The NBA moved a significant step closer in deciding the fate of the Kings when the league’s relocation committee yesterday unanimously recommended that the NBA BOG deny the application of the Kings to relocate to Seattle. The full NBA BOG will vote on the recommendation during the week of May 13. Relocation requires a majority (16) vote. While the recommendation does not formally seal the fate of the Seattle group’s bid led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, it serves as a blow to the group’s effort to move the team (John Lombardo, Staff Writer). In Sacramento, Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak in a front-page piece note while "clearly elated, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was careful not to declare victory at a press conference attended by cheering fans." It "remained unclear" yesterday whether Kings Owner the Maloof family would "accept the backup offer from a group of investors angling to keep the Kings in Sacramento." There was "no word" yesterday on whether the Maloofs and Kings bidder and Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadive were "any closer to making a deal." Johnson said that he "didn't know when the Sacramento contingent would attempt to nail down the deal with the Maloofs." A source said that the Ranadive group "intends to put 50 percent of the purchase price in an escrow account by Friday." The source also said that Qualcomm founder the Jacobs brothers would "become vice chairmen of the Kings, assuming the Ranadive purchase is completed." The NBA finance advisory committee "didn't vote on whether to approve the actual sale to Hansen and Ballmer." It "wasn't clear why" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/30).
NOT DONE YET: In Seattle, Bob Condotta in a front-page piece notes Hansen last night released a statement "saying the battle is not over." Johnson said, "I still think Seattle is deserving of an NBA team. Just not ours.” NBA Commissioner David Stern was "seen as helping Sacramento revamp its ownership group ... to get into position to make a bid that could keep the team" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/30). SPORTSPRESSNW.com's Art Thiel noted Hansen said that he will "see through his purchase" of the Kings and that he has "numerous options." Hansen: "We plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governors meeting in mid-May.” Hansen "did not specify his options." It has been "speculated that a denial of relocation could be grounds for a claim of tortious interference with the transaction" between Hansen and the Maloof family. But litigation against the NBA is "considered by some legal experts a risky maneuver to get in the door" (SPORTSPRESSNW.com, 4/29). NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote it is "not clear what steps the league could take if the Maloofs opt not to negotiate with the Ranadive group or sell to it." Stern "reiterated earlier this month that the league does generally allow owners to sell to whomever they want, provided the new owners' finances are in place, even though the league decides whether teams will be allowed to move." What Hansen and Seattle "do from here is unclear." Sources said that legal action against the NBA is a "near impossibility, given that the NBA requires prospective owners to sign agreements that prohibit them from taking legal action if their bids are denied" (NBA.com, 4/29).
FROM THE COMMISSIONER'S DESK: Stern during last night's Pacers-Hawks game said, "I didn't see a unanimous vote coming, but they decided that as strong as the Seattle bid was, and it was very strong, there's some benefit that it should be given to a city that has supported us for so long and has stepped up to contribute to building a new building as well.” Stern said the “discussion” for a possible expansion team in Seattle “will have to wait for (NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver) to oversee. Right now, expansion is not on the agenda. But I would never say never and we'll see what happens. It doesn't make a lot of sense unless we know what the new TV deal is” (“Pacers-Hawks,” NBA TV, 4/29).
