Posts Tagged ‘Steve Ballmer’

Board Of Governors Vote To Keep Kings In Sacramento

From staff and wire reports


The Sacramento Kings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The saga of the Kings’ future began back in January with an agreement between the Maloof family and Seattle-based investors Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that would have sold the team to them. They would then have brought the Seattle SuperSonics back to the NBA after they were relocated to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season.

But the Hansen/Ballmer group is coming away empty-handed in its attempt to bring the NBA back to the Emerald City, as the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 22-8 to deny relocation of the franchise, keeping it Sacramento for now.

The NBA’s relocation committee voted 7-0 on April 29 to recommend rejecting the relocation of the team to Seattle, but Hansen’s group tried to sweeten the pot by increasing the franchise’s valuation and offering a record relocation fee as well.

Sacramento’s efforts have been led by software magnate Vivek Ranadive as well as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who have worked tirelessly to local and regional businesses and leaders to establish the framework for a new arena for the Kings.

The Ranadive group has a competing deal on the table based on the original franchise valuation of $525 million that Hansen and the Maloofs reached in January.

The Ranadive group has agreed to match the 65 percent price of $341 million for the Kings in that deal, and has put at least 50 percent of that $341 million into escrow. NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month that while the Sacramento bid to keep the Kings at the time was slightly lower than the Seattle bid, the league considered the Sacramento bid binding.

Although there has been substantial buzz in Seattle that there are potential antitrust issues that could be the basis for a lawsuit against the NBA if and when Hansen’s bid is rejected, Hansen’s group apparently remains uninterested in legal remedies upon rejection, according to the source.

Hansen believes that this may be the last time in the foreseeable future that political and business interests in Seattle will be aligned to give support for an NBA bid. The city of Seattle has committed up to $200 million toward construction of a $490 million arena in the city’s SoDo area, next to Safeco Field, where baseball’s Mariners play. Hansen, who has already purchased the land on which he wants to build the arena, would pay the rest.

Sacramento has committed $250 million toward construction of a $447 million arena that would be the centerpiece of a development plan at the current Downtown Plaza mall site.

Ranadive’s group, which includes 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and the Jacobs Family, billionaire owners and managers of the Qualcomm company, has pledged to the NBA that it will not be a revenue sharing recipient if the Kings remain in Sacramento, citing the expected increased revenues the team will be able to get from a new building.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that the NBA has encouraged the Ranadive group to put the remaining half of the $341 million into escrow as well to alleviate concerns of the Maloofs that the group has the financial wherewithal to complete the transaction.

Information from TNT analyst David Aldridge was used in this report.

‘Final’ Vote On Kings Comes Today


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The long wait is almost over … well, we think it might be over.

We could know before nightfall where the Kings will play in the future: Sacramento or Seattle.

The NBA’s Board of Governors meet today in Dallas with an expected final vote by all 30 owners on the Maloof family’s relocation proposal that would move the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle, where a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer is set to purchase the franchise for a record price.

The formal recommendation two weeks ago from the committee of owners formed to study the relocation plan was a resounding vote for the Kings remaining in Sacramento. But the Maloofs have made it clear that their desire is to go with the Seattle group’s generous reported offer of $406.25 million and flee California’s capital city.

It’s not as simple as that, of course, what with the lawyers involved and the league waist-deep in a back and forth between two cities that are both desperate to keep a team, in Sacramento’s case, and regain a team, in Seattle’s case.

That’s the short version. The long version, in complete detail courtesy my main man, TNT’s David Aldridge, who is going to be on the scene in Dallas today, is much more complicated.

The Seattle group has covered all of its bases in trying to complete this deal. They’ve reached an agreement on that secondary deal, which they want enacted in the case that the Board of Governors reject the relocation proposal today.

That deal would include the Maloofs selling 20 percent of the Kings to the Hansen-led group for $120 million, and that’s based on a franchise valuation of $600 million. The Kings would stay in Sacramento for the 2013-14 season with the Maloofs as the owners. The Hansen group is also willing (and able) to pay an unprecedented $115 million relocation fee, a payout of approximately $4 million for every owner, if the owners allow them to purchase the Kings and move them to Seattle next season, raising the stakes yet again in this hundred million dollar exhibit in the business of basketball.

Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson is using the Kings’ history in Sacramento and the NBA’s loyalty to a fan base and city that has supported the Kings fervently, through good times and bad, as his trump card in this saga. The Sacramento group does not seem at all interested in some bidding war for the franchise that’s made it’s home there for last three decades.

Sort through the minutiae as best you can, but the bottom line is one set of fans will wake up tomorrow relieved that they finally have some answers about their team while another group of fans will wake up to the nightmare that their team is either leaving or not coming to town.

Again, the long wait is almost over … we think!

Sacramento Or Seattle? Committees Offer Up Recommendation On Monday

The NBA’s relocation and finance committees will have a conference call on Monday, April 29, and make a recommendation on whether to approve the sale of the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle-based group that would move the team there next season or to reject the sale and keep the team in Sacramento.

After the recommendation is officially delivered to the NBA, the league’s owners will have seven business days to contemplate what to do and to conduct a final vote. That would mean the league could have a final vote as early as Wednesday, May 8, though it does not mean they would vote that day.

The NBA’s Board of Governors did not take a vote on whether to allow the sale from the Maloof Family to a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at its annual meeting earlier this month. The city of Sacramento, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, has put together an ownership group led by software magnate Vivek Ranadive and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov that has put in a bid to buy the team from the Maloofs and keep them in Sacramento.

Both cities have received local approval for building new arenas that would take some public funding as part of the construction costs. Owners on the committees wanted more information concerning the schedules each city has for constructing the building, as well as potential environmental and legal issues each city faces before construction can begin.

The Hansen group reached agreement with the Maloofs in January to purchase 65 percent of the team, on a franchise valuation of $525 million, equaling $341 million for the 65 percent, and gave a $30 million non-refundable deposit to the Maloofs. Earlier this month, after the Ranadive group made it clear to owners it would match the Hansen offer, Hansen announced his group would “voluntarily” raise its franchise valuation of the Kings to $550 million, meaning an additional $16.5 million would go to the Maloofs, for $357.5 million for 65 percent of the team.

The Ranadive group has matched the $525 million valuation, but has not yet opted to match the $550 million valuation. According to a letter released by the Maloofs earlier this month, the Ranadive group has pledged a $15 million non-refundable deposit.

The Maloofs have consistently told the league that they want to take the deal with the Hansen group. But Commissioner David Stern has been adamant that while the NBA generally allows owners to sell to whomever they like, the league will make the determination whether the Kings will be allowed to move.

A vote to approve a sale requires three-quarters of the league’s owners, or 23 of the 30. A vote to approve a franchise move requires a simple majority, or 16 of the league’s 30 owners.

Seattle-Sacramento Tug O’War Gets 3 More Weeks Of Rope


NEW YORK – Calling it a “wrenching” decision, NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters Friday that the thorny issue of the Sacramento Kings’ proposed sale and relocation would be resolved within the next three weeks.

Which way it goes – the Kings staying and playing right where they are or shifting north as the second coming of the Seattle SuperSonics – remains unclear. And, as Stern told it after the latest NBA Board of Governors meeting, it even has him guessing.

“It’s the only time in the last 37 – 47 years – that I haven’t known the answer,” Stern said, playful with his own timeline in response to a reporter’s question, then turning serious about the process. “No, but this is one that’s just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well. And we’ve been working very hard to give it a structure at their direction.”

Whether you believe that assessment might hinge on your view of Stern. Did the most powerful (and some would say controversial) commissioner in sports get that way by behaving like Lady Justice, blindfolded and scales all even-steven? Or is he still the delicatessen owner’s son from Teaneck, N.J., adept at resting a thumb ever-so-slightly on the scale?

Advocates on both sides of the Maloof family‘s possible sale and transfer of the franchise to Seattle interests headed by investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer are skeptical that Stern isn’t shading or influencing the process in some way. If both sides are worried that it’s tilting against them, that at least is worth something.

The bottom line out of the BOG sessions held Thursday and Friday, after diligent work by the relocation and finance committees, was that any tilting would matter after the week of May 6-10. That’s when a FINAL final vote will be taken and the Kings’ fate decided.

Why the wait? Those committees will meet again next week to sort through remaining questions about arena construction and financing and about the particulars of each group’s offer. The report they issue will be sent to the entire Board of Governors, which must have at least seven business days to review it. Also, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson told Friday that he thought his group would be permitted to make a final pitch on that city’s behalf.

