In last All-Star presser, David Stern addresses fates of Seattle, Sacramento and Kings

David Stern from All-Star Weekend in Houston. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

HOUSTON – In what was likely his final All-Star Weekend press conference as NBA commissioner, David Stern addressed a bevy of questions surrounding Sacramento, Seattle and the future of the Kings.  These are the highlights.

  • Several times during the press conference, Stern noted that essentially, the final say was out of his hands.  If Mayor Johnson can deliver a strong plan to keep the team, is it realistic to believe that Sacramento can knock off Seattle in its pursuit of the Kings?  “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 predicates have been fulfilled.”
  • On Thursday, Stern told reporters that the Kings’ minority owners right of first refusal would be “accommodated”.  On Saturday, he elaborated on the possible opportunity for them to match the Seattle offer.  “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.”
  • Does Stern see an outcome where both Seattle and Sacramento win?  “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.”
  • There are a number of issues regarding the possibility of expansion, including the financial benefits versus costs of adding a new team.  There’s also the issue of competitive advantage, where Stern and his successor Adam Silver differ in opinion.  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.” 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 at least 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.”
  • In the battle of financial wherewithal, the emerald city clearly trounces California’s state capital.  But will the outcome of this saga be decided strictly by which region has the deepest pockets?  “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.”  Waiting to see what Mayor Kevin Johnson can deliver is the next major step.
  • Stern made a point of defending the NBA when the Sonics’ departure from Seattle was brought up.  He noted that the city of Seattle and state of Washington were unwilling to participate in the effort to fund a new Sonics arena.  “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 (Frank) Chopp said that we should take the money from our players.  Is there anything that I’m missing there?”
  • Stern has met with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.  He did not elaborate on when that meeting took place.
  • Stern expects to have the Seattle deal completely ready for report by the Board of Governors’ meeting on April 18th – one day after the regular season concludes for the Kings.
  • Mayor Johnson continues to work toward having his plan to keep the Kings, complete with an arena deal and new ownership, by March 1st, which is also the NBA’s filing deadline for relocation.  There was no specific rhyme or reason for the league to designate that as Sacramento’s deadline according to Stern.  “It’s sort of irrelevant exactly, but that was a good enough date, so we selected that.”
  • Does Seattle need to anything more to ensure that it’s in the best position to get a team? “Not that I’m aware of,” he said.  When pressed for further comment about Seattle’s plans to deliver on their arena deal, Stern simply again reiterated the strength of the Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer-led ownership group.  “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.”
  • When the Kings nearly moved to Anaheim in 2011, Stern was asked if Clay Bennett’s position as head of the relocation committee was a conflict of interest.  This time, he was asked if Seattle should have any concern about the Oklahoma City Thunder owner’s role in this new chapter.  “Clay has been terrific.  And in some measure, we’ve combined the two committees (relocation and finance), and he would be happy to do less in the face of the question that you might ask.  So the answer is no.”


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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