TO THE INCUMBENT GO THE SPOILS: USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes the "power of incumbency ultimately helped Sacramento's cause more than anything else." With Stern "set to retire next February, he had no desire to see a sixth team change cities during his 30-year tenure." That position is "backed by the league's bylaws, which, in essence, only make it possible for a team to relocate when the current market has proved to be untenable" (USA TODAY, 4/30). SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote if the Maloofs are "shortchanged and if the new ownership of the Kings struggles to build an arena as planned in downtown Sacramento, then this is going to go down as a highly controversial decision that was set forth by Stern." But it should "come as no major surprise that Sacramento will be keeping its team." In the end, the NBA has "held fast to its newfound principle of not abandoning loyal markets." It is a "good principle." However, with more franchises "expected to be sold in the years ahead, it remains to be seen whether the NBA will move forward consistent and true -- or whether Seattle will look back someday and realize it was a victim to the exception instead of the rule" (SI.com, 4/29). ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst noted the NBA's relocation committee is headed by Thunder Owner Clay Bennett, "already a reviled figure in Seattle." The other members on the committee are Heat Owner Micky Arison, Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis, Jazz CEO Greg Miller, Pacers Owner Herb Simon, T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor and Spurs Owner & NBA BOG Chair Peter Holt (ESPN.com, 4/30). In a roundtable discussion, ESPN's J.A. Adande writes he does not agree with the BOG's vote "because it's not in the league's best interests for the long term." Adande: "Did you see the $2 billion local TV deal the Seattle Mariners just landed? That kind of money isn't available in Sacramento." ESPN's Larry Coon writes as the "incumbent, Sacramento deserved the opportunity to do all the things necessary to keep the team in town, which it appears they did." Meanwhile, ESPN's Windhorst writes Seattle is a "better market and if you were placing an expansion team between the cities, you'd pick Seattle." But Sacramento did "everything it could do to keep the team, something Seattle did not do in 2008" (ESPN.com, 4/29).
KEVIN'S CRUSADE: In Seattle, Jayson Jenks writes the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento has been Johnson's "crusade stretching months and even years." Johnson said that he "doesn't know what the next step in the process is, but he said he expects the team's new ownership group to be in constant talks with the NBA." He received a "glowing reception when he walked into" his press conference yesterday. Some in the crowd started chanting "Sac-ra-ment-o!" and someone yelled "run for governor!" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/30). NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper writes it was a "moment beyond words." Owners "never go against the wishes of one of their own wanting to sell, as long as the money checks out. Period. It just doesn’t happen. And yet it just did." There was "no reason for the relocation committee to turn down what appeared to be a dream bid from Seattle ... except one. The opponent" (NBA.com, 4/30). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes Johnson "has really done something here." He has "prodded and pressed and strategically angled to put Sacramento in the driver's seat to keep a valuable regional asset and its only major league sports franchise" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/30). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes it is "one of the more remarkable comebacks in NBA history" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/30). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes the city "pulled off the comeback that beats all comebacks" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/30).
PLAYING BY THE RULES? In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes under the header, "NBA Changes The Rules, Breaks Hearts Of Seattle Fans Again." Sonics fans five years ago when the team left for Oklahoma City "learned that loyalty didn't matter." Now, loyalty "helped Sacramento keep the Kings." Brewer: "What kind of system is this?" Who "turns down an ownership group of Hansen, Steve Ballmer and Erik and Peter Nordstrom, which would've immediately been one of the strongest and wealthiest in the league?" Who "allows two cities to engage in an epic bidding war with preposterous millions thrown around and then doesn't have the foresight to consider expansion?" Stern "used Seattle as a pawn to find local ownership in Sacramento and revive a dead arena plan." The NBA is a "liar's game, full of hypocrites, improper alliances, a lack of financial creativity and a commissioner who is more powerful than the owners he represents." Stern "revises the rules according to his whims." It "seems Seattle was destined to lose in this ever-changing game. We're back in a familiar place with that spirit-crushing league" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/30). SPORTSPRESSNW.com's Thiel wrote Stern "didn’t want to make the same mistake twice." But rather than "screw over a second city with relocation, he has screwed over, at least temporarily, the same city twice." The fact that the NBA found "no significant flaws in the proposal by Hansen, and was the better financial deal, was never going to be enough to trump Sacramento’s incumbency -- as long as the counteroffer came close" (SPORTSPRESSNW.com, 4/29).
BUCK STOPS HERE? In Milwaukee, Don Walker wrote the NBA's vote to keep the Kings in Sacramento "has some people talking again" about the Bucks. Legal analyst Michael McCann last night in an e-mail wrote that the "lack of a movement for a new arena in Milwaukee makes the Bucks a potential target for an out-of-town owner." McCann wrote, "While Sen. (Herb) Kohl has squashed rumors he would sell the Bucks, those rumors seem to pop up with enough regularity there may be something there." But McCann wrote that the "more likely outcome is the Bucks staying put in Milwaukee, with a new arena" (JSONLINE.com, 4/29).