What Next For Seattle And Sacramento?


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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Speculation and news reports gave way to certainty Monday morning as the NBA and both parties involved in the transaction announced an agreement has been reached to sell controlling interest in the Kings to a group that plans to move the team to Seattle for the start of next season.

Chris Hansen, the leader of the Seattle efforts along with Steve Ballmer, said in a statement that they had reached a “binding agreement” with the Maloof family that owns 53 percent of the Kings. Similarly brief announcements from the league and the Maloofs did not choose the same wording, a slight surprise since it would figure the releases from Hansen-Ballmer and the Maloofs would be coordinated after passing through lawyers’ microscopes. But is little more than semantics.

The unvarnished truth by any terminology: The Kings have been sold and will play their final game ever in Sacramento on April 17 unless the Board of Governors unexpectedly votes down the purchase.

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson will push forward and within days could announce an ownership group as part of a final appeal to the league to keep the team in town. He will press on with plans for a downtown arena, having said for years that the city needs a new entertainment complex whether the Kings are part of the future or not. Commissioner David Stern has promised Johnson the chance to address the Board of Governors before a vote on the sale, a direct appeal that will probably come in April.

In the meantime, Johnson will have to lobby the BoG – one representative from every team, usually the owner but occasionally a high-ranking club official as proxy for the owner – for a historic comeback. This will not be the former All-Star point guard trying to fend off advances from Anaheim a couple seasons ago, what would have been a winnable fight amid resistance around the league for a third team in the Los Angeles market. This will not be noting the imperfections of other locations the Maloofs flirted with in recent years.

There is nothing not to like about the Seattle bid. Corporate backing at an international level, population base, history as a sports market, owners that by all appearances have very deep pockets, a new arena planned – the Emerald City checks all the boxes. That’s a real problem for any Sacramento comeback.

Johnson will be pushing owners to ignore all that on the speculation of what may be in the California capital, based on what was 10 years ago. He will ask the Board to turn down a city most everyone wants back in the NBA. He will be telling the BoG to vote for Sacramento by voting against Seattle.

In short, it is almost impossible to imagine Johnson finding enough sympathy.

When previous ownership changes have fallen apart, the finances were usually not in order. It is reasonable to think in this case that Stern would not have allowed the Seattle bid to get this far without a strong sense that Hansen and Ballmer could pass the requisite background checks.

The transition from the Maloofs to Hansen-Ballmer will move forward even as Sacramento counter-punches. The Seattle group will file for relocation by March 1 and Johnson will be down to hoping the league will first void the Hansen-Ballmer deal and then be able to force the Maloofs to sell to Northern California interests.

(Never say never, but consider precedence: If Stern had been able to dictate ownership sales before, he wouldn’t have waited until 2013 to hit the button.)

A couple other points as this moves forward:

  • It is fitting to note that the man who heads the relocation committee, Thunder owner Clay Bennett, is the same man who took the SuperSonics from Seattle in the first place. Don’t attach too much actual meaning, though. Seattle as a destination – apart from whatever maneuvering transpires on other levels – gets approved no matter who chairs the committee.
  • Don’t take Johnson’s statement Sunday night, that he wants the Kings to be “the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL,” too literally. Johnson has enough to do to line up a conventional ownership plan for a last-minute reprieve from the BoG. As the mayor knows, there is no time to organize a Packer-like plan for fans to have ownership. His reference can only be read as hope that the Kings could remain to Sacramento what the Packers are to Green Bay, part of the fabric of their respective small markets. It can’t mean a call to arms to duplicate the Green Bay structure.

20 Comments

  1. Norivic says:

    Lame…that will not be seattle supersonics….that would be the seattle kings!!!

  2. Andrew says:

    i feel for you kings fans, but our sonics situation was a lot worse. The way that Clay Bennet lied and planned to move the team to oklahoma city the whole time even though he lied about keeping them here in seattle. ulimitely, the sonics definitely shouldve stayed here in seattle in the first place.

  3. John says:

    Kj wont have a chance. I had a same hope years ago about the Sonic.At the end of the day,business is business.

  4. james09 says:

    The new seattle team should play 10 home games each year in sacrememnto

  5. 34yr fan says:

    …c’mon, the ‘Kings’ can’t just BECOME the ‘Sonics”, that would be just……/stoopid !!! Seattle needs to just ‘start over’ !!! The
    kings need to stay where they have a ‘loyal’ fan base…. oh wait a minute…..it doesn’t have to make sense………….just MONEY !! I hope KJ can work some magic and keep the Kings there…………..OR maybe move ‘em ‘back’ to KC !!……Then a ‘new’ team in Sactown and a ‘new’ team in Seattle…..easy, huh??