All of that pushes the BOG vote out three weeks. A league spokesman said it could be held face-to-face again or via conference call. Any meeting might be back in New York or could be held in one of the active playoff cities. Then and only then would folks watching the NBA Draft Lottery know whether the team card in the big envelope said Sacramento or Seattle.

Said Stern: “What makes this particularly difficult … is the Seattle group has done a lot of work. It’s well funded. It’s got spectacular businessmen who support the community behind it, and the Sacramento group has a very strong base of economic support as well.”

The Hansen-Ballmer group recently upped its offer to $357.5 million for a 65 percent controlling interest in the Kings, which pushed the team’s valuation to $550 million. The Sacramento group led by Johnson and investors Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov also have made a bid that, Stern said Friday, is being treated as a signed agreement. Both offers are “in the ballpark,” Stern said when asked about significant differences.

Both have the same negative, too: Neither the Kings’ current home or an NBA return to Seattle’s KeyArena offers the long-term solution.

“We’ve got two temporary facilities that we’re going to be playing in,” Stern said, “whichever way the board goes, and the quality of those facilities and there’s so many other issues and the critical path based upon environmental reviews, potential lawsuits and the like.”

It’s a hot mess, an either/or dilemma that is likely to leave one of the markets – the capital of California or the former Pacific Northwest home of one of the league’s showcase teams – on the outside looking in.

When asked about expansion to Seattle as a compromise solution, Stern said: “I haven’t heard that in any shape or form, particularly when we don’t know at this time what the next television network contract would be.” Remember, beyond dilution of talent and scheduling and alignment concerns, divvying up the hundreds of millions of dollars a 31st NBA franchise would pay for entry would mean cutting another slice from the broadcast revenues in the future.

Then there is Stern’s legacy, which will be sealed next Feb. 1 when he resigns after 30 years. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver has been tabbed as his successor.

Said Stern: “We have expended not only enormous man‑hours but enormous sums of money for outside consultants. This will be by far our most extensive review of anything like this in the league’s history.”

Among other items on the BOG agenda Thursday and Friday:

– Reports on revenue-sharing and the impact of the collective bargaining agreement were heard. “Very upbeat in terms of improving team operations and the competitiveness of the league,” Sterm said.

Jeannie Buss was approved as controlling governor of the Los Angeles Lakers, as the family continues its succession of late owner Jerry Buss. Also, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert and partners purchased additional interest in the Cavaliers franchise.

– The governors “had fun” with a report on officiating, while formally welcoming former NBA player and league exec Mike Bantom as the new head of officiating.

– A report from the competition committee was educational for the owners in highlighting the trends of increased 3-point reliance – from no teams that averaged 20 or more attempts from the arc in 2001 to a dozen that did so this season, Stern said. That, in turn, has opened up the game to the bosses’ satisfaction.

– Security matters also were discussed, especially in the wake of the events this week in Boston. The bombings at the Boston Marathon led to the cancellation of Tuesday’s Pacers-Celtics game in that city. The NBA will be making a “significant contribution,” the commissioner said, to the One Fund established to aid victims of that terrorist attack.

– Stern said he remains optimistic that human-growth hormones will be added to the NBA’s anti-drug testing program but that addition involves cooperation of the National Basketball Players Association, which is busy finding a replacement for executive director Billy Hunter.


The Business Of Buying An NBA Team

HANG TIME WEST – Now the group trying to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle has increased its offer in what is either the latest smart strategy move to put disorganized Sacramento on the clock with another problem (the Seattle viewpoint), or the desperate act of an operation that knows a big lead is about turn into defeat and is resorting to Hail Mary passes (the Sacramento viewpoint).

The $25-million bump by the always-proactive enterprise from Washington state would push the sale price for the Maloof family’s 65 percent of the team to $357.5 million – and put the total valuation of the Kings at $550 million. The Sacramento Kings. The Sacramento Kings annually residing in the lottery. The Sacramento Kings rated by Forbes in 2012 as the 23rd-most valuable franchise in the league, with an estimated worth of $300 million.

Those Sacramento Kings.

Except, in what has become the factor too often overlooked, no one is trying to buy a basketball team. That goes for both sides, the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group aiming for the reincarnation of the SuperSonics and the Sacramento counter-strike led by mayor Kevin Johnson and Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov as majority investors trying to keep a civic institution in town. Neither party is paying a record amount for an NBA franchise, the prorated equivalent of $100 million more than what the Warriors sold for in 2010, for the chance to decide what to do about DeMarcus Cousins.

