, but we want to see ducks in a row on arena construction, and we want it now, and we’re not going to make a decision until we see it. (Not to say I told you so, but…) This is more and more looking like a bidding war now, not for the franchise but for the NBA’s blessing, and the currency is an arena plan that’s set in stone. It’s not at all clear how much elected officials in either city can do to make that happen in the next few weeks — or how long the NBA is prepared to wait to make a decision if they don’t — but if there are any fires to be lit under people, Stern just set them ablaze.


43 comments on “Stern after NBA meeting: No Kings verdict until we hear more about arena plans

  1. I know there’s a few commenters on here pretty focused on this issue, so apologies if this has come up, but is this whole process just a stalking horse for expansion? Hanson’s bid elevates the go-to price for a team, meaning they can charge an incredible fee, and then have at least one guaranteed arena plan.

  2. Definitely not a stalking horse, as it was the Maloofs/Hanson/KJ who created this whole mess, not the NBA. But from the league’s perspective, it’s a nifty side benefit if they want to use it.

  3. are you nuts?

    pressure on Seattle or Ballmer?

    Seattle is more or less like Portland and Paul Allen with the Jailblazers…both will be more likely to tell the NBA to go blow it up their rear end.

    Sacramento is a cow pie….readily apparent from the pedophile Mayor and that creep from the Legislature they brought with them…bunch of losers who depend on some shady character like Burkle and his Clinton flying sex machines? Sacramento is grasping at last straws with shady deals, shady characters and three card monte financing schemes.

    What town showed up in New York City with a collection of rejects from the Carnival Geek Shows?

  4. Ty: I’ve always thought Hansen’s commitment (financial and otherwise) to a Seattle deal made him a more likely candidate for an expansion franchise. He & Ballmer have the cash and have shown they aren’t afraid to spend it. Being too eager can backfire (a completely different league and set of circs, but just ask Jim Balsillie…). It’s possible, in other words. Balanced against that, though, is the NBA’s desire to have the larger market and to no longer have the Maloofs.

    Put it this way, if they allow the Seattle move how long before Sacramento has enough “whales” lined up to buy an expansion team to replace the Kings? Meanwhile, Hansen & Ballmer could easily just write a check… the only concern the NBA will have is that they not sour those guys on ownership by stalling or otherwise disappointing them now.

  5. Sergio:

    If you are going to make wild accusations like that, you should also have the stones to put your full name and address for service down so those you’ve libelled can ‘get started’.

    Hansen & Ballmer (the latter in particular) might one day tell the NBA exactly where to stick it. If they choose to do that, it will be the end of their hope to become NBA owners… permanently.

  6. The “pedophile” remark is presumably a reference to this, though I still prefer “man-child with confusion in his soul”:

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2008-05-22/news/can-former-phoenix-sun-kevin-johnson-overcome-his-past-to-become-sacramento-s-mayor/

    I can’t even begin to guess what “Clinton flying sex machines” are. Unless Bootsy Collins is involved in this deal and I missed it.

  7. Neil, both MikeM yesterday, and a twitter user today (check the reply to your twitter post) responded with this info.

    John Sor ‏@jsor21 26m
    @fieldofschemes looks like Cali AB900 bill was ruled unconstitutional. They no longer have a fast track. http://goo.gl/pdx2D

  8. http://www.scpr.org/blogs/environment/2013/04/01/13127/superior-court-judge-rules-fast-track-law-on-ceqa/

    This kind of busts up the Cali “fast track”. No more special expediting board.

  9. You’re linking to an Aaron Bruski article to say Sacramento has a leg up? That’s like quoting Dick Morris on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

  10. MarkS: Would it help if I’d called it “wild” speculation?

    A: Are we sure that this ruling would apply to the Sacramento arena? Not saying it wouldn’t, but the press reporting on the ruling has been so appallingly unclear that it’s hard for me to tell exactly what is and isn’t covered.

  11. Vanity Fair July 2008

    “Also in attendance was Ron Burkle, the California supermarket billionaire and investor who is Clinton’s bachelor buddy, fund-raiser, and business partner. Burkle had come with an attractive blonde, described by a fellow guest as “not much older than 19, if she was that.”

    “Burkle’s usual means of transport is the custom-converted Boeing 757 that Clinton calls “Ron Air” and that Burkle’s own circle of young aides privately refer to as “Air Fuck One.”

  12. I can’t see why it wouldn’t. It (was) state law, and not one of the already approved exceptions to the now struck down law.

  13. Gee, and all this time, I didn’t think Stern wanted a bidding war.

    Well, he’s going to get one.

    Seattle’s financing plan is much more solid. I never believed from the moment I heard of the parking bonding idea that the City would be able to raise $212M that way, especially now that we have an example of what happens when these fail (thank you, New York Yankees).

    The BOG understands this issue, and by itself, it’s enough to kill Sac’s plans.

    Really, I still think we’re first and goal at the one. The play clock hasn’t reached zero yet.

    This ruling on AB900 just wrecks huge portions of Sac’s presentation yesterday. I’m so glad the state Senator who introduced this — who happens to be someone I’ve known for a long time now — was there yesterday.

