It was a much anticipated day in New York as delegations from both Seattle and Sacramento made their cases as future homes for the Sacramento Kings to a select group of owners on the NBA's combined Relocation and Finance Committee.
In Seattle's Corner: Chris Hansen, Steve Ballmer, Mayor Mike McGinn, Peter Nordstrom, King County Supervisor Dow Constantine and George Maloof.
In Sacramento's Corner: Mayor Kevin Johnson, Vivek Ranadivé, Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov, Darius Anderson, Chris Lehane, Councilman Allen Warren and California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
The Maloof Family also sat in on Sacramento's presentation and reportedly was "open and receptive". Mayor Kevin Johnson has made it a point in recent times to go out of his way to publicly mend fences with the Maloofs and continued to do so today. This is an important and necessary political maneuver, considering that should the NBA vote down Seattle, the Maloofs would still need to choose to sell to Sacramento's group.
Both sides held press conferences afterward, but the tone of each was vastly different. While both sides expressed hope and optimism on their chances, Sacramento's group was much more energetic. The Bee's Ryan Lillis said it best:
Observation from covering him 5 years: Mayor KJ shows emotion based on the day's developments. Today, he is as jovial as I've ever seen— Ryan Lillis (@Ryan_Lillis) April 3, 2013
Seattle Times writer Art Thiel also agreed:
FWIW: Sactown won pressers. Smart, glib, passionate, willing to share more details than careful Hansen, McGinn, Constantine.— Art Thiel (@Art_Thiel) April 3, 2013
Mayor Johnson was almost giddy, coming out to the podium clapping his hands, hugging Darrell Steinberg (this is a thing that actually happened), calling Mark Mastrov to come from the crowd and join them on the podium. Johnson says that Burkle led the presentation on the arena front, while Mastrov and Ranadivé led the team presentation. Vivek spoke about the vision he shared with the other owners, of his goal of making basketball the sport of the 21st century. He called it "NBA 3.0".
How one gives a press conference is obviously not an indicator of either side's chances however. David Stern and Adam Silver held their own press conference afterwards and said that both sides gave great presentations, although no real details were released. However, Stern did offer a few worthy tidbits, most notably that because this was such a "weighty issue" that the decision could well slide past the Board of Governor's meetings on April 18th and 19th, although if it did, he didn't expect a delay to last long.
Stern also knocked down expansion as an option, saying:
"Without knowing what you're selling, what the next TV deal is worth, what the full scope of international is, what our social media, digital rights, et cetera, to cut off a chunk of that and have an expansion is just imprudent on a quick decision."
Another big question on everyone's mind was whether or not Sacramento needed to improve their offer since a couple weeks ago, David Stern mentioned that there was a "substantial variance" that needed to be eliminated. When Ranadivé was asked whether Sacramento would match Seattle's bid, he stated:
"We think our offer is very, very good, and I think all of the stakeholders would be very pleased with the offer that we made"
Some have taken this non-answer as belief that Sacramento still has not matched Seattle's bid or won't, but the simple truth is that nobody involved in these negotiations is going to announce how much they're spending. Besides, Stern gave his own response as he was leaving his press conference on whether Sacramento needed to improve their bid:
Question to Stern: "Does Sacramento need to improve their offer?" Stern: "That is not one of the issues."— James Ham (@James_Ham) April 3, 2013
That would seem to answer that question. Stern also offered a take on the odd $30 million deposit Hansen gave the Maloofs back in February:
Silver says the $30M down payment Seattle put down "was a contingency deal" to get team, and that Sacramento is operating on different model— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 3, 2013
The real issue, it seems, is the arena deals on both sides. Stern mentioned that the NBA would be seeking more information from both sides about possible hurdles, etc.:
"We have a lot of work to do from a construction timeline, a regulatory timeline, an ownership and capital structure timeline, and all kinds of other things that the committee has asked us to go back, with lawyers, and just get a lot more data and information."
Aaron Bruski, who has been on top of this issue from Day One, wrote an article today about the possible arena hurdles on both sides. Each State has vastly different laws with regards to Environmental Impact Review. In Sacramento, they would be under the jurisdiction of AB900, a law that limits -any environmental challenges to a 175-day time frame. Senator Darrell Steinberg was one of the co-authors of the law and his presence at the meeting today seemed to be an indicator of how serious this issue is to the NBA, especially since the Sacramento delegation confirmed that AB900 was discussed today.
On Seattle's side however, there is no time limit for challenges, which means any court action could last much longer, possibly delaying an arena timeline. There isn't expected to be a serious legal threat to either Sacramento or Seattle, but because of the lack of a law like AB900, the process in Seattle will necessarily take longer. That could give Sacramento an edge, especially if Chris Hansen comes out in the next few weeks and says there is little chance Seattle could construct an arena before the 2017-18 season as Bruski's sources indicate.
Another plus for Sacramento on the arena front is that Sacramento's arena deal features a much larger public subsidy than in that of Seattle's. As we've mentioned before, the public subsidy issue is a huge one, especially when other NBA owners seek to get subsidies for their own arenas in the future.
Both sides have put together great ownership groups. Both sides have shown strong support both on a fan and political level. Both sides have seemingly put great offers on the team itself. To me, it appears that which side the NBA has more confidence in to get an arena done first will win, and that makes me confident. We've got Kevin Johnson at the helm. KJ has moved mountains to get Sacramento where we are today. Under his leadership, Sacramento has come up with TWO arena plans in the past two years. A mere month after it was announced that the Kings were sold to Sacramento, KJ had assembled a team of investors for both the team and arena. This is a man who does not finish second.
UPDATE 6:03 PM:
David Aldridge wrote a piece for NBA.com that seems to back up the fact that it's all about the arena deals now. Most notably in the article:
The committee's questions to the Seattle group were "all about the arena," a source said, indicating what many had believed would be the case -- the decision will likely come down to which city can get a viable arena deal completed quickest, and with the least amount of financial difficulty.