NEW YORK – It’s not over, and the decision may take longer than previously advertised.
That was the message from NBA Commissioner David Stern Wednesday following two presentations from delegations from Seattle and Sacramento about the future of the Kings franchise.
Stern had previously said he wanted clarity on Chris Hansen’s planned purchase and relocation of the Kings to Seattle, and that’s why he called this special meeting before members of the relocation and finance committees. However, he clouded the future by saying the recommendation may not come in time for the scheduled April 18th-19th NBA Board of Governors meeting.
Chris Hansen said in a televised news conference that he felt his group was “well prepared” and he’s “optimistic” about his chances to close a deal to return the NBA to Seattle.
“You have to lose something you hold precious and dear to realize how it much it means to you,” said Hansen.
He was flanked, behind closed doors, by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, former Sonic owner Wally Walker, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine. The executive said afterwards that Ballmer made a pitch that Seattle was in better position to complete a new arena.
“It's much farther along,” said Constantine in the hallway of the St. Regis Hotel. “A lot of the harder questions have been answered, the property has been purchased, the agreements with governments have been worked out.”
Constantine says Ballmer drove that point home in an energetic performance.
“(He said) it’s already taken care of, already in place, there is certainty,” said Constantine. “Our deal is more solid.”
Sources say George Maloof also told his fellow owners he was ready to sell the team to Hansen, and was emotional as he described how his family had loved owning the franchise. However, sources say, Maloof told owners Hansen would be a great steward for the franchise.
The Sacramento contingent followed Hansen’s group, and included possible arena investors Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov and Vivek Ranadive. Johnson said his group brought their “A Game” and was unusually relaxed in a post presentation press conference, hugging California State Senator Darrell Steinberg at one point.
Ranadive was asked several times in the press conference and afterwards if he was willing to match Hansen’s signed purchase for 65% of the franchise. He would only say the group was “playing to win.”
Stern said after Ranadive’s comments that he did not believe that would be a defining factor in the league’s decision.
Sacramento paper: Seattle has too many teams already
In Wednesday morning’s edition of the Sacramento Bee, the editorial board says it would be in the NBA’s best interest to prevent the team from relocating.
It claims Seattle already has too many sports teams competing for attendance. Also, it claims more than 10,000 Sacramento fans have already pledged to purchase season tickets for next season and that the Kings have had greater attendance than the Sonics have had in the past.
“The speed of this deal, the wealth of the investors and the public commitment should send a clear signal to the league that with the right owners, the Sacramento market can be a lucrative one," the editorial board wrote.
Still legal battles ahead
No matter what happens Wednesday, it is clear the legal wrangling is not over.
A pair of attorneys in Sacramento, representing a group which calls itself “Coalition for Responsible Arena Development,” says it intends to file a lawsuit over Sacramento’s recent plan. The group alleges the term sheet violates California environmental law, and the terms for a city suite at a new complex would be a “misuse of public funds for private benefit.”
Peter Goldman, an attorney for the Seattle chapter of the ILWU, also filed paperwork to speed up an appeal of the union’s lawsuit over Hansen’s proposed arena. He said he hoped it would mean the appeal could be heard in 2-to-3 months, as opposed to nine. Goldman said he had not had any contact with the NBA over the issue, but he would be watching the mayor’s comments in New York closely.
Chris Daniels is reporting about the NBA meeting all week in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisdaniels5.
KING 5's Jake Whittenberg contributed to this report