NBA Committees Hold Firm On Kings Relocation Despite Seattle's Updated Bid
The NBA's relocation and finance/advisory committees met yesterday by conference call ahead of a formal meeting tomorrow to determine the fate of the Kings, and the meeting was "'really a conversation' that ended with no new recommendations," according to a source cited in a front-page piece by Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. That suggests the relocation committee's 7-0 vote last month "against moving the team is still in effect, despite a flurry of aggressive moves over the weekend by the group trying to move the Kings to Seattle." The two NBA panels met in an effort to "digest a burst of news out of Seattle" on Friday that saw the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group raise its bid for the Kings to $406M. Hansen and Ballmer have "made a backup deal with the Maloofs to buy a minority stake in the team." Also, a report from the weekend stated that the Maloofs "would refuse to do business" with the Vivek Ranadive-led bid to keep the team in Sacramento. However, a source said that the Maloofs "hadn't ruled it out." Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis report as of yesterday, there was "still no deal between the Maloofs and Ranadive as an alternative to Hansen-Ballmer." If there is "no agreement in place" by tomorrow, it seems "unlikely the board of governors could approve the Ranadive group as the new owners" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/14). ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst noted Ranadive's group "appears to have gotten the support of league owners because it has worked with local government officials to secure" more than $250M in funding for a new downtown arena. A source said that though there have been "concerns among owners over the hastily-formed Ranadive group and its arena deal, the group has met some recent benchmarks that have satisfied the league" (ESPN.com, 5/13).
LOOKING FOR A WIN/WIN SITUATION: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson this morning on "The Dan Patrick Show" said he communicates with Kings co-Owner George Maloof on a "semi-regular basis" and that he has a "good relationship" with the brothers. Johnson said, "I've told them all along that I realize their bottom line is they want to run a business and sell it and have it be a profitable transaction. I want to make sure that no matter what transpires on that end that we keep the team in Sacramento." Johnson said of the Sacramento market, "I don't think that there's any doubt that this is a proven market, it's been a great partner for the NBA." With the Seattle group raising its bid for the team, Johnson said, "We've been very respectful of the NBA process. The process that was laid out to us was if you matched the offer at ($525M), if you can show and demonstrate that you can build a brand new arena downtown, you have the public/private partnership lined up and that's your market, we'll continue to support the Kings like we have done for 28 years. There's nothing else we can do as a city, so some of those decisions are going to be outside of our control." He did acknowledge it would be "unprecedented in the history of the NBA" to relocate a team from one city "when a community has done everything that was asked of it" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 5/14).
NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE: Sacramento Bee columnist Marcus Breton said he did not understand why the Seattle group would offer to acquire a minority stake in the team that would leave the Maloofs in charge of the run the team, as it is "pretty hard to imagine the Maloofs remaining as the owners of the Sacramento Kings, in business with Chris Hansen, the guy trying to move them to Seattle." Breton: "Would the NBA allow that to happen? It seems far-fetched, but with each passing day we reach a different level of absurdity, so you can't close the book on that completely. But that would seem to be a pretty nuclear option. The Maloofs at this point -- 'hate' is not too strong a word for how people feel about them in Sacramento" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/13).
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes if the NBA BOG "buckles ... and buys into Hansen/Ballmer's continued attempts to sweeten the deal" or wilts under the "perverse threats of a backup plan and the Maloofs' continued ownership in Sacramento," the "logical conclusion is that team sales indeed are bidding wars." Billionaires are "certainly entitled to make a buck." But "free enterprise is not without its price." At what point does it become "acceptable for billionaires to crush viable small- and mid-sized-market franchises, taking all the fun out of sports?" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/14). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes under the header, "Maloofs' Cunning Backup Plan Puts NBA In No-Win Situation With Kings" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/14). Meanwhile, NBA.com's David Aldridge pleaded, "Can the Kings' saga please end? Talking about this for one more second gives me a headache behind my eye" (NBA.com, 5/13).
OLD GRUDGES DIE HARD: KING-TV reported Seattle native Macklemore "isn't happy" about the Thunder reportedly using the rapper's song "Can't Hold Us" to "pump up their crowd during home games." Macklemore, a noted Sonics fan, wrote on his Twitter feed, "OH HELL NO" (KING5.com, 5/13).