    • Rob says:

      umm, the kings only arrived in sacramento in the mid 80’s..after you took them from kansas city, which took them from another city. so to say they cant just become the sonics is ridiculous. they just became the kings the same way. the sonics have a championship and finals apperances, top 50 all-time players and hall of famers. sacramento is only known for being a doormat in the nba much more than anything else( sure there were a few good seasons). yes the fans are amazing, probably the best in the league since they have supported bad teams so well for so long. but to say the most relocated team in the league cant just move is funny to me.

  6. ???? says:

    What makes you think the Clipper are going to leave Los Angeles????

  7. Aaron says:

    If it weren’t for the likes of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, the Lob City Miracles (aka LA Clippers) would be the ones relocating to Seattle or whoever wants the team. Although I can possibly see them playing in Anaheim down the road and still holding on to a portion of the LA market. Otherwise, if Sacramento ever gets it together after losing the Kings, how would Sacramento Clippers sound?

  8. bcc1958 says:

    I don’t get it. Since the NBA already owns the New Orleans Hornets why don’t they sell that team to the ownership group from Seattle? Then Seattle can have its slot in the Northwest Division back and Oklahoma City can move to the regionally more local Southwest Division.

    • Bizz says:

      The Hornets were sold to Tom Benson, owner of the Saints, in early 2012 and he intends to keep the team there long-term.

  9. Steve says:

    I have to correct Ethan’s comment on Mr. Bennett’s supposed $30 million reason to support the King’s move to Seattle. The $30 million was to be paid only if (1) financing for a new arena was approved by the Washington legislature, and (2) Seattle did not obtain a new team within five years. The first condition was never met and never will be, as the money for the new Seattle arena is authorized by the city and county, not the legislature. So Mr. Bennett owes nothing, regardless of whether the Kings move to Seattle.

    It is extremely regrettable that Sacramento is likely to lose its team, but Seattle learned to its cost that the NBA is not about fan loyalty; it’s a business, period. At least there is no pretense about the Seattle group’s plans.

  10. SacKings says:

    Sacramento did everything in their power to present an arena deal that any other owner would have accepted. The Maloof’s have been completely vindictive against the city of Sacramento by not only squashing the deal because it didn’t meet their ridiculous demands, but by going because the back of everyone in this city to strike a deal with Seattle while acting like the team wasn’t for sale. Anything you read on this site is slanted toward what the NBA wants and that = money. Bennett gets his money when the team goes to Seattle, Stern gets a makeup relocation for the city and Sacramento gets screwed out of the team they have supported for over 20 years.

  11. Ethan says:

    I was the one who posted that comment and I was wrong. Seattle didn’t rehab KeyArena in time, so part 2 of the agreement (the $30 mil payment) is void. Bennett won’t owe it to Seattle regardless.

  12. Kings4 says:

    “What used to be 10 years ago”?!?!? This fan base is still here!! This writer makes me mad, you don’t know what you are talking about, this is the most loyal fanbase in the NBA and one of the best in all sports. We are still fighting for this team. If Stern was smart at all he’d propose expansion for Seattle! Do not take our team!

  13. Alex says:

    As much as Seattle deserves a team, this is just too harsh. This is a much worse result for Sacramento than it is a good result for Seattle.

  14. Dan says:

    As happy as I am to get my beloved Supersonics back I am devastated for Sacramento! They don’t deserve this just like Seattle didnt. Unfortunately fans don’t have a say, it’s the nba where money talks. If the Sonics are reborn I’d do anything I can as a fan to support a team going to Sacramento even though I’m just a fan.

  15. Ethan says:

    One thing you forgot to mention… Clay Bennett DOES have reason to push for the relocation to Seattle as well. If Seattle gets a team back by next year, he no longer owes the city of Seattle $30 million, which was promised when the Sonics moved if Seattle couldn’t get a team within 5 years (In the settlement with Seattle). It’s very much in the financial benefit (as well as to get Seattle fans off his back) to push for approval of the move.

    • Jason says:

      Seattle will never be off Clay Bennett’s back so to speak. The anger will always be there and I would like to see him have to pay the 30 million, That ownership group has similar financial problems like the Mallof’s. When the star’s of the OKC team reach free agency they will bolt for a larger market team with the endorsements that follow. Unlike Sacremento, OKC probably will not support a team through the lean years. Sacremento deserves the Maloof’s out of basketball but does not deserve to lose thier team as a consequence!

  16. Jason says:

    It is great to get our beloved Sonics back, yet sad it has to be at the expense of another city!