  14. Re: AB 900 – the first question you have to ask is whether AB 900 applies to the stadium project at all, see my article here:

    http://thinksmartsacramento.blogspot.com/2012/03/ab-900-jobs-and-economic-improvement.html

    Assuming AB 900 does apply, the provision struck down was one of the major benefits of AB 900 and by not having it available the environmental approval process will likely take much longer.

    “All CEQA challenges will bypass the trial court and be filed directly with the applicable Court of Appeal. Typically CEQA litigation begins in the trial court and makes its way to the appellate court, this could take years. So skipping trial court and going straight to Appellate Court is a big deal.”

  15. JB: Yeah, I’ve noticed the Seattle group has been really tactful, well prepared, tactful, has had good P/R management, and has been tactful. They’re pretty firmly grounded in the media cycle, and will probably get the next thing.

    Balsillie is a brilliant man, but he really showed everyone the exact wrong way to break into a monopoly. Canadians aren’t good at popular uprisings, and even when they happen, they don’t even work on Canadian institutions, much less North American ones.

  16. KevinS, you seem very knowledgeable on AB900. Thanks for showing up here.

    People at various Sacramento blogs are saying that AB900 doesn’t apply here, because the project is not state-funded. I personally think that’s hogwash, but I definitely have to defer to your expertise here. You’re obviously the SME.

    Thanks in advance.

  17. As to your point about where AB900 applies… Well, I suppose one could certainly argue about 2.1.2 and 2.6…

    http://opr.ca.gov/s_californiajobs.php

  18. MikeM: Glad to be of assistance. I’m not sure where they are getting the “state-funded” idea from, but it is not correct. The reason AB900 may not apply is because it doesn’t meet the criteria listed in the article. To date only two projects have met the criteria, the new high-tech Apple campus and a solar energy farm.

    http://opr.ca.gov/s_californiajobs.php

  19. What people do not understand is it was the NBA who told the Maloofs to sell to Hansen. The Maloofs called David Stern last year and told him they wanted to sell.

    Stern in return told the Maloofs to negotiate with the Hansen-Ballmer group because he wants a team back in Seattle and he is sick of Sacramento and the constant failures getting an arena there in the past. Remember, Sacramento was the first NBA city where the league itself tried to help get an arena done…Unprecedented.

    Why do you think there was never an open bidding process like the Warriors sale a few years ago? The NBA would have gone that route if they intended to keep the team in Sacramento. Why not open it up and get the best price?

    The Maloofs did not unilaterally sell to the Hansen group, they were instructed by Stern to sell to them. Then KJ trying to be a knight in shining armor tries to bring in his own bid when in reality it will not make a difference.

    What KJ needs to do is call the Maloofs and get on his hands and knees and beg them to sell to his group. But KJ seems to think he can go over their heads to Stern and get the league to help him. At the end of the day the NBA cannot force the Maloofs to sell to anyone they do not want to.

    The Maloofs stood up in the meeting yesterday and support the Seattle group 100%….You wonder why?

    The NBA knows the Seattle arena deal is better and a new TV deal there will increase values for all the franchises in the league.

    On top of all of this the Warriors, who are blacked out in Sac-Modesto-Stockton (20th largest media market) will add 1M TV sets and sign a mega TV deal with Comcast……They will only be behind NY and LA in terms of NBA media market….larger than Chicago.

    That will also help the NBA increase its franchise values and the Warriors will “sneeze” and be able to build their San Francisco waterfront arena.

    ESPN did a poll and out of 30K responses, 71% of the country thinks the Kings should move to Seattle…..unreal.

    The Kings have been done in Sacramento for a while. The NBA has been working with the Maloofs and the Hansen group all along to get this done……Congrats Seattle, you will have your Supersonics back.

    As for Sacramento, it is the end on era and they will never see another pro sports team again in their city.

  20. In response to SBSJ’s post, I wonder if the Kings moving to Seattle will help the Warriors get a new arena in SF. Will they have to compensate the NBA for the additional territory-Sacramento and up to the Oregon border? The Warriors take on this would be interesting.

  21. So all the other rumors/plans of Las Vegas and Virginia Beach with the Maloofs involved were false?. Stern actually pre-ordained the sale of the Maloofs shares to Hansen/Ballmer without asking if any current minority owner wanted to take over their shares or find a way to keep the team in Sac.

    I’m not sure I believe that, although I’d believe Stern’s green book listing cities also has some space devoted to a list of potential owners, I don’t think the commissioner could get away with directing a sale quite so heavily and then making extra meetings for other owners on the BoG.

  22. ChefJoe, I’m not entirely convinced that Stern outright told the Maloofs to sell the team to Hansen. That’s a very high bid if that’s the case.

    It also seems like that wouldn’t be legal.

    On the other hand, maybe Stern set some sort of deadline; that if things weren’t put together by some certain date, that he’d take action to seize the team (think Hornets here), and as luck would have it, they ran into a very motivated Hansen-Ballmer, who just happened to have been working on an arena plan for 2 years already.

