NBA Commissioner David Stern is a calculated man – somebody who over analyzes every aspect of a scenario. Sure, at times, he comes off a bit unsuspecting – and no – he wont ever be given an award for his public speaking which usually consists of about 3,000 “um’s” in a fifteen minute period, but don’t let the dim-witted responses fool you. David Stern knows exactly what he’s doing.
Take yesterday’s press conference for example. Before Stern answered any question, he paused for two or three seconds recounting the answer in his head, making sure he wasn’t going to say something he shouldn’t. There were no fly by the night answers. There were no moments where he spoke from his heart instead of his head. Everything was calculated and thought-out. And with a background in law, it’s what you’d expect.
So when David Stern was asked a question by Seattle’s Chris Daniels which focused on expansion yesterday, I couldn’t help but think there was something more to it.
On the surface, the answer was the expected decline – an opinion that hasn’t wavered, except, that it did in a small way:
“Right now, expansion on horseback, so to speak, is not a prudent way to run a league,” he said. “Without knowing what you’re selling, what the next TV deal is worth, what the full scope of international is, what our social media and digital rights, to cut off a chunk of that and have an expansion is imprudent on a quick decision. That doesn’t mean that at some point in the future it’s on the table, but right now it’s not.”
The calculated Stern left the door open for expansion, something he’s all but refused to do in the past. Maybe it’s just a crack – but it’s not an all out door slamming, which Stern has been more than happy to do in the past.
So what does that lead me to believe? It leads me to believe that Stern along with the NBA Relocation and Finance committees were gassed yesterday and with good reason. As Stern has said himself multiple times, this is an unprecedented scenario – to have two cities, two markets, who are throwing absurd amounts of money at one of the league’s smaller franchises. Two cities who are more than willing to build a state of the art arena and two near perfect ownership groups. Any other time a team has come up for relocation, there’s been a problem. Maybe the problem was with current cities support – an inability to get an arena built or a lack of fan interest. Maybe the issue was with one of the ownership groups. Whatever that case may have been, there was a problem and coming into yesterday’s meetings I’d venture to guess that’s what the collection of current NBA owners assumed.
Look, I know they’re on the lofty NBA board and treat that with the respect it deserves, but these are NBA owners who have their own problems – their own teams to run. So while they may have somewhat kept up with the Seattle/Sacramento saga, do you really think they knew the nuts and bolts of the situation like that of the people in Seattle and Sacramento? Not hardly. That’s not meant as a slight to those NBA owners, just reality. When the situation isn’t directly affecting you, it’s not your top priority and for them, given the suggested base-level like questions we were told in the press conferences yesterday, many of the owners seemed either less than fully informed coming into the meetings or simply already full of assumptions, assumptions they’re accustom to from past situations similar to this.
What they didn’t expect was what they got – two sides who are overly deserving of a team and two sides who proved that they deserved an NBA franchise.
So is this going to come down to an expansion situation? It’s too early to tell, but two things were clear from yesterday. One, the collection of NBA owners were not expecting this and two, David Stern refused to fully close the door on expansion, right now.
It makes no sense for the NBA to commit to expansion right now as it would directly alter the current situation. If Seattle was offered their own expansion team, they’d be more than happy to take it – the price for the Kings would dramatically drop as the Sacramento ownership group would have no reason to pay such an elevated price. But if both cities can commit to their own arenas (which this is going to come down to), the NBA has to be exploring it despite their reluctance to admit it. Hell, it might not be something they publicly admit for quite some time – well after the decision on the Kings’ franchise is made, but in fairness, how do you not allow either of these ownerships into the league?
Stern does what he does for a reason. Just like when he said Sacramento’s bid wasn’t up to par for the Kings’ franchise, he simply could’ve sat on his hands and allowed the process to play out, but he’s calculated. So, despite Stern saying that expansion wasn’t an option right now, his insistence that it might happen in the future should be taken with more than just a grain of salt.