The decision on whether the Kings will play in Sacramento or Seattle next season will probably take longer than anticipated, NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday. Speaking in New York after representatives of groups from both cities presented to a committee of the league’s owners, Stern said the league might not meet its original target date, the Board of Governors meetings April 18-19, to decide the franchise’s fate.
Stern did not specify a new timeline, but announced that the league’s owners are not interested in dragging it.
“It’s not 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 we 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 in January and filed paperwork to relocate the franchise to Seattle, where it would assume the SuperSonics nickname and play in KeyArena until a new arena is constructed.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and four principal investors, including 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, billionaire Ron Burkle, TIBCO chairman Vivek Ranadive and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, have worked to keep the Kings where they are, recently agreeing to terms on a new Downtown Plaza arena deal.
Stern said presentations from both groups were compelling, but that questions remain, especially about 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 — consisting 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 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 (riding in) on horseback, so to speak, is not a prudent way to run a league,” Stern said. “Without knowing what you’re selling, what the next TV deal is worth, what the full scope of international (revenues are), what our social media and digital (revenues are) . . . 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 the Seattle group and the Sacramento group expressed confidence and satisfaction with their presentations to the committee.