Beating Larry Ellison Was Warriors Owner’s Big Win: Sports Line

First he won a bidding war with Larry Ellison, the world’s seventh-richest man. Then he helped transform the Golden State Warriors from one of the NBA’s worst teams into a club playing for the league championship.

Now comes the next challenge -- building a new $1 billion, 18,000-seat arena across the bay in San Francisco and moving the Warriors there by the 2018-19 season.

The Warriors missed the playoffs in 15 of 16 seasons before Joe Lacob led a $450 million purchase of the team in 2010. Five years later, Golden State is facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Lacob triumphed in a bidding battle with Ellison, whose Oracle Corp. already had its name on the team’s arena and wanted to own the club. A year later, the NBA lockout temporarily sidetracked his turnaround plans for the Warriors.

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to buy this team, to win it from Larry Ellison,” Lacob told Sports Line last week. “The second-hardest thing I’ve ever done was to come in here and revamp and change this organization. That was really hard, we had a lockout, you remember. And I was scared we weren’t going to be able to open the doors.”

Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Oracle, on Thursday declined to comment on Lacob’s remarks.

Lacob announced in 2012 that the Warriors, who have been in Oakland since 1971, would move to a site along the San Francisco waterfront.

But that plan was opposed by neighbors and environmental groups, and the site was moved to the city’s Mission Bay area -- near the Giants’ AT&T Park -- after the Warriors bought 12 acres of undeveloped land from Salesforce.com Inc.

“The third-hardest thing I’ve ever done is trying to build this new arena,” Lacob said. “We’ve got the money in place, we’ve got support from the city of San Francisco. I think we have a very good chance of getting it done by the fall of 2018.”

The office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee didn’t respond Thursday to e-mails seeking comment on Lacob’s remarks. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a news conference last night that “ultimately, this team needs a new arena.”

“This is one of the oldest arenas in the league and can’t support longterm the NBA infra structure,” Silver said at Oracle Arena in Oakland, the Warriors’ current home.

Will this year’s deep playoff run -- the Warriors won in overtime against the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Finals last night -- help the chances of building the arena?

“It certainly can’t hurt,” said Lacob, who sat next to singer Rihanna at last night’s game.

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While one ball is round and the other oblong, the two biggest styles of football have this in common: sponsors who stay loyal publicly even when the sport’s moral compass is spinning like a Tilt-a-Whirl on a Jersey Shore boardwalk.

McDonald’s Corp., Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Budweiser beer and Adidas AG were among the companies lining up this week saying Sepp Blatter’s resignation was a step in the right direction for FIFA. After the arrests of FIFA officials charged with corruption last week, the companies publicly wrung their hands, but none threatened to cut ties.

Last September, when the National Football League was engulfed in its domestic-abuse scandal, Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s were among the sponsors saying they were concerned and demanding change. The NFL since overhauled its personal-conduct policy.

What happened in the back rooms of FIFA and the NFL is anyone’s guess, but Sports Line, an eternal optimist, is going to believe that private pressure from the public corporations that provide much of the money behind these sports organizations helped lead to change.

Taking care of a scandal properly is the right thing to do -- and it’s usually good for business. In the end, that’s what drives a publicly traded company.

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At least the thousands of fans trying to escape from Belmont Park on Saturday will have live music to entertain them.

The New York Racing Association hired the Goo Goo Dolls to perform after Saturday’s race, where American Pharoah will attempt to capture the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. The Goo Goo Dolls, an alt-rock band known for “Iris” and other No. 1 hits in the 1990s, are part of NYRA’s plan to prevent a repeat of the nightmare that fans faced after the race last year when California Chrome failed to complete the feat for the first time since 1978.

Thousands were stuck in parking lots or the Long Island Rail Road platform into the night as area roads and the train couldn’t handle a record number of riders. Twitter provided some entertainment.

“We are about to elect our own government,” Rob Westervelt of Queens tweeted last year as he sat in his third stranded hour.

This year, NYRA is only allowing 90,000 fans to attend, down from the 102,199 in 2014. The LIRR completed $5 million of work at the Belmont Park Station, enabling it to accommodate 10-car trains instead of eight cars, and concocted a plan to have more empty trains ready to pick up race fans.

It’ll still probably be a two-hour or more wait, according to LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski.

The Goo Goo Dolls fit in because transit authorities are hoping some people will stick around to watch them perform.

Westervelt, who lives in the Douglaston neighborhood of Queens, said in a telephone interview that he’s been going since 2002 and will go again this year. The Goo Goo Dolls plan will work for him -- the 45-year-old said he’ll stick around for the music.

“I can relive my early 20s,” he said.

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Matt Harvey’s strong comeback from elbow surgery is one of the reasons the New York Mets switched to an unconventional six-man rotation of starting pitchers.

Harvey has thrown 73 2/3 innings so far through about a third of the regular season for the Mets, who set an innings limit of about 200 this year after their ace missed the 2014 campaign.

“As a competitor, you really have to stay in the moment, and right now I’m still so excited to be back from Tommy John surgery after missing a whole year,” Harvey told Sports Line colleague Erik Matuszewski.

Harvey initially balked at the notion of getting fewer starts, manager Terry Collins said, but acquiesced when faced with the prospect of a forced rest with a stay on the disabled list, or missing out on pitching if the Mets make the postseason.

Harvey said he and the other Mets starters -- Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese -- won’t let the change in routine affect their preparation.

“It’s important to stay strong and sharp in between starts -- whether it’s taking an extra day of rest, not do too much the day after and pretend you’re starting your routine a day late,” said Harvey, who spent one of his off-days this week promoting the Delta Dugout initiative that rewards fans with game experiences and prizes.

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- The women’s World Cup kicks off Saturday in Canada. The U.S., the 11-4 favorites at U.K. bookmaker William Hill, is grouped with Australia, Sweden and Nigeria in the tournament. The two-time champions feature goalkeeper Hope Solo and striker Abby Wambach, who are looking to improve on their second-place finish in the 2011 event, where Japan was a surprise winner. Eight-time European champions Germany are second favorite, with odds of 3-1, while France is 7-1. The 28-team competition ends July 5 in Vancouver.

- Some Yankees stick together even when they’re no longer in pinstripes. After the Yankees finished a three-game series in Seattle with an afternoon game against the Mariners on Wednesday, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia stayed on the West Coast to attend a posh fundraiser run by former teammate Robinson Cano. Others at Cano’s first Seattle-based fundraiser included Jay Z, who started the athlete representation firm Roc Nation Sports, Cam Chancellor of the Seahawks and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. A total of $1.2 million was raised for Cano’s RC22 Foundation, with the money helping to build a school in Cano’s hometown in the Dominican Republic as well as going to children’s clinics and clubs in the Seattle area.

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