David Stern Rumors
LeGarie started his career representing European players and coaches, bushwhacking across the world. He knew firsthand how badly all the N.B.A. business that went on during the summer needed to be harmonized in a central location. For years he bugged the league office and David Stern, then the N.B.A. commissioner, until he got the go-ahead to organize the Las Vegas league, heavily supported by the current commissioner, Adam Silver.
Addressing the parallels between Seattle and Sacramento in their battles to keep an NBA team in place, Stern said the difference boiled down to city leadership. (You can listen to this segment at the 1:11 mark of the podcast.) “Mayor Kevin Johnson was out there doing whatever had to be done,” Stern said. “In Seattle, the speaker of the Seattle house said our players should take a cut in pay and put the money into a fund to help build the building. That’s nothing we had to work with. I did the same things in Seattle that I did in Sacramento, but there was a leader in Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, who was intent on keeping that team.”
Stern also noted the Sonics did not receive the same level of financial commitment in Seattle as the Seahawks or Mariners had gotten for their stadium. “(Johnson) was differently motivated, because there had been huge subsidies from (Seattle) for the baseball team and football team to build their two buildings. Our basketball was the third man in. In Sacramento, this was the game. The city was very proud and had been very supportive.”
Demasio pressed Stern on e-mails that later came out showing Bennett and co-owners Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward had privately intended to move the team to Oklahoma City while publicly stating they wanted to keep it in Seattle. “I don’t remember the specific e-mails,” Stern said. “I was satisfied as commissioner that he was making a good-faith effort, and he would’ve been held to it if he was successful.”
Since that fateful day, Stern has said many times he rejected the trade in his capacity as acting owner of the Hornets (the NBA owned the team at the time), not as commisioner, but during an appearance on the “Nunyo and Company” podcast, Stern revealed some new information: The Lakers still could have potentially completed a deal for Paul (emphasis mine). “(My decision) was only based on what was good for New Orleans, or what was not good for New Orleans. It had nothing to do with the Lakers at all. And in fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kyle Lowry; and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first round draft pick. Not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchack at the time panicked, and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then New Orleans Hornets.