    More like a matchmaker arrangement, with some negative consequences if there was no marriage. I think that makes more sense than “Stern ordered the Maloofs to move the team to Seattle.”

    Instead of being forced together, it just worked out.

  23. Can Stern seize the team if it makes payroll and adheres to the collective agreement? If the Kings don’t make payroll, I could see Stern seizing the team but it’s really interesting that the Seattle sale was announced right after the Virginia Beach deal fell through. I wonder if Virginia Beach was used as leverage in the Seattle dollar to up the price. The Virginia Beach rumors surfaced late last summer.

  24. The NBA is smarter than the Sacramento City Council. They kept the fans and Carmichael Dave outside of the meeting. But they let in Senator Steinberg to talk about his August 2013 bill to get CEQA out of the Sacramento Kings way.

  25. It’s a franchise… technically the bylaws allow the NBA to seize a franchise or do whatever is in the best interests of the league. There’d be lawsuits flying for seizing a $500 million asset, but them’s the bylaws they agreed to when joining the NBA.

  26. I’m going to write a screenplay about the Sacramento arena saga. I think I found my calling- a full-on satire of life in Sacramento.

  27. And now Seattle is making fun of Sacramento: http://blogs.sacbee.com/video-break/2013/04/seattle-tv-station-takes-cheap-shots-at-sacramento.html

  28. That’s just the local fox affiliate. They’re so far behind in daily news ratings that they’ve tried to be “hip” and market themselves to generation Y… apparently not noticing that generation Y prefers the Daily Show and twitter over anything that could be broadcast on network TV.

  29. Well, I’d say that Jim Crandell has been pretty lame through this entire process too. Not as bad as what the Fox affiliate did, but with several real gaffes.

    I don’t really care. I’d bet Hansen just shook his head and wondered why they decided to resort to middle-school humor.

  30. I think the Fox list also disses Seattle. One of the things on the list is the “Seattle kowtows to billionaires”. Well, I don’t kowtow to billionaires, and I call people who kowtow to anyone brownnosers. So, the Fox station called Seattle a bunch of brownnosers.

    Seattle Citizens I know, do not kowtow to billionaires. The only individuals in Seattle that do seem to kowtow to billionaires are the Seattle politicians, and that weasel Dow Constantine.

  31. this entire Sacramento deal is attracting some real big attention from quite a few of the “whales”…

    just yesterday the Kardashians called Kevin Johnson and wanted in on the deal…”these Kings arena investors are our kind of people” they were heard to say….

    it takes one to know one…purple goobers that is…

  32. Too many good comments, to go over each one. If Sacramento was about to lose an NHL team, do you think KJ would be going on about it like he is now? I figure that he figures, that since he was an NBA player, he’s almost obligated. Then, he can say, “I tried. I tried so hard. So sorry. Vote for me.”

  33. This is probably an esoteric question with limited value, but if the current limited partners have ROFR to match Hansen’s offer, when did that clock start? Has it already started? Has it run out? Will it start at some point in the future?

    I read that the Maloofs have not yet formally informed that current limited partners of a pending sale, and this announcement would formally start the ROFR clock. However, I find it impossible to believe that no such formal announcement was made.

    Just wondering if there’s a definitive answer to this.

  34. I just began my novel satirizing the whole arena building and Sacramento political process. I can’t stop writing it.

  35. This is the kind of article that reinforces (for me at least) the point that Seattle really is in the lead here:

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/07/5322391/sacramento-countys-financial-support.html

    I understand the NBA’s cautious approach. They can’t allow the Hansen sale to go through if it turns out Sacramento really does have a huge lead. Problem is, I think Seattle is the one with a huge lead. Now that we’re pretty sure the entire AB900 “protection” was bogus, that’s another point for Seattle — they really are farther along with the environmental reports.

  36. Neil, do you think Seattle is getting played here? It seems like the “threat” of Seattle has SAC ready to bankrupt itself to keep a team. Obviously Stern loves that. How can he possibly walk away from this much public subsidy…errr support?

    On the other hand, Seattle is already pissed at NBA. If they just use Seattle to keep the kings in SAC, then how the hell do they ever come back to this city? That would be twice NBA would have screwed Seattle. No to mention they would have shunned one of the richest investment groups in the history of sports.

  37. Griffin, that’s just it. If the NBA goes with Sac, they’re permanently done there. But if they go with Seattle, Sac will offer an even stupider arena deal, probably within 3 years. Yet another argument in favor of a Seattle.

  38. You say this on the same day a Seattle sports columnist writes:

    http://seattletimes.com/html/jerrybrewer/2020727445_brewer07.html
    If the NBA wants to return to Seattle, it has to be now

    While commissioner David Stern and his owners are vetting two potential ownership groups and their arena plans, they should consider another thing that will complicate this weighty decision. This isn’t just a good chance for the NBA to return to Seattle. It’s quite possibly the league’s last chance, too.

    Seattle’s NBA fans waited in the wings for 5 years, with Ballmer being rumored to buy into the NBA for significantly longer. I don’t, for a second, think Hansen was buying properties thinking only one team was an option.

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