Posts Tagged ‘Clay Bennett’

Bucks Put On The Clock For New Arena

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The good news, Milwaukee, is the BMO Harris Bradley Center will unveil a new home court this season designed in the spirit of Robert Indiana’s awesome MECCA floor at the Bucks’ old home.

The bad news is neither their old home nor the current BMO Harris Bradley Center is fit for an NBA team. Incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver made that much clear Wednesday in speaking to a gathering of Bucks corporate sponsors at a reception called the “Bucks Partner Summit.” It essentially started the clock on the 25-year-old arena and, quite literally, on the franchise’s future in Milwaukee.

“One obvious issue we all have to deal with is we need a new arena in Milwaukee,” Silver said. “At the end of the day, compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small. It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need. It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl-lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against.”

Silver is the deputy commissioner to David Stern, who has announced plans to step down on Feb. 1, 2014. Silver told the Milwaukee crowd that the league’s collective bargaining agreement ratified in December 2011 positions all 30 teams, regardless of market size, to prosper. A prerequisite is a modern-day arena. Silver also made it clear that cities such as Seattle — which lost an eleventh-hour bid on seizing the Sacramento Kings — Las Vegas and Kansas City are planning NBA-quality arenas to attract teams. Expansion, Silver said, is not on the table, leaving relocation as the only way for a non-NBA city to gain a team.

The Seattle SuperSonics were the last team to relocate in 2008. The franchise was purchased by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, and when efforts failed in Seattle to secure public funding to match private funding to renovate the aging Key Arena, Bennett got the green light to leave.

The Bucks remain under the control of one of the NBA’s all-time great owners, Herb Kohl. At the meeting, Kohl described the difficulty he faced just last year in getting the league’s owners to approve the Bucks’ lease extension at Bradley Center through September 2017:

“Getting an extension was not an easy thing. There was some opposition there. None of it was personal — it was all a matter of good business in terms of what’s good for the NBA.”

Milwaukee’s other professional sports team, MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, moved into Miller Park in 2001, the $392-million stadium that was largely paid for by taxpayers in the five-county region through a 0.1 percent sales tax, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (The in-state NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, are in a unique situation as the only community-owned professional sports franchise.)

The estimated cost for the new downtown arena in Sacramento is $448 million.

The NBA has no interest in seeing the Bucks and their rich history leave Milwaukee, the franchise’s only home since it joined the league in 1968.

The franchise outgrew the MECCA and the Bradley Center too. A similar version of the old MECCA floor will be great to see this season at Bradley Center, but it’s ultimately plans for a new building the NBA will need to see.

Team-less In Seattle: Durant Returns

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Seattle is starved. Starved for basketball.

Their beloved Super Sonics were taken away five years ago and just last May it must have felt as if the table cloth had been swiped from under all the place-settings just as dinner was ready to be served. Yes, they would have been stealing another city’s team, and there was an element of filth attached to it, but them’s the breaks as Seattleites can confirm.

And then the Sacramento Kings weren’t coming to Seattle to be reborn the Sonics.

On Sunday, Seattle got an up-close peek at what they’ve been missing since Clay Bennett bought the Sonics and whisked the franchise with a young, rising star named Kevin Durant to Oklahoma City. Durant made his return to the Emerald City, his first visit since playing his rookie season in green-and-gold and then was left with no choice but to say goodbye. In the five seasons since, Durant has become an All-NBA performer, his prowess second only to LeBron James, collecting three scoring titles and a trip to the NBA Finals, too.

The 24-year-old has become the face of the Thunder and he’s embraced his most-recent adopted hometown just as he had his last. He’s grown from a polite and skinny one-and-done at Texas into a full-fledged man. He’s a bona fide role model, as admired for his determination and desire on the floor as his accessibility and compassion off it. Durant was the first to step forward with a donation after the horrific tornado that leveled nearby Moore, Okla. — a donation of $1 million. He followed that up by personally visiting the devastated area and bringing teammates with him.

