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The latest news about the NBA's possible return to Seattle.

February 16, 2013 at 7:02 PM

David Stern Q-and-A on Seattle/Sacramento/Kings

NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver met the media for about an hour today at the league’s annual All-Star Game press conference.

Many questions concerned the situation with the Sacramento Kings and their potential move to Seattle.

Here is the transcription of the questions and answers on that topic:

Comment on Seattle/Kings in opening statement: Just to anticipate one line of questioning, I told Adam, remind me to speak about Seattle and Sacramento.  So it says, “Sac‑Seattle” because I knew I would forget. I think it’s fair to say that we have an application in house, as you know, from Seattle to both transfer ownership to the (Chris) Hansen‑(Steve) Ballmer group and an application to move the team to Seattle to play in Key Arena while the process goes on to get permission to build a new building in Seattle, and the various lawsuits and environmental impact and other things are dealt with. And that’s moving along.  I met with Mayor (Mike) McGinn of Seattle, we have two committees focusing on it, the Relocation Committee and Advisory Finance Committee, and we fully expect to have that process completed for report to the Board of Governors at its April 18th meeting. We have been advised by Mayor (Kevin) Johnson of Sacramento, parenthetically, who we have not met with and who we have no plans to meet with here, closed parens, that Sacramento will be delivering to us a competitive bid to the one that we have received from Seattle.  That will include the construction of a new building with a significant subsidy from the City of Sacramento, and other things that would bring the region together to support the team. That’s all we have.  The mayor has said that we’ll have that likely well before March 1, which appears in our constitution for when we must receive applications to move.  It’s sort of irrelevant exactly, but that was a good enough date, so we selected that.

Q.  Commissioner, in the Seattle situation is there anything more the city of Seattle needs to do to ensure that it’s in the best position to get a team?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q.  What do you think of what they have been able to pull together and deliver to you so far?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  As I’ve said before, there’s a very strong ownership group that has come together, and there’s a plan for a $600 million or so, maybe it’s only 590, building that I haven’t studied any plans of, but it seems to be in the normal course a standard application that’s quite strong.

 Q.  This is going to come down to an economic issue between Seattle and Sacramento, but you’ve invested a lot of the league’s resources, last year in Orlando you spent so much time trying to broker the deal.  How do you decipher between the economics and the emotional aspect of what’s happening?  Have you gotten a read of your owners this weekend?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  I’ve gotten no read of our owners because they expect to have the Committee to process it first, and will respect the Committee system and League office’s ability to wash through all the date, things that are necessary under our constitution and bylaws.

And I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics because it’s not about, okay, “I say 525.  All right.  I say 526.”  To me that would be economics.  I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide.  But I don’t want to get to it because we don’t have the predicate for that tough decision yet.  It’s going to wait upon Mayor Johnson making good on his statement that there will be an offer.  And it’s going to, I think, be upon, in the Sacramento area, a number of the regional municipalities and the various people who have been saying they’ll give the mayor the support that he needs.  And we’ll see.

And then the owners are going to have to deal with it.  This is a good time to be a commissioner and not an owner.

Q.  Do you advise at all?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  I’ve been known to (laughter.)

Q.  A couple of days ago you described Seattle as a great city for the NBA, but obviously the League left there five years ago.  What exactly makes it a great city?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  It was a great city five years ago.

Q.  Do you regret the way the League left Seattle?  And does that impact the ‑‑

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  Actually, it doesn’t impact anything.  This is being done by the book.  But I seem to remember, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a $300 million‑plus subsidy for the Mariners, and a $300 million‑plus subsidy for the Seahawks, and there was a legislation which precluded that for the Sonics, and Speaker Chopp said that we should take the money from our players.  Is there anything that I’m missing there?

Q.  You’re about there.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  Okay.  So I don’t want to ‑‑ but it saddened me, because it’s a great city.  And I think I’d like to see us go back there.  But the history is being rewritten in a way that your question gave me an opportunity to set the record straight.

Q.  Is this strictly about the arena deal in your mind?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  This is strictly about what the owners decide.  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.

Q.  But the way that move was handled five years ago to Oklahoma City, does that impact what you’re doing now with Seattle and Sacramento?


Q.  If I could take an another stab at the Kings situation, assuming that Sacramento does present a credible, competitive bid for the Kings, including an arena deal, can you give us a sense of just how realistic a shot Sacramento has at dislodging the deal put together by this very strong ownership group from Seattle?  Is it possible?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  Oh, certainly it’s plausible to me, but I don’t have a vote.  But I expect that the owners have a very open mind on this.  And it isn’t plausible yet to talk about it until the predicates have been fulfilled.

Q.  Two questions for you:  First of all, if you were to draw an outline to Sacramento to make sure they hit a list of bullet points to make sure they get the attention of the community and the owners, what would that be?  And secondly, do you see any scenario where both cities are happy here?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy.  And I wouldn’t presume to, through the media, tell Sacramento what it has to do.  They have an open door at the NBA, as does the Seattle application.  And we have had ongoing communications with both cities and their potential groups.

Q.  You may have just answered this, but I’m wondering if it looks like there’s going to be two viable markets in Sacramento and Seattle, if expansion would ever be considered?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  I’m going to leave three envelopes for the next commissioner and let him decide how that gets answered.

Q.  Two more Seattle Sacramento questions for you.


Q.   What is the argument against expansion right now?  The other is, is there any reason anybody in Seattle would have to be concerned that Clay Bennett is head of the Relocation Committee?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  The second one, absolutely not.  Clay has been terrific.  And in some measure we’ve combined the two committees, and he would be happy to do less in the face of the question that you might ask.  So the answer is no.

On expansion, I’m going to give the answer ‑‑ give Adam some time to think about it over the next many years ‑‑   there’s a large group of owners who believe that expansion is an economic matter, is a neutral thing.  At least the way we’ve done it to date, you get a lot of money in and in return for that you cut the new team in for a large and growing source of revenue from national TV, national licensing, and all things international and digital.  And then it doesn’t really seem to make that much additional sense as the increased revenue that demands to the gross PRI and increased each player costs and the like.

So it has to be parsed and analyzed but right now given that we’ve just come through an intriguing collective bargaining negotiation and coupled it with specific revenue sharing, over $200 million, I think the sentiment is to let it all settle and assess how we are doing and what the projections are for how we’ll do.

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER:  Just to add to the competitive issue, too, whether there are 15 more of the world’s greatest players available without diluting the league.  And we think we’re at the right point now in terms of numbers of teams and numbers of players.  There are only so many of the world’s greatest players that can perform at the highest level.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  I disagree with that.  I think it’s an unlimited number.  But that’s a separate issue.  As I said, you know that we’ve had 30 players from Africa in the last 20 years?  Unthinkable 20 years ago, unthinkable.  And we don’t know where the next ones are coming from.  But on his broader point he is correct.

Q.  There’s been a lot of talk about the minority owners of the Sacramento kings and their possible right of first refusal.  The other day I believe you said that would be accommodated.  Could you elaborate more on that?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  If they have it, I guess they’ll exercise it and deliver an offer to the owners that is good.  If they don’t have it, they won’t exercise it and some court will say yes or no and there will be some negotiation.  I just don’t feel it as a defining issue here, that’s all.


Comments | More in All-Star Weekend | Topics: David Stern, Sacramento Kings


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