Sacramento Kings arena funding plan to be released Sept. 8

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We don’t know the specifics of how the city of Sacramento plans to pay for the proposed $387 million Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC), but we do know when they plan to announce those plans.

According to Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee, a menu of funding options will be presented to the public on September 8, with a more detailed report being released on September 13 to both the public and City Council.

According to Lillis:

While precise details of the financing plan are still unknown, Chris Lehane, the chair of the task force, said in a new release this morning that it will include “contributions from both the public and private sectors, including the Kings ownership group, arena developers and operators.”

He also added:

It’s also expected that an arena operator – a company such as AEG – will be approached to help with the construction costs.

While the city of Sacramento’s efforts to keep the Kings have appeared at times to be as desperate as a 55-foot game-winner, the framework for the proposed funding options has been a relative constant, and has always been envisioned to be a mix of private and public funds.

Hotel and airport taxes have been discussed, but more recently the pencil has been sharpened to include user fees such as ticket surcharges and parking fees, in addition to the sale of city-owned properties, corporate sponsorships, and revenues originating from cell phone towers and electronic billboards placed on the ESC.

In short, every dollar will count as they tally up the funds, and the inclusion of a company like AEG to both fund the project and operate the arena sounds like a must at this point. That their name continues to come up in on-the-record and off-the-record discussion is a great sign for Kings fans.

And as we posted in June, the Maloofs liquidated most of their interest in the Palms to enhance their financial flexibility. While they could have done that simply to free up money for their continued involvement in the Palms, as George Maloof said was the case at the time, it stands to reason that being relieved on a $400 million note will help them be able to pitch in.

So where does the rubber meet the road here?

First, the Think Big Sacramento coalition, which includes 70-some odd politicians, businesses, community leaders, and the original grassroots leaders such as Carmichael Dave and Here We Stay — they will need to procure support within the Sacramento City Council, and then also have enough public support to marginalize attacks from any opposition groups. Attacks could come in the form of lawsuits seeking injunctive relief, most likely on the grounds that the use of public funds will require a public vote. The Kings arena effort would likely come up short if a vote is needed, so avoiding such a challenge will depend on the exact nature of the public funds being used and the appetite for opposition groups to go through a costly legal and political fight.

A lot of that appetite will be derived from what the folks in the Sacramento region actually think about this public subsidy. Losing the Kings will necessarily be a blow to the area, and most believe they will not be able to get an NBA team back should they lose this one. In the battle to attract businesses and the new-age worker that values a city’s identity, this could be a defining moment for the entire region.

And that is where the battle for public opinion is taking place. The Think Big Sacramento group is doing a commendable public relations job, with interactive campaigns targeting not just Kings fans, but folks that may be more inclined to see Disney on Ice than five shooting guards and one basketball. Between the town hall meetings, the dominant social media work they’re doing, and local events featuring non-basketball types such as world-renowned artist David Garibaldi (seriously, check out his work) – it’s safe to say that they’re not making the mistakes of the ill-fated arena tax campaign from 2006 that was easily rejected by the voters.

But as with anything else, you have to follow the money, as public funds come with questions about tax allocations, economics, and the like. Today, I spoke with leading sports economist Brad Humphreys (and expert witness in the Sonics vs. Seattle case no less), who has been outspoken about the problems with sports stadium subsidies (as are most of his colleagues), and the takeaway is that this isn’t just a Sacramento issue – it’s a United States issue.

Due to the artificial lack of supply (teams) in the major sports leagues, a De facto monopoly, teams have the leverage to demand public subsidies. If the city of Sacramento wants to belabor the point, the Kings will have a new address in Orange County – and that scenario has played itself out a number of times.

I’ll be scratching together another post about my conversation with this economist, which covered everything from sports subsidies to the Kings to the lockout. Interestingly, he said he wasn’t against the Kings’ arena subsidy, and in one (not yet peer-reviewed) white paper he wrote,

A new state of the art facility integrated in a comprehensive urban redevelopment program and located in the heart of a large city might be expected to generate increases in residential property values in the vicinity of hundreds of millions of dollars within a mile of the facility, if the location, planning, construction, and development are carried out carefully.

While most economists are mostly aligned in saying that no empirical evidence has been found to show that the presence of sports teams and so-called big sporting events (i.e. the Super Bowl) actually bring in additional tax revenue, let alone to cover the cost of the subsidy — it doesn’t mean that the proof doesn’t exist.

