It was just over a week ago here at SRI when we explored the tentative agreement of a deal to get a new entertainment and sports complex built that would solidify the Kings staying in Sacramento. This was an enormous story for the NBA in a league where most teams eventually move after years of failing to reach agreements on new arenas. NBA fans saw what happened with the Seattle Sonics and the skies looked gloomy as ever for the Sacramento Kings. David Stern has a lot to say on the subject in the following interview, projecting both excitement and caution moving forward for the Sacramento Kings and their new new arena. David Stern joined KHTK in Sacramento with The Grant Napear Show to discuss the importance of the Kings staying in Sacramento, Kevin Johnson saving the Kings organization from leaving Sacramento, the new CBA system giving the Kings a chance to compete and a lot of work needing to be done still in order for the Kings to stay in Sacramento.
What is so important about Sacramento that made you want to keep the Kings in this town?
“I have been reading a lot of good things and bad things. I would just say that rather than taking credit for it I would like to say that Sacramento has always supported the NBA in incredible fashion. Back in the day when Vlade Divac was flopping and number two, the mayor has been the point person here for the city and he an excellent job of both persuading the NBA owners that Sacramento deserved another chance and persuading the Maloof’s, who joined in and said they deserved another chance and then the mayor worked so hard to get the community last year, the business community and ticket buyers, who really rally around this cause that it became much easier for us and really the answer is that the mayor and city government and the city council.
This is a very supportive group and I think the vote was great. I understand why people would be against it as well and that’s fine, but it was just so supportive and we got that sense as the year went on that that was the case. The Maloof’s got the sense as well and we are where we are now. I would just add that there is a third point and there’s a lot of heavy lifting left to be done. We have the general outline of a term sheet. There’s a pre-development agreement that has to be worked out. There’s arrangements between the city and AEG about the building. There’s this whole interconnection with the intermodal for the downtown area. There’s an enormous amount of work yet to be done and I assume the city will be well represented in that and the Maloofs will be and the league will be at the table and AEG will be at the table and I’m optimistic that everyone doing their job we can get this thing through to fruition.”
Did Kevin Johnson save the Sacramento Kings? If he wasn’t the mayor would we have this new arena coming?
“Let’s say that the mayor was the point person here and there wouldn’t be a team there without the mayor because there were so many moving parts that had to be put together and he was up for the task. That’s all. I’ve known him back in the day when he was a player, actually I’m tired of seeing that clip of him dunking over Hakeem Olajuwon and I tell him it’s doctored. I knew him when he was an NBC analyst and it took me more than once to tell him I didn’t agree with everything he was saying, but I got to know him really well as the buildup was coming to the application of the Maloof’s last year. We stayed pretty close for the last year and a half. I think he is doing a great job, but I also want to praise the city council, manager and all of the folks, who I think did what they have to do to make the Maloof’s feels so good about staying in Sacramento.”
Does this new CBA give Sacramento a chance to win?
“It’s all about management. The answer is a resounding yes because if you are a team that is going over the tax in the year after next to find a player for $20 million dollars…your tax will be $45 million dollars. That player becomes a $65 million dollar player. If he’s a $30 million dollar salary I think he’s pushes up towards $100 million. So you tell me? I think it’s a very important step to make it just about your ability meet the payroll, which will be set league wide with a cap and a tax level and the revenue sharing will mean that you have the dollars to compete. Now if you don’t sell tickets and if you don’t sell sponsorships, if you don’t run a first class business operation as well as a basketball operation then you are going to be in trouble. Over the years for example San Antonio has done well and it’s done well on the court and it’s done well at the gate and with the sponsors in town. The same has been largely true with Utah and Oklahoma City is doing a great job. Memphis is competing well, but they are not doing as well at the gate and the sponsorships as they might do and so they are in line for a very substantial revenue payment, revenue sharing payment and over the next few years we will be developing models that are going to hold the teams accountable for maximizing their revenue, so that they can both compete effectively on the court and in the business of basketball.”
Is it a miracle the Kings stayed in Sacramento?
“I would say that a year ago in April, whenever the board meeting was with this outcome I would call it highly unlikely. I am going to leave it away from the mythical and religious and just say it appeared to have been a big long shot. If I were a betting man, which of course I am not it would have been very long odds against this happening, but it was delightful to see all of the various parties coming together that had to come together and I would be remiss if I didn’t jump in and say, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”