They are trying to buy a piece. As much as they are sports fans with the chance for the ultimate toy, the Kings are the catalyst for a much larger plan. The Washington Generals would be worth $550 million.

Both cities have arena plans. Seattle’s projected building is close to the stadiums of the Mariners and Seahawks. In Sacramento, though, the bigger picture is the revitalization of an entire downtown area. No NBA team, no arena. No arena, no economic injection from construction. (Or at least no arena of this scale – Johnson has said his city will need a new entertainment complex with or without professional sports as an anchor tenant.)

Also, Ron Burkle, once part of the Sacramento bid for the arena and team before a conflict of interest forced him to drop out, has committed to being part of development around the arena. Burkle invested in your city is a very good thing.

In financial terms alone, apart from the emotional value of the only major-league team in town, losing the Kings would have a dramatic effect. The team is a marketing tool that helps Sacramento stay on the national map, and some local leaders through the years have expressed worry that convention business would suffer without the loud presence of the NBA.

How much is having the league back in Seattle worth to Hansen-Ballmer? According to Chris Daniels of King 5, the NBC affiliate there, the group has alreaady spent $100 million just to put itself in position for the honor of setting the value of a 28-53 team at a record level. This is, of course, about much more than the 28-53 team that could be playing its final game in Sacramento when the Kings face the Clippers on Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena. The Seattle group envisions $40 million a year from local television alone, Daniels reports.

The original plan was to have Sacramento-Seattle resolved when the Board of Governors meets Thursday and Friday in New York. When both cities made presentations to a group of owners and league officials April 3, commissioner David Stern raised the possibility of the answer not coming within days of the end of the regular season. Tuesday, it became official: no vote this week, and no new date set.

NBA Does Not Consider Legal Action Serious Threat in Kings Case

HOUSTON – The NBA does not expect legal challenges, whether from minority owners of the Kings or groups in Seattle, to be a serious impediment to a potential move, league sources said Thursday as the debate over the proposed sale and relocation to Washington state moved to All-Star weekend.

While Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been in constant contact with top NBA officials, he is expected in town as part of lobbying efforts for the daunting task of convincing owners to vote down the sale of the Kings to a Seattle-based group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. Others efforts in the California capital include possible legal action from the minority owners who claim their initial agreement came with a right of first refusal on a purchase if the team is ever put up for sale.

But, sources familiar with the thinking high in the league office said, those possible roadblocks, along with lawsuits in Seattle trying to stop construction of the proposed arena, could be an afterthought by summer. It is not clear whether NBA leadership, with several lawyers among the ranks, thinks the legal action has no merit or whether the concerns will be addressed in other ways.

Also Thursday, sources said every indication is that the vote on the sale of controlling interest in the Kings from the Maloof family to the Hansen-Ballmer group will be held as scheduled at the Board of Governors meeting April 18-19 in New York. The BoG could rule before then to approve or deny, either by conference call or e-mail ballot, but people close to the situation told the issue will likely be decided at the regularly scheduled full meeting.

The Basketball Impact For The Kings

If you thought the Kings were wandering through a thick haze before, imagine the layers of uncertainty now that the team has been sold, sort of.

Transitions to new owners can be tricky on the basketball operations side under the best of circumstances – a pretty settled roster, a relatively quiet time on the calendar – and this is definitely not the best of circumstances. This is a losing operation desperate for traction with personnel decisions looming, varying degrees of involvement from the out-going owners depending on the day and the mood swings, and leaders in Sacramento weighing several counter-strikes, including legal action, to block the sale to a group that would move the team to Seattle.

P.S.: The trade deadline is Feb. 21, and the potential sale won’t be close to untangled by then.

Normally when a franchise is in escrow, the current owners, officially in charge until the Board of Governors approves the sale, continue to handle business, but in strong consultation with the incoming owners. It’s possible something would have been written into the agreement about veto power on decisions, it’s possible it would have been a courtesy. But, for example, outgoing Chris Cohan was not going to do a sign-and-trade for David Lee to come to the Warriors on an $80 million deal without a nod of approval from pending boss Joe Lacob.