Sacramento County had a $40 million reduction in budgetary revenue this year due to the drop in property values in the area, which is money that they’re not getting back. That loss of revenue comes from the fact that people aren’t willing to pay as much to live in the Sacramento region.

So assuming, annually, the county gets the 1% property tax revenue on a theoretical ‘hundreds of millions of dollars (of increased property value) within a mile of the facility,’ this unexplored area of sports economics could answer the question as to why cities continue to ignore economists’ clamoring. While people may spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere (the substitution effect) if the Kings are not in town, they won’t necessarily pay as much to live there. The intangible benefits of living by your favorite sports team or having the option to go to an A-list show – those benefits may be being capitalized in ways economists have yet to find (or in this case, may be on the precipice of finding).

Humphreys took great care to point out that the case of Sacramento is unique, and that cities with downtown revitalization projects have had both success and failure. But in the world of data that economists live by, one thing is clear – they’re simply not ready to buy the economic impact reports that teams are selling, but they’re also not ready to rule out that the sports subsidy could be a good thing.

After all, everybody is doing it.

76ers once again overhaul around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there

Can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons coexist?

While I’ve wondered about that question, the 76ers have charged ahead with the pairing. Embiid and Simmons are the givens. The surrounding players change. In just two seasons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris have cycled through as starters.

The latest supporting starters: Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson.

This might be the last chance to find a trio that works.

Philadelphia has taken advantage of Embiid’s and Simmons’ low rookie-scale salaries, which was always a selling point of The Process. A roster loaded with cheap young players created a window to add more-expensive talent. Then, with everyone already in place, NBA rules generally allow teams to keep their own players.

But Embiid is already on his max contract extension, and Simmons just signed a max contract extension that will take effect next year. The flexibility is vanishing.

One last time, the 76ers made the most of it. They signed-and-traded Butler for Richardson and let Redick walk in free agency. That left enough cap space to sign Al Horford (four years, $109 million with $97 million guaranteed) and use Bird Rights to re-sign Tobias Harris (five years, $180 million).

That’s a lot of deliberate disruption for a team that was already good and rising.

The big question: Did it make Philadelphia better?

I just don’t know.

As fond as I am of Butler, I understand all the reasons to be wary of offering the 30-year-old a huge contract. But moving on from him to give a huge deal to a 33-year-old Horford? That’s curious. Then again, Philadelphia also added Richardson – a solid replacement for Butler on the wing – in the process.

The 76ers will miss Butler’s shot creation. He often took over their offense in the clutch during the playoffs. Harris can pick up some of the slack, but that still looks like a hole.

At just 27, Harris is young for a player who has already been in the league so long. That’s a big reason it was worth Philadelphia signing him to a sizable long-term contract.

Horford’s deal could age poorly, but he’s a winner still playing quality all-around basketball. If nothing else, the 76ers removed Embiid’s best defender from the rival Celtics.

Philadelphia filled its bench with several value signings – Mike Scott (room exception), James Ennis (minimum), Kyle O'Quinn (minimum), Furkan Korkmaz (minimum), Raul Neto (minimum) and Trey Burke (partially guaranteed minimum). However, sometimes teams need production more than cost-effectiveness. The 76ers’ bench struggled last season, and they devoted minimal resources to upgrading.

In the draft, Philadelphia traded the Nos. 24 and 33 picks for No. 20 pick Matisse Thybulle. That’s a costly move up, especially for a player I rated No. 34. Worse, it seemingly happened because Boston snuffed out the 76ers’ interest in Thybulle then leveraged them. That’s small potatoes, though.

Simmons (No. 9 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years) and Embiid (No. 11 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years) will likely define this era for Philadelphia. Embiid is on his way to becoming one of the NBA’s very best players. Simmons is so good, giving him a max extension was a no-brainer.

But they were already in place.

Harris, Horford and Richardson will define this offseason. I just can’t tell whether they made the 76ers’ promising future even brighter or slightly dimmer.

Offseason grade: C

Michelle Roberts says if you don’t like player movement blame owners, too

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Last summer was one of the wildest offseasons in NBA history, maybe the wildest, and the headline was player empowerment. Anthony Davis pushed his way to the Lakers, Paul George forced his way out of Oklahoma City to go to the Clippers and join Kawhi Leonard, which soon had Russell Westbrook joining his old teammate James Harden in Houston. It led to frustration by some owners and changes in how the NBA will handle tampering.