So on Sunday, fans in Seattle came out in force to catch what they’ve been missing.

From the Seattle Times:

There he was Sunday, in the city where his professional career began, and the 24-year-old looked just like he did when he played his last game in Seattle five years ago.

However, instead of his old green and gold No. 35 jersey, Durant wore a red No. 7. And instead of an NBA contest at KeyArena, he turned a summer-league game at the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am into a must-see event that drew manic fans to Seattle Pacific University.

The crowd overflowed out of Royal Brougham Pavilion and snaked around the corner onto Nickerson Street.

When Durant walked through a side door, the place went bonkers. And when he stepped on the court, the crowd of 3,000 greeted him with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said former Washington standout guard Will Conroy, who teamed with Durant during the game. “Only Kevin Durant could do something like this in Seattle. Seriously.

“People wouldn’t come out like this and show this type of love for LeBron or Kobe. Not here. This just shows what he meant and what he still means to this city.”

With cameras and smartphones held high, fans lined the floor snapping pictures as the announcer said, “Welcome home, Kevin Durant” over the loudspeakers.

The NBA will never live down the manner in which the Sonics bolted Seattle, the 14th largest television market in the country, and make a new home in the 45th. A uniquely beautiful corner of the country, where three NBA teams once called home (including Vancouver), is represented solely by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Belief in an NBA return to Seattle has flat-lined. The league has no plans to expand beyond its current 30 teams and prying another team from its roots doesn’t appear to be in the forecast.

The NFL has survived and thrived without a team in Los Angeles, the second-largest market in the U.S., for two decades even as plan after plan has been formulated to build a stadium and woo a franchise. The NBA will also continue to march on without Seattle, as shameful as it might be, as a gaping, palpable hole in the city’s sports scene grows.

From a fan:

“To see him back in Seattle playing and fighting for our Sonics is pretty special,” 20-year-old Brandon Lee of Everett, Wash., told the Seattle Times. “We want basketball back in Seattle and to see the original guy back here was pretty awesome.”

From Kevin Durant, who after the game stood outside of the SUV that brought him surrounded by kids and signed autograph after autograph:

“I’ve had a fun time here in Seattle. I miss you guys. Thank you for the warm welcome, man. I can’t wait to come back. Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Small Markets Scrap For Success

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – When a couple small-market Western Conference teams battled for seven grueling games in the semifinals of the playoffs two years ago, who could have foreseen that they would meet again this postseason — after each was forced to deal with the inescapable repercussions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Rudy Gay was injured and out of that postseason two years ago. But at only 24 and locked into a lucrative contract, the No. 8 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft was a central figure for the fast-rising Memphis Grizzlies. Yet on Jan. 30, 2013, Gay, the team’s leading scorer, was traded to Toronto.

In Oklahoma City, the Thunder were coming off a loss to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals when, days before this season began, Thunder general manager Sam Presti dealt former No. 3 pick James Harden, just 23 and an integral part of the team’s success, to Houston.

In a postseason marked by a surprising domination of small-market teams — all four teams remaining in the playoffs are in the bottom half of the league in market size — the second-round showdown between the Grizzlies and Thunder (won by the Grizzlies in five games) demonstrated just what many teams have to do to thrive in the era of the still-new CBA.

“With the rules set up the way they are, there’s minimal room for error,” said Jason Levien, the first-year CEO of the Grizzlies under a new ownership group led by one of the world’s youngest tech billionaires, Robert Pera. “You’ve got to be very thoughtful in your approach to how you build your team, how you build a roster, and you’ve got to keep the cap and the tax in mind.”

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Avoiding the taxes

Cap and tax are at the forefront of the strategy the Oklahoma City management team is using under the ownership of billionaire energy mogul Clay Bennett. Presti, who has managed to re-sign superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus emerging power forward Serge Ibaka, to long-term deals that fit within the team’s cap structure, chose to hold firm to a policy of not commenting on matters related to the CBA.

