NBA commissioner David Stern made a trip out to Oakland to talk up the Warriors as a “model franchise” and the team’s trip next fall to China, where they’ll play preseason games against the Lakers. Stern’s event had another large contingent of media from Sacramento, who wanted to hear Stern’s take on last week’s bid to save the Kings by Mark Mastrov and company. NBA Commissioner David Stern says Sacramento bid is “not quite there” financially compared to Seattle. He’s hopeful it will be eventually. To ensure that Sacramento lines up its (final?) bid properly, the NBA will hold a meeting on April 3 so that everyone has their ducks in a row in advance of the Board of Governors meetings on April 12-13.
— Antonio Gonzalez (@agonzalezAP) March 9, 2013
David Stern very clear that Sacramento bid is not ready …. But also said there was enough time and that he expected one to be produced
— Ailene Voisin (@ailene_voisin) March 9, 2013
BREAKING: David Stern on Sacramento’s bid for the Kings “Unless it’s increased, it won’t even be considered.”
— Seattle SuperSonics (@BringBackSonics) March 9, 2013
That, folks, marks the end of the short period of Stern as bystanding non-arbiter. In case anyone thought that this was about anything other than getting the biggest, best bid possible for the sale of the Kings, it isn’t. The owners want to see their franchise values grow. If the McCourt disaster did it for baseball franchises, the Maloof debacle could certainly do it for hoops. Earlier this week a rumor was floated that the Hansen-Ballmer group might have to pay a $75 million relocation fee, instead of an amount closer to the $30 million Clay Bennett paid to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. The owners want their piece, and David Stern’s last major effort as the commissioner will be to facilitate that. The man has played the whole thing perfectly. Now, the NBA and the bidders have kept the details close to their respective vests, so we can’t say for certain how low the bid was or how much it needs to be raised. I know this much: Mastrov put in a $420 million bid for the Warriors nearly three years ago. Stern and the owners know that Mastrov can raise capital, whether they’re bidding for 100% or 65% of the Kings. Fortunately for the Sacramento bid, there’s a few weeks left to raise the bid. Now it’s a lot like competing bids for a house in a seller’s market. The best offer with the most cash wins. You know what they say on the court: Come strong or don’t come at all.
Stern was also asked about the chances of a second Bay Area team coming via expansion if the Kings left, and he swatted that notion away. Stern left it to the Board of Governors (owners) and his successor to wrestle with that concept.
“I don’t think that we’re in for expansion of the league, any time soon. That’s just the way it is. … There are no territorial rights barriers. The only barrier is a vote by the NBA’s Board of Governors, but they’re being convened to consider the application to sell the Kings and to move the Kings.”
There’s no incentive to entertain talk of expansion as long as this bidding war – and it is indeed a bidding war – is on. Maybe after April the NBA and the losing city/bidder can talk about a framework to get an expansion or future relocated team. Chances are that even then, that losing city/bidder will be left to lick their wounds, and if it’s Sacramento/Mastrov, after having being on the losing end twice (last year for Sac when the Maloofs reneged, Mastrov in 2010 with the W’s), everyone may want to take some time to determine how much effort they want to put into this yet again. There’s just as much emotion that goes into these efforts as there is money.
I’ve thought that the horse race mentality that some of the Seattle and Sacramento partisans recently have taken on was silly, but this news certainly makes the proceedings feel like a horse race. One of these cities will have a lot of broken hearts in early April.