Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that the group bidding to keep the NBA Kings in the city “will push to put a finalized sales deal in front of” the NBA BOG when it meets in mid-May, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson said that he and the group “think the path is now clear for them to negotiate a deal” with Kings Owner the Maloof family, which “wants to sell its majority stake in the team.” The Seattle group, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, has “vowed to continue the fight and plans to take its case” to the BOG at its meeting. The Maloof family has “refused to make any comment this week on whether they are willing to sell to the Sacramento group, whose bid they’ve repeatedly dismissed as inferior.” The NBA finance committee under league rules “retains the right to vote on its recommendation on the Seattle sale at some point before May 15, but no vote has been scheduled.” Sources this week said that the Sacramento group has “agreed to put 50 percent of the $341 million it’s offering for the Maloofs’ controlling interest in the team into an escrow account by Friday.” The idea is to “show that the group has the money to seal the deal, and convince the Maloofs that its bid is serious.” The Sacramento bid is “estimated at” $341M, or $16M “less than the Seattle offer” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/1).
HANSEN'S OPTIONS: In Seattle, Bob Condotta cites a source as saying that Hansen “might try to convince the league to let him buy the Kings and operate them in Sacramento while the city gets its arena proposal settled.” If it “ran into problems, he could then try to relocate the team to Seattle.” Sources said that Hansen “at the least” would “want to make the league publicly deny him the right to buy the team.” A source said that the Maloof family “would still push the league to approve the sale to Hansen’s group.” Approval would “require yes votes from 23 of 30 owners.” A source said that Hansen was “still trying to determine exactly what happened Monday.” One thing that “apparently caught him by surprise was the fact that only the Relocation Committee voted -- a committee that is chaired by former Sonics owner Clay Bennett -- and not the 12-member Finance/Relocation Committee, as had been expected.” A source said that Hansen “could also just be attempting to stay in the game should something happen to throw the Sacramento bid off-course from now until the BOG vote” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/1). Also in Seattle, Danny Westneat writes Seattle “finds itself scorned by the NBA a second time in five years.” The question “now is: How should we respond?” Hansen “seems to realize that just being cooperative and well-financed is a snoozer to the NBA.” In a “snake pit, you don’t get noticed unless you bare some fangs of your own.” Westneat: “The nicey-nice is over. It feels like this is about to get uglier. As it usually must in the National Blackmail Association” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/1).
A BOW TO THE CROWD: In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson wrote “champions of a free market” might “have some problems with the greater relocation committee’s vote.” But sports “is -- should be -- a little different than other realms of business.” It is “still business, at times cold and cruel, about tall stacks of cash, but customers of more routine businesses don’t cheer their guts out for the success of the product line, don’t wave pennants or buy and wear gear with company logos on it.” They do not “fill arenas flowing with emotion and community pride, or get daily coverage of their successes and failures splashed all over pages of sports sections.” A lack of enthusiasm for the Kings “shouldn’t be held against the fans, who have shown in the past they will support a competitive franchise.” They are “fans, not fools.” The relocation committee’s vote was “simply the right thing to do” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/30).
THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN: SI's Lee Jenkins writes, "What separates the NBA from the NFL and MLB is its commitment to mid-sized cities that otherwise could never have attracted franchises." The NBA "went to San Antonio and Salt Lake City, Portland and Orlando, Memphis and Oklahoma City, and thrived in each as the only show in town." Seattle is "bigger than Sacramento," so it "might seem a better market." But the NBA "challenges such assumptions." From '85-86 to '07-08, when Seattle and Sacramento "both had teams, the Kings sold out 19 seasons even though they had winning records in only nine of them." The SuperSonics "sold out six seasons even though they were .500 or better in 16." Over 23 seasons, Sacramento "outdrew Seattle 20 times" (SI, 5/6 issue).