During David Stern’s final All-Star press conference this past weekend, the NBA Commissioner wanted to make one thing clear – the Sacramento Kings potential move and sale will be decided by the collection of NBA owners, not him.
Stern’s made no secret that when there is blood in the water, he’s simply an employee of NBA owners – but this is of course the same man who taints that same water red.
Although he’s on his way out and continues to say that he’ll have little (if anything) to do with the Sacramento Kings’ potential sale, those that have watched Stern the past three plus decades know it’s difficult for the former lawyer to keep his hands off anything, especially something as big as a franchise relocation – despite his continued washing of his hands.
Let’s bring you back to May of 1994, when boxing promoter Bob Arum was part of an ownership group who had plans to purchase the financially crippled Minnesota Timberwolves. With the original T’Wolves owners, Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner flooding in financial losses, Arum (who was more of a face than financial backer) and his group put together a bid to move the Wolves to New Orleans to become the Rhythm. All seemed good on the surface. The New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor were not only on board, but were heavily promoting the move in hopes of having basketball return after the Jazz left for Utah in 1979. Top Rank, Arum’s financial group, seemed strong and it looked like there was little in the way to halt the move – that is – until Stern stepped in.
Requesting a meeting with Arum and his financial backers, Stern – and this is the key part – intervened in the process normally reserved for the NBA’s Board of Governors, after the sale was vetted. As Arum tells it – Stern had his doubts about the group and stepped in:
“Stern was very skeptical, and he had a right to be,” Arum said, recalling the early June meeting. “This group was woefully underfunded. I was only going to put up a little money. Basically, I was coming along for a free ride.”
Make no mistake – this scenario is completely different from the one going on in Seattle. The Hansen/Balmer group is one who will never be underfunded and as Stern has put it, they are a “great” group for the NBA to bring in – there’s no way to deny that. What happened to the potential Wolves’ ownergroup will not happen to the Kings/Sonics. What is interesting though was Stern essentially sidestepping his way into the mix – something he’s continually tried to avoid doing to this current Sacramento/Seattle situation – at least publicly.
There’s no way to determine what role Stern will have in the potential relocation and sale of the Kings – nor do we know what side will have the best argument for the Kings, but it’s difficult for me to imagine Stern – despite his continued denial, avoiding getting his hands at least a little muddy in this situation. That’s not the way Stern operates. Maybe Stern’s influence will be positive for Seattle. Maybe it will be positive for Sacramento. But to think Stern is simply going to stand by idly and let this situation unfold before him and at least not dip a foot in the crimson colored water? Extremely unlikely. That’s not the David Stern we know.