Double booking has WWE, playoff game on same date

Published 3:29 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are scheduled to be at the Pepsi Center in Denver next Monday night.

Problem is, so are John Cena and a bunch of wrestlers — and they called it first.

World Wrestling Entertainment said it is booked at the arena for an episode of Monday Night Raw, the same night the Nuggets are slated to host the Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

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WWE chairman Vince McMahon told The Associated Press he doesn’t believe there was ‘‘any malice, just ineptness,’’ on the part of Kroenke Sports, which owns the team and the building, but can’t tolerate the company ‘‘just simply throwing us out on our ear.’’

Without a quick resolution, McMahon plans to send his trucks to Denver.

‘‘That’s what we intend to do,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re going to show up.’’

WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman said the organization secured the Pepsi Center last Aug. 15 and has already sold more than 10,000 tickets for the event. He says the organization expects a sellout, with tickets ranging from $20 to $70.

McMahon blamed Kroenke for not believing his team was good enough to still be playing in mid-May.

‘‘The fans in Denver had a lot more faith in making the playoffs than the owner,’’ he said in a phone interview from Louisville, where Raw was taking place later Monday night.

Denver is usually done with basketball by now. The Nuggets had lost in the first round five straight years, but as the No. 2 seed in the West are in the conference finals for the first time since 1985.

Paul Andrews, executive vice president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, issued a statement Monday night concerning the scheduling conflict, saying: ‘‘We are working with the WWE to resolve the situation amicably.’’

The league, which handles scheduling during the playoffs, is leaving it up to the team and the WWE to figure things out.

‘‘The Nuggets and the WWE understand that the date of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals cannot be changed,’’ NBA senior vice president Mike Bass said. ‘‘We are confident that the Pepsi Center and the WWE will resolve their scheduling conflict.’’

Zimmerman said the Pepsi Center confirmed in March with the WWE that the organization wanted to keep the May 25 date, and sent a contract on April 15 — the final night of the regular season — which WWE signed and returned. Tickets went on sale April 11.

The conflict didn’t arise until Sunday, when the Lakers beat the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. Had the Rockets won, Denver would have had home-court advantage in the next round, hosting Games 1 and 2 and putting the May 25 game in Houston.

As of Monday afternoon, the schedule on the Pepsi Center’s Web site listed WWE for 6:30 p.m. local time and Western Conference finals Game 4 at 7 p.m. Tickets for the wrestling event could still be purchased online.

McMahon said he couldn’t guess how much he would make from the show, but that canceling wasn’t easy because of how much is involved in moving his equipment, plus filling its obligated time slot on USA Network. Litigation is likely — but he plans to be putting on a card.

‘‘When you do have a date, you plan everything around it,’’ he said, adding, ‘‘we may be holding an event in a parking lot somewhere.’’