Except, by choice is not how most players change teams. While AD or George has the leverage to make a power play — because of their exceptional talent — most of the time players are traded because the owner/team has all the power and can uproot players for whatever reason (basketball reasons sometimes, saving money other times). The stars have free agent options, rotation players much less so in that system.

Michelle Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players’ Association, wants you to remember that it’s not just player power that has led to the increase in player movement, as she told Mark Spears of The Undefeated.

Michele Roberts, told The Undefeated that she believes there is a “double standard” between how stars are viewed when they decide to move on compared with when franchises choose to make a major transaction, adding that team owners “continue to view players as property.”

“If you want to be critical of one, be critical of both,” Roberts said from the NBPA’s offices in Manhattan. “Those of us who made decisions to move, it’s really astounding to even consider what it feels like to be told in the middle of your life you are going to have to move. But that’s the business we’re in. …

“No one seems to spend a lot of time thinking about what it’s like to make those kinds of moves completely involuntarily. You volunteer to play or not play. But, yeah, if it’s still the case that if you think you’ve got to suck it up, player, then, hell, you’ve got to suck it up, team.”

She’s right. From Chris Paul to Blake Griffin, plenty of big stars have been moved against their will. The door swings both ways, but in those cases most fans tended to see why and like what the teams did. Those fans like it less when players do the same thing.

There’s also a classic labor vs. management angle to all this, which has political overtones.

For my money, how one views player movement tends to be part generational and part where you live.

Older fans remember days — or, at least think they remember days — when players stayed with teams for much or all of their career. It’s understandable, fans form a bond with players and want them to stay… while they’re still good and useful, after that fans beg ownership to get the “dead weight off the books.” Players before the late 1980s stayed with teams because they didn’t have a choice — for Bill Russell in the 60s or Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 1980s, free agency was not an option. And for every Kobe Bryant that did stay with a team, there were a lot more Wilts and Shaqs, who were traded several times and played with multiple teams.

Younger fans (generally, nothing is universal) are okay with the player movement, sometimes are more fans of a player than a team, and like the action and buzz of all the trades.

Location matters because if you’re in Oklahoma City there’s reason to not like what George did and the era of player empowerment. New Orleans fans can feel the same way (although part of that case is the “supermax” contract that owners wanted but really forced up the timeline on teams and players to make a decision on paying stars). But fans in Los Angeles or wherever players ultimately choose to go will feel differently. Fans want what’s best for their team, but there is no way in the star culture of the NBA to wash away the lure of big markets or of teaming up with another elite player.

The NBA dynamic is different from the NFL’s (for now), but it’s not changing. LeBron James helped usher in an era of player empowerment and it’s the new reality for the NBA, one the best franchises will adapt to rather than fight.

Evan Fournier says that Frank Ntilikina just ‘needs a real opportunity’

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New York Knicks fans haven’t had a lot to cheer for recently. The team traded away Kristaps Porzingis, who is thought to be the franchise cornerstone. Now they move forward with a young core, RJ Barrett, and tons of cap space.

So what does that mean for players who have been around in the Big Apple like Frank Ntilikina?

Based on how Ntilikina played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for France this year, things might be looking up.

Ntilikina’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, but he was seen as a very solid player in a backcourt that helped propel France to the bronze medal in China.

To that end, fellow countrymen Evan Fournier thinks that all Ntilikina needs is a chance to shine.

Via Twitter:

Ntilikina’s season last year was marred by injuries, and he played in just 43 games. Still, he has the physical tools to be a useful NBA player, and he’s just 21 years old. With the surprisingly low-pressure situation in New York, it’s possible that extended time playing in the World Cup could help aid what Ntilikina is able to produce next season for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers receive DeMarcus Cousins disabled-player exception

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A chance at a championship. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. The Los Angeles market. Great weather.

The Lakers can offer plenty to anyone who gets bought out this season.

Now, the Lakers – who lost DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL – get a mechanism to offer post-buyout players more money.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The exception holds little value presently. It’s worth less than a full-season minimum salary for anyone with more than four years experience.

But minimum-salary and mid-level exceptions decline throughout the season. This exception does not.

So, on March 1, a team with only a minimum slot available can offer a free agent just between $233,459 and $666,546 (depending on the player’s experience level). The Lakers can offer $1.75 million.

This means an NBA-appointed doctor ruled Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15. Given that prognosis, the Lakers could open a roster spot by waiving Cousins, who’s on a one-year deal and facing a domestic-violence charge. They’d still keep the exception.

If Cousins can return more quickly than expected, he’d be eligible to play, whether or not the Lakers use the exception.