Who’s winning the race to open a new Kings arena?

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While Sacramento’s fight to keep their Kings could extend all the way to the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting on April 18-19, this week will prove pivotal as both Sacramento and Seattle are set to give their best pitch to the BOG’s joint committees tasked with reviewing the matter today in New York.

League insiders have bounced around on a lot of issues surrounding the Kings saga, but one of the issues that they are in agreement on is that the city that can build an arena first will have a key advantage in the eyes of the owners deciding the fate of the franchise.

In what may be a surprise development to some given Seattle’s head start on the arena building process, sources say that in Wednesday’s meeting and in the coming weeks, Chris Hansen’s group will reveal that they have “very little chance” of opening an arena before the 2017-18 season due to expected challenges under environmental law.

Seattle and Hansen are expected to agree to proceed with an arena deal as early as January 2014, after a final environmental review is conducted.  It is at that time that they are expected to face significant challenges (lawsuits) to their environmental review over traffic and arena location.  Those lawsuits have no time limit to be heard within, so a one-year lawsuit would make it a race for Seattle to open for the 2017-18 season if arena construction takes two years.

Sacramento is on track to open an arena in the 2016-17 season, and has no significant legal opposition to its arena plan as of yet.  There was practically no opposition against the last Sacramento arena plan, although that plan never got into the details of design (where opposition to large developments often form, as it has in Seattle). Also, the Downtown Plaza site for Sacramento’s arena plan is favorably zoned in the eyes of both the city and the league.

Sources with knowledge of the NBA’s view have identified two main differences that define each city’s path to an arena.

The first is a difference in environmental laws that provides Sacramento with an ‘expedited process’ to address any environmental challenges made against their arena deal once an environmental review is complete.

California recently enacted law AB900 at the urging of AEG (which has plans for a football arena in downtown Los Angeles near Staples Center). That law limits environmental challenges to a 175-day time-frame following the approval of an environmental review. Because any challenge must be heard in an appellate court, with statutory directives designed to expedite a challenge, Sacramento has a key legal advantage in the race to build an arena.  Co-Author of the law and member of Sacramento’s arena task force Darrell Steinberg is expected to attend today’s meetings with the joint committees to answer any questions about how the law works.

Should the NBA’s BOG approve the sale of the Kings to Sacramento buyers, an environmental review lasting for one year would result in a construction start date of no later than November 2014 when considering the maximum 175 day review for any environmental challenges.

Because of the certainty the expedited review process provides, Sacramento can present a firm timeline to the league whereas Seattle’s environment laws have no time limit for challenges to be heard and any legal proceedings go through superior (lower) courtrooms.  The expedited process in California takes place in appellate courts, and also gives those courts additional tools to further expedite an arena deal.

The second difference is the amount of resistance the Seattle arena deal is currently facing and will continue to face until all environmental challenges are heard. There are already challenges under Washington environmental laws that will take anywhere from one year or more to resolve according to Peter Goldman, who is currently suing the city on behalf of the local Longshoreman’s union over traffic concerns and the lack of a viable alternative site analysis required under state environmental law. The union’s main concern is union jobs at the port, which it wants to see grow as trade along the Pacific rim grows.

The main issue for opponents of the arena deal is where the arena is being placed. Opponents contend that the stadium district that houses the two existing stadia for the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders is already congested with traffic that interferes with the Post of Seattle. They’re arguing that even with attempts to mitigate additional traffic issues, the development of an “L.A. Live-like facility” on top of the other stadiums is an issue that cannot necessarily be fixed.

Whether or not these opponents’ claims have merits, league sources expect Hansen to be forthcoming about the possibility that the challenges delay the opening of the new facility.

There has been Seattle-based talk about a pair of pro bono attorneys in Sacramento that have been pursuing a potential lawsuit demanding a voter referendum on the recently approved arena deal.  Those attorneys sent a copy of their ‘intent to commence action’ (a threat to file a lawsuit) to Seattle television stations on Tuesday.

The attorneys contend that Sacramento’s parking monetization plan is effectively a tax that needs to be voted upon by the public, but according to Sports Illustrated and NBA.com Legal Analyst Michael McCann, who has been following the Kings situation closely, he said that’s not likely to be the case.

“An administrative action like a parking monetization plan is not generally subject to referendum, but could be subject to an administrative review by a local agency such as the city treasurer or zoning board.”

Sacramento sources told PBT that they have “no concern about a referendum whatsoever.”

