Great Pressure On Seattle As Well


HANG TIME WEST — Suddenly, and strangely, there is pressure on the Seattle effort led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to close the deal to buy the Kings and deliver them to the banks of the Puget Sound as the SuperSonics reincarnated.

Strange because Hansen-Ballmer still have a lead over Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, and maybe a big lead. The Seattle group is smart, more battle-ready and has been more proactive to put KJ in a very bad position of needing to do a lot in a little amount of time. (Line up ownership, line up an arena deal, line up an arena location, the possible goal-line stand of convincing the Board of Governors to vote down an ideal opportunity in Washington state. Other than that, Johnson is all good.) This should all be about Sacramento feeling the squeeze.

Yet, Seattle is in a corner as well. Leaders of the effort there obviously know the history of the Maloof family of going far down the road on other aborted deals as owners of the Kings – the plan to move the team to Anaheim, the plan to build a new arena that would keep the team in Sacramento – and each day that passes without the For Sale sign being pulled off the front lawn puts more time on the clock for Johnson. (Whether there is a handshake deal is the source of conflicting information. Some have reported the Maloofs and Hansen-Ballmer have reached an agreement, while my stand has been consistent for nearly a week that Sacramento is still in the game.)

It goes beyond who is sitting across the table from Hansen-Ballmer, though. The bottom line of a textbook pursuit that could end in disappointment anyway is that the Seattle faction desperately needs the Kings as a central component in the real big-picture plan of a new arena and the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in that. No anchor tenant, no building.

The Hornets have been sold and are staying in New Orleans. The Grizzlies have been sold and are staying in Memphis. Johnson a couple years ago had the Hawks and Pistons, among others, on his list of teams to approach as Kings replacements if the Maloofs shifted NBA operations to Anaheim; one of those teams (Pistons) have been sold and settled as well.

Hansen-Ballmer have no choice other than continue to trudge through the foggy Maloofian world they have entered, because this never has just been about buying an NBA team. That could have happened in the last couple years or the next couple, except with the franchise remaining in its current city. Seattle needs an organization on wheels, and that’s the Kings. Maybe, some around the league speculate, the Bucks at some point, but the Kings for sure, and for sure right now.

The Maloofs know all this and obviously don’t hate the leverage. They could not have been too disappointed when – oops! – word leaked they were deep in negotiations with the Seattle group, just in time to invite other bids. It cost the family the chance to revel in the look on Johnson’s face had he been blindsided by the Kings’ departure — so great is the dislike between the sides — but that could be worth more profit in the end. The Maloofs have a seller’s market.

The critical unknown is whether Hansen-Ballmer have internally set a line in the sand with a dollar sign attached. They can’t walk away from this chance because there’s no telling when the next team available for relocation will come along, but they didn’t get to be businessmen dealing in Monopoly money by making imprudent deals. Maybe the number is still far out there, knowing this is about an entire arena deal and not just the value of a franchise, or maybe the Maloofs are brushing against it now. It’s impossible to know.

Hansen-Ballmer could push away from the table and pursue an NHL team as the anchor tenant at a major savings. So much of this in Seattle, though, has been the emotional charge of the return of the NBA and the SuperSonics name, down to the green and gold uniforms and the old banners being hung from the rafters. Hockey, if it were to happen with the same plan of a couple seasons in KeyArena before moving to the new arena, wouldn’t hold the same appeal.


  1. ben says:


  2. Jason says:

    Seattle is not stealing a team, just like OKC did not steal the Sonics. This is deal between billionaires not the citizens of a city. And it all takes place thanks to the most poorly run professional sports leagues run by its spineless commissioner. If you choose to be a fan, you have to except the fact that the NBA is the league of musical chairs. Look how the landscape had altered just within the last 10 years. Who can keep up with all the rent-a-cities these teams play for? This won’t be about loyalty or chivalry, look at Sterns track record, this deal is about the bottom line $$$ amount. And I promise that there is no one in Sac town that will heroically appear that can match the firepower of the freaking CEO of Microsoft. Sorry Sac town, join the list of all the other innocent victims of the league, your pain is not unique.

  3. Greg says:

    Seattle is gonna steal another city’s team?? How dare they?

  4. Greg says:

    So now Seattke is “stealing” a team away from another city? And where is the outcry from the media? I guess two wrongs make a right…

  5. Bunsenburner says:

    Why don’t they just move a team from a city with bad fans? What are the Clippers doing in LA for instance, in the same stadium as the Lakers? It’s such bs.

  6. john says:

    Next come Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Collison

  7. Chris says:

    Please, the Hansen group more battle ready? ridiculous. KJ has been tested by fire and come through. The Kings will stay in Sacramento, Why? Because the Hansen Group has to pay off Sacramento 77 million and a $120 Million loan, then turn around and pay the Maloofs $350 Million for the Franchise. Sac only has to buy out the Maloofs 53 percent with everything in place.
    I’d say Seattle has a distant chance at best.

  8. Maybe Ray Allen will go back to seattle if they do move there, you know be a trader again like he did to my Celts, nah just kiddn ray.

    • Jimmy Jazz says:

      as a celtics fan I was disgusted Danny Ainge even thought about trading Ray, so I can’t really blame him for leaving.

  9. B.Holly says:

    Stern knows what going on…the deal willl get done…I feel bad for Sac-Town but the same thing happenned in Sea. It was coming everybody know it but were in denial! Kings=Sonics.

  10. big jebb says:

    Seattle is just not an NBA City.Seattle proved this with the Sonics.If Seattle had built a new arena The Great Clay would have stayed in Seattle.

  11. Casey Fitch says:

    Great article…top notch!

  12. big cat says:

    now all we need is a team back in beautiful Vancouver b,c Canada , to make the pacific northwest triangle complete, seattle Portland and VAN CITY

  13. Aaron says:

    “put KJ in a very bad position of needing to do a lot in a little amount of time. (Line up ownership, line up an arena deal, line up an arena location, the possible goal-line stand of convincing the Board of Governors to vote down an ideal opportunity in Washington state. Other than that, Johnson is all good.)”

    Line up ownership, will announced next week, check.
    Line up an arena deal, NBA and AEG are still on board, check.
    Line up an arena location, the original arena deal still stands, check.
    Convince the BoG that Sac is legit….. been there, done that. CHECK!

    Seattle is not have a huge lead.

    • Aaron says:

      does* (man I wish comment boards had edit buttons!!)

    • Dave M. says:

      You are correct. Sacramento won’t be trailing next week, when Mayor Johnson announces the investors.

      The way i see it, if Sac and Seattle have similar proposals, both with solid arena plans, and the NBA lets Seattle steal the team away anyways, it wll be a public relatons nightmare for the NBA, at least as bad as four years ago. Sacramento has been a great city for the NBA, and everyone knows it. They have done nothing to deserve losing their team. They wll be righting a wrong by creating another, equal wrong.

      Ultimately, expansion will be the only answer…

  14. benihanagt says:

    “Hansen-Ballmer could push away from the table and pursue an NHL team as the anchor tenant at a major savings.”

    No they can’t. The MOU for the arena agreed to by Hansen group and the City & Couny Councils is specifically for either: An NBA team. Or an NBA team & an NHL team.

    There is no arena agreement (and ability to break ground on an arena) for only an NHL team.

  15. Sedare says:

    All that matters to me is the I-5 rivalry gets back on fire.

    Blazers vs. Sonics. NEXT.