With economists savaging their plan to seek $200-300 million in public dollars for a new basketball arena, and voters not much happier with it, Milwaukee Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens had to do something to jumpstart their plans. So, speaking to reporters and Rotary Club members yesterday (yeah, I don’t get it either, just go with it), they pulled out the big guns:
“The problem we have is in our agreement with the NBA if an arena is not built, the NBA has the right to take the team back,” Lasry said. “I think we’ve got three or four years to do that. So we’re under huge pressure to do it.
“Wes has said it and I’ve said it: There are no other alternatives,” Lasry said.
So, really, if Milwaukee doesn’t come up with money for a new arena, the league is going to take the Bucks from Lasry and Edens and … do what with it, exactly? Sell it to owners who’ll move it? Hang onto it and see if the league can be any more successful at shaking down local politicians for arena money? Come on, Rich “Culture of Caution” Kirchen, we want to know the answers to the big questions!
I asked Lasry later Monday morning whether the NBA required the “buy back” clause in the Bucks transaction and he said “yes.”
“It was what the NBA wanted,” Lasry told me.
Sigh. I guess “Is Bad Cop making you threaten us with this?” is technically a question, but it’s not the one I would have led with, you know?
Anyway, none of this is really new — the buyback clause has been public knowledge since April — but it’s now more clear than ever that “Don’t make Adam Silver mad, who knows what he’ll do?” is going to be Lasry and Edens’ main negotiating tactic. I’d still like to see a Wisconsin journalist try to investigate whether Lasry and Edens (and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl) conspired with the NBA to insert this buyback clause, but so long as Wisconsin journalists think that “investigation” means asking the team owners “Are you co-conspirators?” we’re probably not going to get much of an answer.