Kings May File for Relocation to Anaheim Before March Deadline
LOS ANGELES -- One day after the NBA labor negotiations had finally taken a more positive tone, league commissioner David Stern wasn't looking to restart the rhetoric.
So when he was asked on Saturday to discuss the Players Association's contentions that the owners weren't willing to truly engage them in discussions, he resisted the urge to negate this incremental progress.
"Actually, I'm counting to ten," Stern said of his self-temperance effort. "Because what I really want to say is that I really liked yesterday's meeting because the union agreed to talk about some things that they said (previously) were nonnegotiable. So it's exactly the opposite (of the assertion)."
Despite the league's resistance to meet at All-Star weekend coming in, the Friday meeting wound up being a significant starting point for discussions that had been nonexistent in recent months. Both sides agreed to begin having a more frequent dialogue in a mutual attempt to avoid a lockout that so many still believe will take place when the current collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.
Yet Stern's best attempts to avoid any public disagreements fell a bit short, as union president Billy Hunter issued a statement to FanHouse and a number of other media outlets contesting a principal point of the commissioner's latest comments. Stern, whose previous projections of the league's financial losses (estimated $350 million this season and approximately $400 million last season) had been deemed "baloney" by Hunter, said Saturday that "there's no disagreement about the numbers" currently but that there was "a little intramural disagreement about certain items."
Hunter responded less than an hour after the conclusion of Stern's press conference.
"There has been ongoing debate and disagreement regarding the numbers," Hunter said in the statement. "And we do not agree at the stated loss figures reflect an accurate portrayal of the financial health of the league."
While the labor situation won't be resolved for quite some time, the storyline in Sacramento that Stern was asked about is of a much more pressing nature. After years of failed attempts to build a new venue to replace Arco Arena, the Kings have yet to announce whether they intend to file for relocation by the league's March 1 deadline.
The team's co-owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, have reportedly been offered a $100 million loan from Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli to move the team to the Honda Center. The money would cover a loan they have to the city of Sacramento for Arco Arena as well as relocation fees, with a stipulation in the offer that a failure to make payments on the loan would result in Samueli seizing control of the team. Stern acknowledged that the Maloofs have had discussions with Anaheim and said "that is for the Maloofs and the people of Sacramento."
FanHouse has learned that the Maloofs visited the Ducks facility as recently as early February (specifically the week of Feb. 7), presumably to discuss a deal that has been in the works for more than a year. According to one source, there was "a hangup" in the discussions just before the early February meeting that was subsequently resolved. The Maloofs have been open about the reality that they must look at all options, saying on Jan. 11 that they are "looking at all options."
The tension has been palpable in California's Capital City, where even the highest-ranking team officials are unsure what might happen in the coming weeks. Numerous sources who have spoken to the Maloofs recently have been told that it was far from certain that the team would remain in Sacramento for next season and that relocating was certainly being considered. On Saturday night, Kings forward Jason Thompson tweeted about a possible move to Anaheim but the tweet was removed quickly thereafter.
Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson and his constituents are operating on an entirely different timeline. The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 8 to select developer David Taylor and arena builder ICON venue group to build a plan for a new arena in the next 90 days. At the end of that deadline, they are expected to have reached a definitive conclusion on whether or not an arena is possible in the city's downtown area.
Taylor and the ICON group -- which has built 17 major venues in the last six years, including the Denver Nuggets' Pepsi Center and the New Jersey Nets' Prudential Center in Newark -- are expected to set up office space at city hall in the near future. It's a clear sign that the city and the handpicked arena team are working in conjunction, although it remains to be seen whether their efforts will be cut short should the Maloofs decide to file for relocation.
While a Kings move to Anaheim would likely be resisted by the Lakers and Clippers, a league official confirmed that they would not be required to pay territorial rights to the other teams in the region. Such an expense could, however, be decided upon and negotiated by the NBA's Board of Governor's at the time of a vote on a proposed move.