HOUSTON — No new details on Sacramento against Seattle, though the next All-Star decision might be New York versus New York.
NBA Commissioner David Stern fielded numerous questions Saturday but provided little news about the future of the Sacramento Kings during his last All-Star weekend press conference. A Seattle group has reached an agreement to buy the team from the Maloof family with the goal of moving it to the Northwest, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is trying to keep the Kings in California’s capital.
Stern said owners will continue to discuss the plans and will hear from Mayor Kevin Johnson with the goal of deciding at their April board meeting. Without saying how, Stern said Sacramento has a chance of beating out what he has said is a strong bid from the Seattle group.
“Oh, certainly it’s plausible to me, but I don’t have a vote,” Stern said. “But I expect the owners to have a very open mind on this. And it isn’t plausible yet to talk about it until the predicates have been fulfilled.”
Stern plans to retire on Feb. 1, 2014, on what would be the 30th anniversary of his appointment to the job. The 2014 game is going to New Orleans, and deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the 2015 event is likely headed to either the Knicks’ Madison Square Garden or the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Silver didn’t say when a decision would be made. The New York bids are not the only ones the league is considering.
Sacramento may be out of the NBA business by then. A Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer has reached an agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million.
Johnson has asked for and been granted a chance to deliver a competing offer, which is expected by March 1, and to address the board. And he insists his city has a “competitive advantage” because the NBA previously approved Sacramento’s financing plans for a new arena last year when it thought it had brokered a deal between the Maloofs and the city that the owners later pulled out of.
“We’re going to deliver a brand new arena downtown. At the end of the day, that’s a key variable and I think it gives us a competitive advantage,” Johnson said in a separate press conference. “We have a deal that was approved by the NBA already, where the city has a significant public investment that we’re willing to put forward, to build a brand new arena. That’s a key reason why unfortunately a team left Seattle and why teams do leave, is you can’t get arena deals done.”
Stern was asked if the decision will come down strictly to the arena deal.
“This is strictly about what the owners decide,” he said. “There’s a great and strong application from a terrific city to bring in a third and possibly a fourth team in a brand-new building, well-financed ownership group, without the ability yet to build, because there are several things that have to be overcome. But that’s really good. So if you’re a commissioner, you like that.”
Johnson came to Houston in hopes of gaining support for Sacramento, though he and Stern have not met and there are no plans for a meeting. His fight for the Kings contrasts somewhat with the response Stern got from Washington politicians before the SuperSonics eventually moved to Oklahoma City. Stern recalled that the Seahawks and Mariners got public funding for new stadiums that wasn’t available for the Sonics.
Stern said it “saddened” him to depart because Seattle was a great city, but that “history was being rewritten” about the way the NBA left it.
With reporters from both cities jamming the room where his press conference was held, and occasionally appearing bored by their repeated questions, Stern added he couldn’t see any scenario in which both Seattle and Sacramento would be happy. He and Silver both doubt expansion is something that would be considered soon.
He said the committees which will decide in April have a difficult choice.
“This is a good time to be a commissioner and not an owner,” Stern said.