In Memphis, where the Grizzlies will look to start digging out of a 2-0 hole against the San Antonio Spurs in Saturday’s Game 3 of the West finals (9 p.m., ESPN), Levien has defended the trade of Gay (for veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and youngsters Ed Davis and Austin Daye) as being made to improve the team.

While that might be true — Memphis won a franchise-best 56 games after a strong start with Gay — the Grizzlies also got out of the $37.2 million owed to Gay over the next two seasons. Memphis will pay Prince, Davis and Daye a combined $26 million over that span ($22 million if Daye is not retained beyond next season). With Zach RandolphMarc Gasol and Mike Conley owed a combined $40.9 million next season, keeping Gay and a payroll under the tax line (this season it was $70.3 million) would have been a near-impossibility. (more…)

No, No, No! Rejection Of Seattle Bid Fuels Theories

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Given that this still is the first round of the NBA playoffs and that one of the league’s most famous first-round series – and video euphoria – is the footage of Denver’s Dikembe Mutombo on his back, clutching the basketball in joy after the Nuggets’ 1994 upset of the Seattle SuperSonics, it’s appropriate to bring the big fellow into the conversation.

Seattle just got Mutombo-ed again. Only this time, it was the league’s power structure — from the Relocation Committee up to commissioner David Stern himself — who wagged a long finger at the politicians, the money men and the fans of the Emerald City.

“No, no, no,” the committee’s 7-0 vote to deny relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle seemed to say. “Not in my house.”

Or at least, not on Stern’s watch. Our man David Aldridge did a great job of covering both the big picture and the nuances of the surprising decision to recommend to the Board of Governors that the Kings stay put, short-term and possibly long-term.

Various Seattle media outlets did their own great jobs of providing perspective, with a little venting, for that disheartened and in some cases bitter audience. For example, columnist Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times suggests the NBA “changed the rules” for procuring and moving franchises:

[Seattle bidder Chris] Hansen tried to win the right way. He tried to do it with transparency; no buying the Kings and pretending to want to stay in Sacramento. He tried to do it with record-setting money and a polished business plan.

But the NBA is a liar’s game, full of hypocrites, improper alliances, a lack of financial creativity and a commissioner who is more powerful than the owners he represents. Stern revises the rules according to his whims. It seems Seattle was destined to lose in this ever-changing game. We’re back in a familiar place with that spirit-crushing league.

Abandoned.

Again.

Brewer wrote that Seattle only will get a shot at re-admittance to the NBA — by buying and moving some other city’s team or through expansion — after Stern’s retirement on Feb. 1, 2014. Longtime columnist Art Thiel, writing for SportspressNW.com, also saw the vote as an extension of Stern’s will:

Delighted by the rising value of his franchises — Job One for any sports commissioner — but looking at another potential ugly relocation, Commissioner David Stern gave every chance for Sacramento to match the record Hansen bid. For one reason: He didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

Rather than screw over a second city with relocation, he has screwed over, at least temporarily, the same city twice.

At worst, he figures he can live the rest of his days with never getting a drink brought for him in Seattle.

It’s possible that moving the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle would just shift the problem and hack off a whole new bunch of people. It also is possible, as Thiel suggests, that keeping Seattle open as a viable market gives the NBA leverage over shaky franchises or headstrong municipalities not unlike the NFL has with Los Angeles in waiting for someone’s team.

Another possibility, intentionally or not, is that the NBA is teaching a lesson to the decision-makers in its many markets: Love us now, not after we’ve gone.

Seattle did not play nice with the NBA prior to 2008, fighting Clay Bennett (who is the head of the relocation committee, by the way) and not budging on financing for a new arena. Sacramento, on the other hand, has rolled up its sleeves and been busy finding ways to keep its only major league caliber team in town.

That’s the sort of commitment — before things get broken, not after it’s too late — that Stern and the other owners (who love $550 million franchise valuations and the freedom to sell or move when they want) treasure most.

In the meantime, Stern was right as this Kings/Sonics decision approached. One city or the other was going to be unhappy. Now there’s no more guessing.

Seattle’s Return To The NBA Getting Closer?


