NEW YORK -- NBA commissioner David Stern on Friday dismissed the last-ditch candidacy of Ron Burkle to purchase the Kings and keep them in Sacramento, and the league’s board of governors voted to extend the Maloof family’s deadline to apply for relocation to Anaheim until May 2.
In calling the Burkle plan "not a high priority," Stern at the same time praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s presentation, in which he promised millions of dollars in new sponsorships and funding for a new downtown arena. But after a decade of failed efforts to get the Kings a new building in northern California, Stern expressed skepticism about last-ditch efforts to keep the team there.
"In light of the history in Sacramento, that's usually an eye-roller," Stern said in a news conference after the end-of-season Board of Governors meeting. "We don't know if that's real or a pie in the sky. We don't know whether we can find that out in a couple of weeks, but we are going to knock ourselves out to do it."
Later, on a pre-playoff conference call with national media, Stern described Johnson’s presentation as "persuasive," and said the relocation deadline was extended so owners would have more time to evaluate both the Anaheim relocation plan and Sacramento’s save-the-Kings proposal. Stern said a presentation by the Maloofs and Anaheim city officials was made "in good faith," but left owners with an incomplete understanding of issues such as funding, TV rights, desired arena improvements and "what would be an appropriate relocation fee."
"It just seemed to be a good idea to put it off for a couple of weeks," Stern said.
If the Maloofs follow through with their application to relocate to Anaheim, Stern said the board would then evaluate whether the market can support a third team. Two board members told CBSSports.com that owners have yet to take a tally of whether the Maloofs have the required 16 votes to approve the relocation. One owner noted that if the vote is close, it will call into question the fact that the league will be casting the vote for New Orleans, which is now owned and operated by the other 29 owners.
Sources also told CBSSports.com there’s a feeling among representatives of at least one team that more consideration be given to moving the Kings to Kansas City, given the franchise’s roots are there and the city’s arena is more NBA-ready than Anaheim’s Honda Center. "Interesting position," said one team representative. The issue of Kansas City, however, was not formally raised during the two-day meeting.
"I think they’re planning on looking more closely at the Sacramento situation before a final decision is made," the team rep said.
One of the owners told CBSSports.com that he detected a "bias" against relocation among members of the executive committee, which consists of representatives from all 30 teams. "I don’t think anybody likes to see teams moving," the owner said.
But this sentiment was not evident in the selection of Thunder owner Clay Bennett to chair the relocation committee. Bennett’s appointment was quickly panned for several hours online by those pointing out the apparent conflict on Bennett’s resume -- given that he moved the SuperSonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City, creating a public relations nightmare for the NBA. Stern, of course, rejected such a notion while praising Bennett for his "yeoman’s work" on various committees.
"I don’t think there’s any conflict at all," Stern said. "What would the conflict be? … Maybe Sacramento will think the same thing you do, which I don’t, that he favors movement. In this case, he favors what’s best for the league."
Some other news items from Stern’s pre-playoff media tour with deputy commissioner Adam Silver on Friday:
• On the issue of Kobe Bryant’s gay slur costing him a $100,000 fine, Stern said there were no plans to come up with a list of words players would be forbidden to utter on the court. "Our rules are what they are, and for the most part, our players conduct themselves in the manner we’d like them to conduct themselves," Stern said. "Kobe apologized for his insensitive remarks. I think he understood it. He was severely penalized, and we’re ready to move on."
• The sale agreement transferring ownership of the Pistons from the Davidson family to Tom Gores’ Platinum Equity group has been signed, and Stern said the deal will close no later than June 30. Gores and Karen Davidson have assured Stern it will be done by the end of May. Owners were impressed with Gores, whom Stern referred to as "really gung-ho to make this thing into a winner and a community asset."
• Owners had what Stern described as "a very energetic discussion" about resuming play promptly after timeouts and possibly reducing the number of timeouts.
• Despite the threat of a lockout, Stern said season ticket sales for next season are "ahead of last year’s pace." But Stern noted the money will have to be returned to customers, with interest, in the event of a work stoppage.
• In response to a question about the roughly one-third of NHL teams that lost less money by not playing during hockey’s 2004-05 lockout, Silver said, "We do have teams that are in that situation. I won't say the precise number, but there are several that will do better financially if we’re not playing. Having said that, it’s absolutely our goal to get a deal. And even those teams that would do better by not playing, I’m sure they would prefer to be playing and build their business. There’s no doubt that as a business, we’d do enormous damage to ourselves by not playing."