PBT Podcast: Breaking down the Kyrie Irving trade

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Is LeBron James more likely to stay in Cleveland now?

Are the Boston Celtics contenders? Are they better set up for the future?

There are a lot more questions that come out of the surprise Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick. It’s a deal that is a big win for Cleveland, they got more than they should have expected in return. However, this is in no way a bad deal for the Celtics.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest PBT Podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Report: Clippers reach deal with Michael Winger to be new GM

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We knew this was coming, now it’s about to be official.

Former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Michael Winger is about to take over as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers. They offered him the job last week, now the sides have agreed to terms, and he will sign a deal soon, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Oklahoma City Thunder executive Michael Winger has reached an agreement in principle to become the general manager of the LA Clippers, league sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Doc Rivers is no longer the guy with the hammer in Los Angeles, he will just be coaching the Clippers (and still getting $10 million a year paychecks, in case you think he’ll just walk away). The power structure now has Lawrence Frank at the top as the President of Basketball Operations, with Winger doing to work under him. The Clippers are expected to hire Trent Redden, one of David Griffin’s former right hand men in Cleveland, to work under Winger as an assistant GM. The Clippers also are expected to hire another assistant GM soon.

Frank, Winger and crew take over a team in transition. Chris Paul is gone, but the Clippers locked up Blake Griffin on a max deal this summer, they got a good veteran point guard in Patrick Beverley from Houston, and they signed Danilo Gallinari. They picked up some good young players in the CP3 trade such as Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker (who they now need to develop). The Clippers should be in the mix for one of the final three playoff slots in the West next season, but that doesn’t answer the bigger picture questions. Are the Clippers a team rebuilding for the future on the fly? Are they looking to stay good and relevant until they can get their new building in Inglewood constructed? Are they a year or two away from a total rebuild?

Steve Ballmer ultimately gets to make that call. It will be up to Winger to execute it.

Kyrie Irving trade doesn’t change LeBron James’ plans. Probably.

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The Kyrie Irving trade to Boston was really about LeBron James.

Irving wanted out of LeBron’s shadow in Cleveland and asked for a trade. Cleveland got in Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder two guys who can help them win next season and chase a ring (and the Warriors) while LeBron is in Cleveland. It also gave the Cavaliers the Brooklyn Nets pick next draft and Ante Zizic, players that could help Cleveland rebuild if LeBron leaves next summer as a free agent.

What this trade doesn’t do is change LeBron’s calculus.

Probably.

LeBron can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent next summer, and he almost certainly will do that. Even if he wanted to stay in Cleveland, he’d opt out to sign a bigger, longer deal.

What has not changed with this trade is the sense around the league is LeBron has one foot out the door — good luck finding anyone who thinks he’s likely to stay a Cav after next season. He seems ready to move on to the next chapter and challenge, having brought a ring to Cleveland and it looks like this era and team has played itself out.

However, what LeBron has done well is leave his options open, something he has done very intentionally sources tell me. Maybe he wants to go to Los Angeles to enjoy the weather, be close to his business interests, and chase rings with Lonzo Ball and whoever else the Lakers can land in free agency (such as Paul George). Maybe Blake Griffin is on to something and he wants to be a Knick. Maybe a lot of things, the point is LeBron left his options open to make whatever call he wants.

Including staying in Cleveland. Even if it’s a longshot right now, a season is a lifetime in the NBA and attitudes shift.

With this trade, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East, and Crowder gives them the kind of shooter and wing defender the team desperately needed in a matchup with the Warriors (they need more like him). The reality is that if the Warriors are healthy, maybe the series ends in six games instead of five (and that’s a big maybe), but Golden State is still clearly superior. However, the Cavs will be in the Finals, they will get their shot — and stuff happens. We’ve seen it before, a player misses a game (let’s say due to a suspension for kicking) or another has an injury and is not quite 100 percent, and the door opens — then LeBron and Thomas can bust right through it. If the Cavaliers are in the Finals, they have a chance.

Win a ring, or even if the Cavs look like they can legitimately win a ring, LeBron will take it into consideration. That’s where the Brooklyn Nets pick comes in — maybe the Cavs can draft an elite player to add to the mix, or maybe they can trade the pick to get another top veteran player to come to Cleveland to round out the team.

That’s a lot of ifs. LeBron still is more likely to leave then stay next summer. His thoughts, his calculus does not change. What this trade does is give the Cavaliers a slightly better shot at a ring (even though Thomas has some serious defensive issues that can be exposed). With that there’s a chance.

