NEW YORK – If the Sacramento Kings’ future hinged upon which city at Wednesday’s NBA meetings had the most charisma, then the team would likely be staying in California’s capital for good.
It may come down to who made the best presentation, but I doubt it. If it does, the Sacramento contingent led by Mayor Kevin Johnson was downright giddy following their meeting with the league’s joint relocation and finance committee.
At one point in their press conference, Johnson leaned over and hugged California Senator Darrell Steinberg. Again, I’m not sure what this all means.
This wasn’t cockiness, but rather it was confidence at an All-NBA level.
Be it relief that the meetings were finally over or the celebration of a confident crew, the Sacramento group looked like they were standing on a gold medal platform.
“I’m thankful to the NBA,” Johnson told a packed room of media members at the St. Regis Hotel in Midtown Manhattan yesterday. “We got a chance to tell our story, which we feel is very compelling. I’m thankful to the commissioner. I’m thankful to all the owners that are on both committees that allowed us to tell our story. They were very open minded and they let us get to the facts of the nitty gritty.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one in the room enjoying the moment. Vivek Ranadivé, the founder of TIBCO and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, sounded like the proud father of a newborn child.
“Today I’m proud to be a Californian,” the prospective Kings owner said as he opened his remarks to the press. “Very, very proud to be a Californian.”
We have all heard the three pieces that Johnson looked to deliver to the NBA – an ownership group with deep enough pockets to match the Seattle offer, a plan for a new arena in the Downtown Plaza and finally, proof that the Sacramento fanbase is still as vibrant as ever.
In a little over two months, Johnson and his team quickly checked all the boxes needed to appease the NBA brass. And who doubted them?
“I give the credit to the mayor,” Mark Mastrov told reporters. “The mayor has done a phenomenal job getting us here in a short period of time. He’s pulled off some serious miracles to get us here, some last minute threes from half court and a couple nice lay ups. I’m not sure he can slam dunk anymore, but he’s pretty damn close.”
This isn’t Sacramento’s first dance. They know how to do the mad scramble, and trust me, this was a mad scramble. The we-got-this mentality has been prevalent for a while with the most prolific line of the day coming early from Ranadivé.
“Seattle’s asked for a mulligan, not Sacramento,” he said as he entered the St. Regis before Sacramento made its presentation earlier during the day.
This might sound counterintuitive to everything that has been written before, but it’s correct. Seattle is the city without the NBA team. They are the ones who need the NBA to forgive and forget. Sacramento has stepped up each time by way of political will, financial backing and fan support.
And while there are rumors floating out that the Sacramento bid came up short, David Stern stopped that idea in its tracks following his own press conference.
“That is not one of the issues,” Stern said when asked if the Sacramento offer still needed to be improved.
For all of the times that money has been the issue in Sacramento, this time it’s not.
In place, there is a stadium deal, a deep-pocketed ownership group and same incredible fanbase that’s carried this franchise through the darkest of times.
Was yesterday the end of the battle? No, but reading the room, it was pretty close. Sacramento has made their play and it was strong.
“I too am on a little bit of a cloud,” Senator Steinberg told the room. “Not that we know what the outcome will be because we respect the process and the decision that the NBA owners have to make here. But they certainly got Sacramento’s and California’s best case here.”
Is that case good enough? Time will tell, as this story looks like it will take a little while longer to play out.