This time? The Maloof family has agreed to sell to a group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. But Sacramento officials are lining up investors for a counter-bid in a last-ditch hope the Board of Governors votes down Hansen-Ballmer. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been promised a chance to appear before the BoG votes in April and commissioner David Stern is meeting with potential owners who would keep the team in the California capital. There is no “normally.”

The Kings have needs – defense, rebounding, shooting, playmaking – but only the future of Tyreke Evans is an issue on the clock. The former starting point guard, former starting small forward and current starting shooting guard becomes a restricted free agent July 1, making this the last chance to be in control of the possibility of getting something in return for a key player. If they have decided to match any offer sheet, which is not the case, that would be one thing. Evans would be coming back to the “Seattamento SuperKings” and there would be no pause heading toward Feb. 21. But letting free agency play out means management will have trade options greatly reduced if he signs a deal elsewhere and Sacreattle chooses not to match. The only trade can be with the team Evans has picked and there’s no guarantee that signing club would have anything of value to swap.

DeMarcus Cousins, meanwhile, is not pressing. There is no indication Geoff Petrie, the president of basketball operations, has had any serious trade conversations, no matter how many bad rumors got started this time. (To the Celtics for a package headed by Jared Sullinger? Good one. Because what the Kings really want to do about six months after investing a lottery pick on Thomas Robinson and big money to re-sign Jason Thompson is move their best talent for another power forward, and one with a concerning injury history at that.)

The real updates remain on the business front. Ron Burkle, the kind of big-money guy Sacramento has been hoping to have at the top of the ticket to present to the Board of Governors, met with Stern in New York on Thursday in a definitive statement of interest by the Pittsburgh Penguins owner.

The development, while noteworthy, is little more than an emotional boost to Sacramento fans latching on to any positive. In reality, landing investors and kick-starting an arena project, now possibly at a different location than what had been in place from the brief 2012 agreement with the Maloofs, was never the biggest challenge. It was, and still is, convincing the Board of Governors not to like what appears to be an ideal bid from Seattle. The money from Sacramento interests will be there in the end. But so will the Seattle group, and if the Board approves the Hansen-Ballmer purchase, Burkle or anyone heading efforts in the current Kings home won’t have a team to buy.

Sacramento Lines Up Minority Investors

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson took the first tangible steps Tuesday in a stand to keep the Kings, announcing that 19 local businesses or people had committed $1 million each to become minority owners and saying he hopes to have a majority investor, the key piece to the late-game rally, lined up by the end of the week.

A 20th person at $1 million was later added.

The news conference was more pep rally than anything, complete with fans cheering on Johnson’s comments, some wearing Kings gear and holding pro-Sacramento signs while standing behind the mayor on camera. Left unsaid was the fact that the group will be trying to buy a team that has already been sold.

The Sacramento plan still being formed will become a factor only if the Board of Governors votes down the purchase by a Seattle group that plans to move the Kings to Washington before the start of next season. The Seattle interests, headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, had closed its deal by the time Johnson had revealed a small fraction of the money that will be required if Sacramento does get a chance.

There is, Johnson said, “a sense of urgency in this community and the time is ticking. I think all of you know that. I was supposed to be in Washington for the inauguration. I cancelled my trip. We have been here working our tail off, and everybody here in some shape or form is doing everything that we possibly can to keep our team here.”

Comissioner David Stern has told Johnson the mayor will have a chance to address the Board of Governors in April before a vote. But if the Board – one representative from every team, usually an owner – approves the Hansen-Ballmer offer, Sacramento’s hopes will have ended without an official bid to the Maloof family.

While Johnson has a lot of credibility around the league as a mayor, not as a former All-Star point guard with the Suns, the chances of Hansen-Ballmer being denied are considered slim at best. Most any other city on the other side of the vote and Sacramento has a chance. But the Seattle proposal, with everything from deep-pocket owners to a region with a history of supporting sports to a new arena being planned to corporate backing at an international level, is a daunting opponent.

“(The proposed majority owner) will be revealed soon,” Johnson said at the City Hall announcement. “I will say this. This was a first step, because we wanted our community to be the one leading the way, and that’s what we did. We only found out this news (that the Maloofs were close to selling) a week ago. For us to rally at the speed that we did says an awful lot.”

He said the city is making “great progress” on someone who will bring the real financial backing to the deal.

What Next For Seattle And Sacramento?


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.

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.