There was a “celebratory feel in the statements from those involved” in the sale of the NBA Kings to a Seattle group headed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, but there also was “caution that a few significant hurdles remain,” according to a front-page piece by Condotta & Miletich of the SEATTLE TIMES. The sale of the team by Kings Owner the Maloof family "still must be approved in April” by the NBA BOG, which could also “hear a counteroffer” from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Johnson is “attempting to put an ownership group together to keep the team in Sacramento.” The team to relocate for next season must “file notice to do so” by March 1. In addition, an environmental-impact study on the proposed new arena “must be completed, and there are two lawsuits attempting to block the arena.” However, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn “sounded confident none of that would get in the way of the eventual return of the NBA.” Condotta & Miletich note Hansen reportedly “bought a 65 percent share of the team, with the team valued” at $525M. That would put the Hansen group’s purchase “at roughly” $340M. But Johnson is “thought likely to unveil details of a new ownership group that could match the Seattle offer and also build an arena in Sacramento that could allow the team to stay where it has played” since ‘85. Johnson will be “hoping to repeat what he did in 2011, when he was able to help convince the NBA not to let the Maloofs relocate the team to Anaheim, Calif.” But many national NBA analysts “portrayed those efforts as a longshot” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). NBA TV's David Aldridge notes it is "conceivable" that Hansen could buy the team, and "if the league decides that they want him to stay there and get an arena built in Sacramento it could happen." Aldridge: "But I think that’s a long shot” (“NBA GameTime,” NBA TV, 1/21). USA TODAY’s Roger Yu reports if the deal is completed, Ballmer would be “the richest owner in the NBA,” with a reported net worth of $15.9B (USA TODAY, 1/22).
SACTO NOT DONE YET: In Seattle, Bob Condotta writes Sacramento's "hopes lie now" with the battle that Johnson “promises to continue to keep the Kings.” Johnson has “vowed that he will succeed in putting together an ownership group that can match Hansen's offer and also get an arena deal on track.” One potential member of the ownership group is 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov. AEG yesterday reiterated that it “would again take a role in helping build and run the arena, as had been agreed in the plan scuttled last year by the Maloofs.” Johnson late yesterday afternoon wrote on his Twitter account, "I keep getting asked do we still have a shot? You better believe it." But Condotta notes several media reports “indicated that shot is a half-court heave at the buzzer, at best” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). In Sacramento, Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis note by “announcing a binding agreement” yesterday to sell its controlling interest in the Kings, the Maloofs have “forced Johnson to quickly pull together a bid to keep the team in Sacramento.” Johnson and his advisers said that they have been “approached by at least three ultrawealthy investors." But it is “questionable whether the league would reject the Seattle deal, which puts a record price tag on an NBA team.” Kings limited partner John Kehriotis, who owns 12% of the team, said the potential record-setting price for the team is “probably the only reason” the Maloofs are selling (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/22). But CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said, "Kevin Johnson can give the speech of his life and it’s going to make zero difference.” Stern is allowing Johnson to speak to the NBA BOG because Stern “doesn’t want to have his fingerprints on another team leaving." Ratto: "He wants to appear to be the guy who says, ‘Look, I’ll give you anything you want but I can’t control what the Maloofs want to do with this and I can’t control what the other 29 owners want to do’" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/21).
UNDER REVIEW: USA TODAY’s Sam Amick reports NBA Commissioner David Stern “could grant an extension on the relocation deadline if necessary as a way of allowing more time to have the board review the proposed sale.” It is “unknown if the review and likely approval would be at the board’s annual mid-April meeting or at another earlier time” (USA TODAY, 1/22). In N.Y., Belson & Beck report it is “unclear” whether the $340M purchase price “includes Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento or the money needed to pay off the Maloofs’ loans” from Sacramento and the NBA. The NBA BOG “would also need to set a relocation fee, which can be any number it chooses” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/22).
ONCE AND FUTURE HOMES: In Seattle, Nick Eaton wrote if the team moves, the newly renamed SuperSonics “will be playing for two to three years at KeyArena while a new venue is constructed.” KeyArena “needs to be updated so it can handle NBA games again.” Hansen said that KeyArena “needs refurbished locker rooms, better high-priced suites, an upgraded electronic ‘backbone’ for broadcast media, more TV camera positions, a refinished lower seating bowl and a number of other improvements.” McGinn said, “If the NBA approves it, I’m sure we will be able to figure out a way to make KeyArena ready for them.” Eaton noted Seattle “owns the old venue, and continues to be responsible for general upkeep” (SEATTLEPI.com, 1/21). In Seattle, Thompson & Heffter report two legal challenges “threaten construction of a new $490 million arena proposed for Sodo.” In addition, “potentially conflicting schedules” with current KeyArena tenants, including the Seattle Univ. men's basketball team, “have to be worked out.” Meanwhile, Seattle is “moving ahead with the environmental review and an area-wide freight-mobility study” for the new arena (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22).
HOCKEY NEXT? The SEATTLE TIMES’ Condotta reports the acquisition of an NHL team -- which Hansen “has said throughout the process he would also like to have in Seattle -- remains uncertain.” AHL Chicago Wolves Owner Don Levin, who has said that he "would be interested in helping bring the NHL to Seattle,” said yesterday that he is “not currently involved in any efforts to procure a team to play in the new arena, or anywhere else.” Hansen has said that he "would not want to own an NHL team but would help facilitate efforts to bring one to Seattle” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). ESPN.com’s Craig Custance asked what the Kings deal would “mean for the NHL’s future in Seattle?” A source said, “It’s really too early to say” (ESPN.com, 1/21).
SUPERSONICS RETURN: The SEATTLE TIMES reports SuperSonics “banners, trophies and retired jerseys remain in Seattle, and so will the team’s name.” Thunder Owner Clay Bennett “agreed not to use” the SuperSonics’ name and logos when he moved the franchise in '08 and to “turn over the rights to a new owner at no cost if the NBA approved a return to Seattle.” There is “no doubt Hansen, who grew up a Sonics fan in Seattle, will keep the name” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/22). SI.com’s Ian Thomsen wrote under the header, “Return Of Sonics Good News For Everyone -- except Sacramento” (SI.com, 1/21).
BOON FOR WARRIORS? Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Jim Kozimor said Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob has to be “quietly pleased about this move,” because their “tentacles just spread out to the 916 area code.” Kozimor added, “You’ll now see Warriors games in Sacramento. There still is an appetite for the NBA and his piece of the pie just got a little bigger.” Ratto said a “little bigger but not a lot bigger.” Ratto: “This is not Golden State’s gain, this is Sacramento’s loss and Seattle’s big win” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/21).