The Kings' increasingly compelling relocation script started looking strangely familiar on Friday.
See, Wednesday's goodbye game in Sacramento, where the local team roared back from a huge deficit to force overtime and ... well, they lost to the hated Lakers on a heart-breaking night the locals will never forget. Kings fans are desperately hoping the outcome is different this time, though, and mayor Kevin Johnson has -- against the sort of odds the Kings faced when down by 20 points in the fourth quarter the other night -- revived hope that they can pull off the hugest of upsets.
The combination of Johnson's comprehensive pitch to the NBA Board of Governors on behalf of Sacramento on Thursday in New York, and the remaining questions about the Maloofs' proposed arrangement in Anaheim has led to the league's deadline to file for relocation being pushed back for a second time -- this time to May 2. The NBA, according to Johnson, is now planning on sending a group to Sacramento in the coming weeks to investigate his claims that the market is far more viable than the recent history might show.
"[The presentation showed] that we have a corporate base here in Sacramento, and that corporate base could step up, and that it was untapped to a certain degree," Johnson said. "In a very short amount of time, we were able to get $7 million of additional dollars from our corporate community, and I think that resonated with the owners. The second thing was to update them on the Entertainment and Sports Complex, and I was very clear that we have a stellar [arena-building] team in place. We have the feasibility study [from the group expected] by end of May, and we're on track to do that."
Johnson, the former NBA player who has taken his share of criticism for perceived missteps in this process, was being lauded locally for his clutch performance. More importantly for Johnson and his newly energized supporters, Stern sounded genuinely intrigued with the notion that a solution could still be had in Sacramento.
"The mayor, together with the ICON [arena] group that he brought in ... was persuasive in telling the committee that there seems to be an intensity that makes it the most intense time of interest in the community that he has seen," Stern said on a conference call. "He thinks there may be some intelligent way to consider an arena project at a downtown site where the city owns land, where the federal government is supporting something called an 'intermodel,' and so the owners wanted to know more."
All things considered, it was a Sacramento success.
"I have no idea what the outcome will be, but I feel very confident about our ability to build a very good case," Johnson said. "I think we've done that, and we bought more time ... We did not think it was a Hail Mary and we didn't think we were going out there with promises that couldn't be fulfilled. We went out there with a business approach."
A few worthwhile notes on the matter...
• The Stern-appointed relocation committee is chaired by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett. Yes,
If and when the Maloofs file for relocation, the committee would have up to 120 days to submit a recommendation to the Board. Stern dismissed an assertion that Bennett would have a conflict of interest in the matter.
"I don't think there's any conflict at all," he said. "It might help maybe if he gets into negotiations with Sacramento ... Maybe Sacramento will think the same thing you do [regarding the conflict], although I don't, that he favors [team] movement. In this case, he favors what's best for the league and the Kings."
Speaking of negotiations with the Sacramento side, we bring you this from the things-that-make-you-go-hmmm department: Bennett attended the Kings' home game on Monday, a fact that I found strange enough to ask a team official to explain.
I was told that Bennett had been tending to business in Los Angeles, which brings us to our next note.
• Stern was dismissive of L.A.-based Ron Burkle as the Sacramento savior, this just one day after his emergence as Johnson's billionaire backup plan caused quite a coast-to-coast stir around the league.
Burkle, who owns the NHL's Pittsburg Penguins and who was listed as the
"With respect to Mr. Burkle, the owners heard that," Stern said. "But [the owners were] really were more focused on Mayor Johnson's delivery that talked about enhanced sponsorship revenue, enhanced season ticket sales and enhanced prospects for a building."
Color me skeptical here, as there is reason to believe the commissioner would be best served by downplaying this element of the equation. Ditto for his assessment of the Lakers-Clippers component and whether he would be listening to the strong opposition coming from Dr. Jerry Buss or Donald Sterling.
"If the [relocation] application ... is made, there is a detailed procedure in our Constitution which talks about analyzing whether it can support a third team, and what the prospects are with all of the other teams that are in the market and all of the other teams that will come in or are likely to come in, in terms of an NFL team," Stern said. "But that's the only concern. There will not be any consideration with respect to impact on existing teams, assuming the finding is made that ... the third team can be supported by the market."
• On the other side, the Maloofs and Anaheim officials clearly couldn't close the deal and are struggling to find widespread support for the move [they would need a majority vote should they file].
And considering sources have repeatedly told me that numerous owners and league officials have great concern over the Maloofs' long-term financial viability, this particular passage from Stern jumped right out of the phone.
"There was no discussion of the Kings financial condition,." Stern said when asked about their proposal.
Stern did address the reason for the delay as it pertained to Anaheim.
"It was a discussion of certain areas having to do with the contractual relationship between Mr. [Henry] Samueli's organization (the NHL's Anaheim Ducks) and the Kings, having to do with the building, having to do television revenue, and really, having to do with upgrades that have to be done, substantial upgrades to the Honda Center to both comply with NBA operation standards and to enhance the fan and revenue generating experience at the Honda Center," he said.
• Conclusions are tough to draw here, but it's worth noting the rest of the relocation committee cast: Miami's Micky Arison, San Antonio's Peter Holt, Utah's Greg Miller, Indiana's Herb Simon, Philadelphia's Ed Snider, and Minnesota's Glen Taylor.
• The short version of the latest Sacramento story, as brought to you by Johnson himself: "We live to fight another day," he said. "And I think that's very important."