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It was one of those days where people remember precisely where they were when they got the news. Like assassinations, market crashes and so many other seismic world events, the day Seattle lost the SuperSonics — officially, July 2, 2008 — didn’t just come and go. It seared itself into the hearts and psyches of NBA fans in that Pacific Northwest city.

“It killed me, man,” former Sonics coach George Karl said Wednesday night. “I was in the Seattle area with my daughter, in Olympia. There were rumors and then it was over. It happened so quick.”

There had been promises, there had been worries, there had been political wrangling. When the clock ran out, all that remained were accusations, recriminations and, yes, tears. The reality was stark: Starbucks impresario Howard Schultz and his partner had sold the SuperSonics to an investment group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. Talks about a publicly financed arena broke down, and the Sonics were headed to Oklahoma and a new life as the eventual Thunder.

Forty-one years of NBA history was over. The source of some of the league’s biggest names and most entertaining teams — and the only Seattle franchise to claim a championship in major professional sports — was gone.

“Destroyed,” was the word chosen by Boston’s Jason Terry, who grew up in Seattle and starred at Frankin High, which is about 5 miles from the Sonics’ old haunt, Key Arena. “There [were] all kind of ‘Save the Sonics’ shirts, signs and blogs.”

As of Wednesday though — four years, six months and seven days since the moving vans rolled in — Seattle is as close as it’s been to getting the NBA back. Investor Chris Hansen was close to a deal to purchase the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to the Emerald City, according to multiple media outlets.

First reported by Yahoo! Sports, Hansen — who already has a deal to build a new arena, this time largely through corporate funding — was offering the Maloof family that owns the Kings more than $500 million. The team’s future in Sacramento has been shaky for several seasons because of squabbling over a new arena in the California capital, with possible destinations such as Orange County and Las Vegas mentioned in the past.

Seattle, via Hansen, has been an interested party from the start, though. According to Yahoo!, the Kings would be renamed the SuperSonics, begin play in time for the 2013-14 season and be based in KeyArena for two years while their new home is constructed.

Just how imminent the sale might be morphed through the day Wednesday; some reports out of Sacramento had the Maloofs reconsidering Hansen’s offer. Details of Hansen’s financing for the arena in Seattle’s “SoDo” section — south of downtown — still must be worked out. In October, he reached an agreement with local government to build the $490 million facility near the city’s other stadiums, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. An estimated $290 million would come from private investments, with $200 million in public financing repaid through rent, admission taxes and Hansen’s own sources, the Associated Press reported.

The NBA, meanwhile, has its own requirements for a franchise sale and relocation. For the former, an application for transfer must be filed, due diligence is performed on the people and finances involved and then the league’s Board of Governors votes, with 75 percent approval — 23 out of the current 30 teams — needed for new ownership.

For relocation, a team must apply by March 1 if it wants to move in time for the following season. The NBA’s relocation committee than has 120 days to study the proposal and make its report to the Board of Governors. When the owners vote, a simple majority — 16 of 30 — is needed for approval.

The NBA declined to comment on Monday’s news reports. It is believed that KeyArena, the Sonics’ home before their departure and the driving force in Schultz’s decision to sell, would be acceptable as a temporary home should the deal go through.

Hansen is a Seattle native and San Francisco resident who made his fortune working with Blue Ridge Capital and, since 2008, as managing partner of the Valiant Capital firm he founded. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department-store family are among his fellow investors in the NBA deal. (more…)

And One: Hope vs. Reality

*Not so fast. Having the Pacific Northwest jewel back in the league would be great, but reports that plans for a Seattle arena are gaining momentum may not mean much in NBA terms. At least not any time in the foreseeable future if the next Hornets owner is committed to staying in New Orleans, as David Stern desires, and not any time at all if the Kings get a building in Sacramento, as is possible. It’s still Sacramento’s game to lose.

