David Stern says NBA’s decision on future of Kings could be delayed
By Ben Golliver
NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday the league’s decision on whether the Kings will play in Sacramento or Seattle next season could take longer than originally anticipated.
Speaking in New York City after representatives of groups from both cities presented to a committee of the league’s owners, Stern said that the league might not meet its original target date, NBA Board of Governors meetings set for April 18 and 19, to decide the franchise’s fate. He did not specify a new timeline but said that the league’s owners are not interested in dragging it out longer than necessary.
“It’s not at all clear what our precise timeline is for a final determination here is because the most important thing is doing all the work that has to be done,” Stern said. “We’re doing it as fast as collectively can together. It may well slide past the board meeting, but I wouldn’t expect it, if it does, to slide by a lot. Because there’s a combined interest in having some clarity come to this situation.”
Seattle-area investors – led by Valiant Capital’s Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer – agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the Kings from the Maloof family back in January and filed paperwork to relocate the franchise to Seattle, where it would take on the SuperSonics nickname and play in KeyArena until a new stadium is constructed. Artist renderings of the new Sonics Arena were released over the weekend.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a number of investors — including 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, billionaire Ron Burkle, TIBCO chairman Vivek Ranadive and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs – have worked diligently to keep the Kings where they are, recently agreeing to terms on a new Downtown Plaza arena deal.
Stern said that presentations from both groups were compelling but that questions remain, especially about the arena construction timelines, because the franchise would be forced to play in a “sub-optimal arena” until a new building in either city could be completed.
“We heard a day full of extraordinary presentations of a complex real estate, arena, construction timelines, potential obstacles and team funding in two really great cities,” Stern said. “It was a long day without any breaks and both sides made, in my view, very, very strong presentations.”
The joint finance/relocation committee — made up of Peter Holt (Spurs), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Clay Bennett (Thunder), Jim Dolan (Knicks), Ted Leonsis (Wizards), Larry Tanenbaum (Raptors), Herb Simon (Pacers) and Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics) — will meet again before the Board of Governors meetings.
Stern again ruled out expansion as a way to accommodate the demand for an NBA team in both cities, as he did during comments made at All-Star Weekend in February.
“Right now, expansion on horseback, so to speak, is not a prudent way to run a league,” he said. “Without knowing what you’re selling, what the next TV deal is worth, what the full scope of international is, what our social media and digital rights, to cut off a chunk of that and have an expansion is imprudent on a quick decision. That doesn’t mean that at some point in the future it’s on the table, but right now it’s not.”
Representatives from both the Seattle group and the Sacramento group expressed confidence and satisfaction with their presentations to the committee.