The trade also gives Cleveland options if LeBron looks like he’s leaving. They have a little more flexibility, too.

Winners, losers in the Kyrie Irving trade to Boston

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Here’s the hard thing about coming up with this list: There really weren’t big losers.

Unlike some of the other blockbuster trades this summer — Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Paul George to Oklahoma City — the trade of Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s first-round pick next draft didn’t have a clear loser. The Cavs did well in the short term and got themselves more flexibility, the Celtics may have set themselves up for future banners. So this list is heavy with winners. But here it is.

Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers. Once it became public knowledge that Irving wanted out of Cleveland their leverage was gone. They went looking for a potential young star player in a deal — Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum — and were shot down at each turn. It looked like they would have to settle for a lesser package or bring Irving back to training camp and tell him to get along with LeBron James.

Then this deal came through, and it’s a clear “A+” for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lands an All-NBA point guard whose production next season will be close to what Irving provided, and Thomas plays with more of a chip on his shoulder. Also, the Cavaliers added what they desperately needed — a quality “3&D” wing in Crowder, a guy who can knock down jumpers and cover Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant (as much as anyone can cover them). On top of it, the Cavaliers get what will be a high draft pick — Brooklyn may be better but this is still no worse than the 5-6 pick — in a draft deep with quality big men.

Cleveland is still the best team, the team to beat in the East, and they got a key pick to help add youth and athleticism to the roster.

Winner: Boston in a couple of years. Boston’s argument it won the trade is simple — it got the best player in the trade. Thomas and Irving put up comparable numbers last season, but Irving is capable of defending (even though he rarely does, not even in the Finals last season). Irving is a couple of years younger, and because of his height will likely age better than Thomas. However, in giving up Crowder and the Brooklyn pick, the Celtics surrendered their best trade assets.

Cleveland is going to be a better team than Boston next season, but the Irving/Hayward combo with good role players around them has Boston poised to be even better in a couple of years, once guys like Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown develop. Boston is set to be next (providing they can re-sign Irving).

Winner: Kyrie Irving. He wanted out of the immense shadow of LeBron and he got it — and he still landed on a contender. In Boston, he is the most marketable player and while the team has other stars — Gordon Hayward, Al Horford — none are the kind of dominant force of nature that LeBron is. Kyrie will get plenty of time in the sun, he will get great opportunities in Brad Stevens offense (better sets than he was running in Cleveland), and he will continue to win.

Irving may have wanted to be the star, but he didn’t want to be the one-man show on a bad team. Now he’s in a good place.

Loser: The Los Angeles Lakers (maybe, or any other team with dreams of signing LeBron next summer). LeBron James still more than likely bolts Cleveland next year. But Cleveland got a little closer to keeping them with this trade, and as our own Dan Feldman noted on the PBT podcast that is not good for teams dreaming of signing LeBron. Isaiah Thomas brings buckets at the point guard spot plus he plays with a chip on his shoulder that this team could use (the Cavaliers coast too much during the season). In Crowder the Cavaliers land the kind of wing player they need to match up better with Golden State. If they want to pick up a role player at the trade deadline, Ante Zizic could be part of that package. More importantly, that Brooklyn pick could be used to bring in a high draft pick player LeBron likes, or it could be traded to get a veteran that LeBron wants to play with.

LeBron wants to add rings to his legacy. If this trade helps him think Cleveland is where he can best do that, he could stay. I wouldn’t bet on it as likely, but the odds LeBron stays in Cleveland after next season got just a little more likely. Which makes the Lakers potential losers.

Winner: Koby Altman. I couldn’t bring myself to put Dan Gilbert here, it was still a stupid decision to show David Griffin the door. But give due credit to the man who replaced Gilbert, Kobe Altman. He just orchestrated a brilliant trade that keeps the Cavaliers as the favorites in the East next season and gives them more flexibility going forward. It was a master stroke, getting a guy in Danny Ainge known for hoarding assets to give up two of his best shows Altman knows how to do his job.

Winner: NBA Fans. Opening night, Oct. 17, the first game of the NBA season is the Boston Celtics visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving is going to get booed mercilessly. Isaiah Thomas (if his hip is healthy) will be looking to put on a show for the new home fans. It’s going to be glorious.

It may not have tilted the balance of power in the East, but it made the conference far more entertaining to watch this season.