*Pirating another city is OK now, right? Having it done to you makes Clay Bennett and Stern terrible people, but turning around and doing it to another market would be cause for celebration? Got it. Seattle may have cover since this would be more Sacramento losing the team than it being stolen away, but no one should be naïve. Seattle, or any interested locale, would be on the same hunt under different circumstances as well.

*Kevin Johnson, the Sacramento mayor and former All-Star point guard, was never naïve. A year ago, amid the rising possibility the Kings were bound for Anaheim, he privately put together a list of teams to steal and instal as tenant should his city overcome years of blundering to finalize a new arena. The Hornets, Hawks and Pistons (before being sold) were, he thought, vulnerable to be looted the same way Anaheim was making a vulture play. Now there is no need for a list, only a simple bottom line. Close an arena deal and the Kings stay. Don’t close an arena deal and there’s no NBA in town, for years and perhaps forever.

*Jazz radio man David Locke can try all he wants to turn Jeremy Lin into an ethnic issue, but comparing his journey with Ichiro is such a bad reach. The Mariners outfielder is from Japan, grew up in a different culture with different training methods and had a language barrier when he came to the United States. Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, was born in Southern California, grew up in Northern California and attended college in Boston. He went undrafted and got cut by the Warriors and Rockets as basketball decisions, not because he didn’t look the part. (Because an athlete with an Asian background clearly would never be embraced in Oakland/San Francisco or Houston.) Sometimes front-office calls, however wrong they seem in this moment of triumph for a class act like Lin, are just front-office calls.

*Never have the defensive talents of Kentucky shot blocker Anthony Davis, the leader to become the No. 1 pick in June, been better illuminated than through the quotes from opponents and Wildcats coach John Calipari in the profile this week by Chris Dortch. “What you have to do to get to the basket against that guy is almost impossible,” Louisville guard Chris Smith said. And: “I went down there one time, and he just told his guys, ‘Just bring him in here, I’m going to block everything,’ ” Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said. And: “The best shot blockers I have seen are the ones that let people release the ball and then go get it, and that’s what he does,” Calipari said. “Marcus Camby, when I had him (at UMass), that’s exactly what he did; he never blocked it in the guy’s hand, he just stayed down and waited for him to release it.” Great stuff.

*All indications are the Lakers will retire the No. 34 of Shaquille O’Neal next season. The brief delay, as opposed to doing it in 2011-12, is due to the rush of the schedule after the lockout, not any doubt it will happen. The tribute has been an automatic for years, no matter how many wrongly guessed the bad breakup in 2004 might cost Shaq a spot on the Staples Center wall.

*Gisele Bundchen says keep scrolling. I cannot write the story and read the story at the same time.

*If the Warriors looked around for big deals that included Monta Ellis before the season when they rated themselves a playoff team, imagine the internal conversations now that they’re 8-14 and coach Mark Jackson has stayed more than once with the reserves over Ellis and Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter of close games. Curry is more prized around the league, and Golden State reportedly was insistent on keeping him while dangling Ellis in Chris Paul scenarios with the Hornets. The more the losses add up, the more anything is possible.

*Kris Joseph of Syracuse and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure should have been included in the Tuesday story on the rise of draft prospects from Canada. Both are seniors and have solid chances to be picked. Also, the Canadian at Kentucky is Kyle Wiltjer. Greg Wiltjer is his father who played in the 1984 Olympics. My turnover.

*Don’t be surprised if the Clippers bid to re-sign Chauncey Billups in July even with questions likely to still be surrounding his comeback from a season-ending Achilles’ tear. The intangibles as a leader with championship experience are that meaningful, not to mention a friendship with Paul that pre-dates their arrivals in Los Angeles. As people in Denver and Detroit know best of all, and the Clips quickly learned themselves, Billups makes a valuable contribution apart from the basketball itself. It’s just a matter of agreeing on how much that presence is worth coming off a serious leg injury and turning 36 as training camp opens.

*What’s the big deal about Steve Nash at an All-Star level as he passes his 38th birthday? Great players are supposed to do that in their prime. If he’s still that good in 2024 as retirement approaches, then it will be noteworthy.