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April 19, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Transcript of NBA press conference on Seattle/Sacramento battle over Kings

Here is the official transcript of the NBA press conference today with commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver talking about the Seattle/Sacramento tussle over the Kings (and this includes only the discussion of that issue):

Stern opening comment on Kings issue: “And oh, yes, we had an update on the Sacramento Kings.  I almost forgot.  That was after an all‑day meeting on Wednesday of the two committees, a full briefing of the executive session that took place yesterday, I’d say the board was briefed for the better part of two hours on arena proposals, financing, funding, sources of funding, likely timelines and a variety of other things.

And I guess the most concrete thing I can tell you on that is that the committee will be meeting ‑‑ the committees will be meeting next week, likely towards the end of next week, and out of that meeting ‑‑ at that meeting they will take a vote on their recommendation, and they will issue a report, which will then be sent out to the entire Board of Governors, who, by our constitution rules, must have seven business days to consider that report.

So if you want to borrow my fingers, you can figure it out, if we have the meeting on Thursday or Friday and it goes out, the vote can’t happen the week after next.  That necessarily swings it into the week after the week after next.  And that is when we’re aiming to have a vote by the NBA Board of Governors on this issue.

There are still some additional issues that the board has asked us to get involved with.  I’m not going to disclose what they are at this time.  But we have or are about to have scheduled calls with each of the parties involved.

With respect to the briefing of the board during the executive session, the Maloofs are welcome participants.  They were free to ask questions, make observations, made a statement.  And we’re moving on to other business for the rest of the session and last night and almost a full day today.  And that’s where we are.

Q.  Is this an issue of you have owners who haven’t decided yet, or is it an issue of you want to get your votes more uniform and make this more close to a unanimous vote?

STERN:  No, the latter would not be accurate at all.  There’s no attempt to get any unanimity.  There’s only an attempt to get answers to every possible, any possible question that various owners have, and then they’ll vote however they vote, period.  We’re not out there at our own, on our own motion or at the direction of any committee or group of owners out there trying to get to one result or another.

Q.  Have you encouraged the Maloofs or supported the Maloofs to negotiate with Sacramento or have at least entertained Sacramento’s offer?

STERN:  We sort of ran out of time on that particular issue.  So what we’re considering is, I think it’s fair to say, a signed agreement by the Sacramento group that proposes to buy the team.

It hasn’t been countersigned by the Maloofs.  But the committee is treating it as an offer and a signed offer and one on which the buying group in Sacramento is prepared to close.  But there was so much to and fro letters, objections and things like that, that we just sort of ran out of time as we were approaching this meeting.  But the committee has elected to treat it as having been submitted.

Q.  Is expansion still a complete non‑starter?

STERN:  I don’t want to say a complete non‑starter.  If the question is:  Was there any discussion of expansion?  The answer is no.  Is that ‑‑ how does that do?

Q.  Well, I mean, would it be considered in any way as a way out of this predicament?

STERN:  I haven’t heard that in any shape or form, particularly when we don’t know at this time what the next television network contract would be.  But with respect to expansion in the future, I can’t wait to read your newspaper and see what despute commissioner Silver is saying.

Q.  Question for both of you. Commissioner Stern, are you trying to influence this decision one way or the other or trying to push the owners of the NBA one way or the other in making this decision?

STERN:  Actually, despite what you’ve written and said, the answer is no.

Q.  So at the end of the day is this your decision or is it the NBA owners’ decision?

STERN:  At the end of the day the committee, which is going to meet next week, will have to take a vote and decide what to do.  So I don’t understand, not only your question, but where it would come from.

Q.  The Maloofs said at this point that they’ve now written a letter to the NBA saying they want the deal complete.  They said it also publicly.  They want it complete.  So what exactly is the hold up?

STERN:  I guess it would be fair to say as an issue that the owners are deliberating quite conservatively and deliberately because each team owns its team in its market, and that is why, when a team wants to move, it becomes the province of the board, rather than ownership.  That’s why we have this constitutional provision which has this rather labor‑intensive process that is sort of weighing down on all of us as we go down the checklist, we get everything together.  We answer questions and the like.

So it’s not as simple as the underpinnings of your last question are.

Q.  Well, I’m glad to know that you do read our website and watch our TV station so I appreciate that.

STERN:  I’m waiting to see something accurate.

Q.  Touche, touche.  Deputy Commissioner Silver,  I know you said a couple of weeks ago you wanted a faster decision‑making process here.  Where do you stand as far as this process goes and how big of a decision is this going to be for your term as commissioner?

SILVER:  I think it’s a huge decision for the league and its two fantastic cities and it’s a very difficult position that the owners find themselves in.  But I’ll only echo what David has said.  There’s a procedure outlined step‑by‑step in the constitution, and the Maloofs fully understand.  They’re part of a larger association.  They’re one of 30 ownership groups.

And so while we would have liked to have seen it move faster, we can’t shortcut this process that requires the committee to meet, the committee to consider various factors that are laid out in the constitution, the committee to then deliberate and make a recommendation, the report then to be issued.  Seven business days then have to pass and then the NBA Board of Governors votes.  So there’s no shortcutting of that process.

I’ll only say again to amplify what David said earlier, just to show how weighty the owners are viewing this decision, I can’t remember anything in recent history where we’ve had so many lengthy meetings, so much deliberation, as David said, this is now our third day of meetings.  We started on Wednesday, focused largely on this topic.

