As of last night, there were "no reports that Sacramento had made an updated formal, written offer" to the NBA to keep the Kings, and it was "unclear if its offer would match the increased bid made" by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and the Seattle group bidding on the team on Friday, according to a front-page piece by Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES (4/15). In Sacramento, Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak noted the Sacramento group "held back" from "delivering a counter to an increased bid for the franchise from Seattle, instead portraying the new offer as a move of desperation that is unlikely to sway the NBA's decision on which city will get the franchise." It remained "unclear ... when the Sacramento group would file its own formal and written offer for the team -- or whether that bid would match the new offer on the table from" the Seattle group led by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. N.Y. Sports attorney Irwin Raij said that the NBA has the "right to accept a lower offer." Kings Owner the Maloof family on Saturday was "quiet ... about whether they were still open to considering a backup bid from Sacramento" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/14).
RAISING THE STAKES: The BEE's Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak noted the Seattle group "announced late Friday they have raised their offer for the team." The announcement by Hansen came "hours after Sacramento's investor group ... made it clear it would match Hansen's original offer." Hansen on his website Friday said that he has "increased his offer" by $25M, but there was "some confusion about how much additional money the family would get" for its 65% share. Hansen said that his new offer "raises the total value of the team" by $25M -- to $550M. That "implies that the payout to the Maloofs would actually increase" by $16M -- to a total of $357M. A source said that the Maloofs were "considering extending their original 5 p.m. Friday deadline for getting a formal bid from Sacramento." Another source said meeting the Maloofs' deadline "is not an NBA requirement" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/13). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger noted any other "financial comparison between the two offers also would have to account for there being no relocation fee associated with a successful bid by the Sacramento group to keep the team in Northern California" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/12).
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE...: USA TODAY's Sam Amick noted the Sacramento group, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson and Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadive, has been "operating with the understanding that the league would not allow the situation to evolve into a bidding war." It is "unclear how the league could keep that from happening, however, not only because of the anti-trust lawsuits that could come into play but because owners around the league would almost certainly be in favor of additional value being brought into their high-priced club." If a bidding war "does indeed ensue, then Seattle would be in phenomenal standing considering the deep pockets" of Ballmer (USATODAY.com, 4/13). The SEATTLE TIMES' Condotta noted the chances the Kings' future "will get settled" when the NBA BOG meets "appeared to improve Saturday when it was revealed that the NBA's combined relocation and finance committee will begin deliberating ... over the Kings on Wednesday." That meeting comes "one day in advance of the regularly scheduled BOG meetings, which are Thursday and Friday." However, "no official announcement of a decision ... will apparently come until Friday at the earliest" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/14).
THE TIME IS NOW: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote it is "time" for NBA Commissioner David Stern to "pick up the crayons, restore some sanity to his league, and convince his owners there is only one way to keep two terrific cities from tearing each other apart: expansion." While the Kings' "fate ultimately rests with the league's 29 other owners ... never underestimate the clout of the commissioner." It is "time for Stern to call in his chits and press the flesh one more time." It means "preserving the Kings and reinventing the SuperSonics, while strengthening the league's overall ownership" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/14). Also in Sacramento, Marcos Breton wrote any relocation "begins with an acknowledgment that the franchise and its market are no longer compatible." That is "not the case here." The relationship between the Maloof family and Sacramento "ran its course a long time ago." But the relationship between the NBA and the Sacramento market has been "strong and promises to grow stronger still with a new ownership group that would build the team a new arena downtown." There is "no good reason to move the Kings from Sacramento." That "reality trumps Seattle's many virtues." That leaves "only the question of which market will make more money for NBA owners," and the answer "simply isn't clear enough to grant Seattle the team." A "wealthy and motivated ownership group in Sacramento would find revenue possibilities that the current owners have lacked the capacity to identify and cultivate." A new Sacramento ownership group also could "craft far more lucrative television and naming rights deals than the current owners" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/14).
SPLITTING HAIRS: In Seattle, Chris Daniels reported Stern, "widely thought to be a strong supporter of moving the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, has been working to bolster efforts to keep the Kings in place." Sources said that a "split has emerged between Stern and team owners over the fate of the Kings." The sources said that Stern has been "personally seeking investors to join a new Kings ownership group" (KING5.com, 4/10). Also in Seattle, Nick Eaton wrote Stern is "not particularly liked in Seattle." Sonics fans are "once again at the mercy of Stern and his NBA." Eaton, citing Daniels' report, said, "As if Sonics fans needed another reason to dislike Stern" (SEATTLEPI.com, 4/11). SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote the NBA's "heart says Sacramento, and its head says Seattle." The '08 "departure of the Sonics has appeared to influence Stern's approach to the movement of franchises -- and therefore made it more difficult for Seattle to regain an NBA franchise." An NBA owner said, "He can't have a second incident of helping a team leave a market. Seattle was bad enough. And I'm sure he feels that Seattle had a chance to keep the team the first time around." The owner added, "The bottom line is that the incumbent always gets the last shot. You don't want teams moving around" (SI.com, 4/13).
BLOCKED SHOT: In Seattle, Lynn Thompson wrote Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh “dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking construction" of a new arena in the city's Sodo neighborhood. Middaugh “determined that there are too many unknowns to the proposed arena deal to rule now.” The lawsuit, filed in January, “alleged the arrangement” to construct the arena calls for $200M in public money "to be repaid through arena revenue, violates the terms" of Seattle's Initiative 91. The initiative states that the city "must make a profit on investments" into sports facilities. Middaugh said the city “must still complete an environmental review and final documents.” She added that “only when the final terms are known can the court determine whether the agreement meets the terms of I-91” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 4/12). A SEATTLE TIMES editorial stated the “assumption” is the Kings have “a home to move to in Seattle’s Sodo district.” But that is “presumptuous at best.” Putting a third sports facility “into the city’s industrial zone is no casual decision.” A “hasty decision to build another sports venue would likely compromise public investments made to support the efficient movement of freight in and out of Sodo” (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/14).