And I think I can speak both for both of us, I mean, there’s no lobbying or campaigning going on by the league office.  We are presenting the facts in a most full way we can to the owners.  They’ve asked other questions.  They’ve sent us back to get additional information.  We will be presenting that information to them over the next few days.

The committee will then meet again, deliberate, and we’ll make a recommendation.

STERN:  And I think I’ve been referred to more time in the last three days as staff than in the last 30 years.  The staff will look into this.  The staff will look into that, and indeed we are.

And what makes this particularly difficult, as we said to you before, is the Seattle group has done a lot of work.  It’s well funded.  It’s got spectacular businessmen who support the community behind it and the Sacramento group has a very strong base of economic support as well.

And in fact Sacramento itself has stepped up in various ways.  And we’ve got two temporary facilities that we’re going to be playing in, whichever way the board goes and the quality of those facilities and there’s so many other issues and the critical path based upon environmental reviews, potential lawsuits and the like.

We have expended not only enormous man‑hours but enormous sums of money for outside consultants.  This will be by far our most extensive review of anything like this in the league’s history.

Q.  Commissioner Stern, if the league does not approve the sale to the Hansen Ballmer group, do you ever get a sense where that group and even the fan base in Seattle, would have doubts to trust the league ever again because the league has cited several times that it’s a very good offer?  But if you turn them away you’ve mentioned several times expansion not on the table.  How could Hansen and Ballmer and the Friends of Seattle ever trust the league again?

STERN:  I don’t know.  We can only do what we do and tell you transparently what we do.  And I guess I would say that Seattle is a very strong market, and in fact has gotten stronger and more growth‑oriented than when the NBA left.

But there is another city involved.  So I think that the owners are probably individually wrestling with the degree to which the Sacramento incumbency deserves consideration as well.

So there’s going to, under your definition, there’s going to be a disappointed city one way or the other.  And I don’t know how you figure in issues of trust or not to that.

Q.  Just to follow up one more time on the letter that the Maloofs sent to the NBA that was acquired by the AP.  They said significant deals between the two deals.  Why force an ownership group to sell to a different group when they already have a binding agreement with one?

STERN:  That goes to the issue of whether the owners vote in favor of relocating the team.  And the relocation of the team is for the owners to decide, not for the owner ‑‑ not for the individual franchise owner.

Q.  Is there anything that you can talk about specifically that you don’t know right now that you hope to know in the next week or so with regard to whether it’s environmental issues or potential litigation between the two cities?  And secondly, there has always seemed to be an unwritten sort of axiom in the league that while it is true the league decides whether the teams move or not, that the league kind of allows owners to sell where they want to sell, unless there’s something wrong with the ownership group, in which case the league would step in.  What is different about this particular sale that would challenge that axiom?

STERN:  Actually, I can’t answer your first question.  Your second question is we do have a system where owners are more or less encouraged to decide who they want to sell to.  And that’s been the way it has always been.

But that’s not true with respect to moves of franchises.  So you’re partially right in your second question.  It’s always been for the league to decide about the moving.

On the first question, David, there’s just some ongoing discussions that we have to have with both groups that I’m not prepared to talk to you about now because we want to talk to them first.

Q.  David, on the issue of things that you don’t know, is one of them a matter of one offer or the other being more viable than its competitor in terms of some people say the check being in the mail but not here yet on one of the offers; is that one of the problems?

STERN:  No.  There are some structural issues, and of course we’re most concerned about the critical path of arenas to getting built.

Q.  So would you say that economically the offers are compatible?

STERN:  They’re in the same ballpark with respect to the net result to the selling family.

Q.  Could you or Adam just clarify what exactly the owners will be voting on?  Will they vote first on the proposed transfer of ownership to the Seattle group, and if approved then vote on relocation?  And if not, then what?

STERN:  Yeah, we’ve never had a situation like this before.  And we’re working out with the committee the working model.  And for us the linchpin seems to be ‑‑ and I think the committee agrees or the committee directs that the first issue is whether we’re prepared to authorize the team to move.  That will be the first order of the day.

Q.  Say we get to the Draft lottery which is basically a month from now.  Is it either going to say Kings or Seattle, Sacramento or Seattle at that point?

STERN:  Yes.

Q.  So we will have an answer then?

STERN:  We’re going to have an answer in accordance with the schedule that I outlined at the ‑‑ I don’t remember the exact weeks, but if I think we’re talking about a vote, if it’s Monday, the 29th of April, then the week that is after that, May something or other, that’s the week the vote will come from the Board.

Q:  I mean, is this about the first time where ‑‑ am I right that you don’t know the answer?

STERN:  That is correct.  This has been a wrenching.

Q.  First time?

STERN:  It’s the only time in the last 37 ‑‑ 47 years that I haven’t known the answer.  No, but this is one that’s just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well.  And we’ve been working very hard to give it a structure at their direction.  We’re the staff, and we are trying to answer every question that they have.

Q.  There’s been a lot of talk and criticism about the Sacramento group’s offer, not enough money, not binding.  No deposit.  Can I just ask you bluntly, is there anything wrong with Sacramento’s offer?

STERN:  No.  It needs ‑‑ I think it’s not as complete as it probably is going to be by the close of business today or tomorrow.  There is a down payment.  It is binding.  We have had assurances of funding support and that has been documented to something in the neighborhood of 80 percent to our satisfaction.  When I say satisfaction, the committee’s satisfaction.

But it’s in the ballpark, and it’s there.  But there are other issues that we just need some more answers on.

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