NBA BOG Rejects Kings' Relocation To Seattle; Stern Calls For Deal By Week's End
The NBA BOG yesterday by a 22-8 vote "killed a 5-month-old deal" between the Maloofs and a group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle, meaning Sacramento is "keeping its Kings after all," according to a front-page piece by Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The decision "represents a huge victory for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who led the city's come-from-behind effort that seemed a few months ago to have little or no chance against a well-financed Seattle deal." NBA Commissioner David Stern following the vote said, "It was advantage incumbent. This wasn't an anti-Seattle vote, this was a pro-Sacramento vote." Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis report a "major issue remains unresolved," as the Maloofs "have not yet agreed to sign a backup offer from the Sacramento investor group" led by Warriors Vice Chair Vivek Ranadive. Team co-Owner George Maloof after the vote insisted "there's no pressure on us" to sell the team. But Stern said that he "will personally push for a deal to be signed by the end of this week." A source said that attorneys between the two sides had been "talking 'seriously' throughout the day, even before" the NBA BOG voted. Johnson said that he "expects the two sides to negotiate around the clock in the coming days to pull a deal together" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/16). SPORTSPRESSNW.com's Art Thiel noted there was "no vote taken" yesterday on the sale of the team, including Hansen's backup offer for a 20% stake that he announced last Friday. But Stern said the sale agreement between the Seattle group and the Maloofs "ended effectively with the relocation vote" (SPORTSPRESSNW.com, 5/15).
SPIRITED DEBATE AROUND VOTE: USA TODAY's Sam Amick reports while the vote was "expected" following the relocation committee's recommendation not to move the team, it was "anything but a rubber-stamp style denial of the bid." A source said that there was "plenty of spirited debate on the topic, noting that the fact that it went nearly all four hours that were scheduled ... was an indication of the tone of the discussion" (USA TODAY, 5/16). NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "It was a wrenching decision for several of the owners. I don’t necessarily think 22-8 reflects the view of the league or those owners towards Seattle. I think ultimately the discussion was that is was not about a contest between the two cities, it was about whether or not Sacramento could continue to support an NBA franchise" (SEATTLEPI.com, 5/15). Trail Blazers BOD member Peter McLoughlin, who represented Owner Paul Allen, afterward said that the Blazers were "one of the eight teams that voted in favor of the relocation." McLoughlin: "With Paul's ownership of the Seahawks and the [MLS] Sounders, and the fact that he lives in Seattle, and his relationship with Steve Ballmer, it was important for him to be supportive of Seattle -- as he always has been. He's always been wanting the NBA to return to Seattle, and always said it was a sad day when the NBA left" (NBA.com, 5/15).
MALOOFS' OPTIONS APPEAR LIMITED: NBA.com's David Aldridge reported Stern "made it clear his intention was for the Maloofs to sell outright to the Ranadive group." Stern said following the vote, "We think, that because the Maloofs have overall been very good for Sacramento and the Kings and the NBA, that they will be motivated to do something fast so that the franchise can get cranking, and we can hold the Mayor to his promises of support by ticket sales, season ticket sales, naming rights and sponsorships" (NBA.com, 5/15). ESPN.com's Marc Stein cited sources as saying that it has been "conveyed to the Maloofs that approval from fellow owners is unlikely at this point if they try to sell to a group other than Ranadive's." George Maloof "seemed to acknowledge that before leaving" the site of the meeting. He said, "I can pick who I sell to, but it's up to the owners" to approve any deal (ESPN.com, 5/15). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin notes Maloof yesterday "referred to the process as 'fair;' said legal action was a nonstarter; praised the commissioner and the committee for extensive work on the matter; confirmed the family's attorneys had been negotiating with Ranadive; and said that long before agreeing on a $341 million deal with the Hansen/Ballmer group in Seattle, unsuccessful attempts had been made to sell to investors intent on keeping the team in Sacramento." Maloof was later "asked why he never went public about a desire to sell to a local group." He responded, "That's not the way I do business" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/16).
EXPANSION'S EMERGENCE: Stern said that there "were no promises made to the Seattle group about a team in the future." However, Stern and Silver did indicate that "expansion could be an option later." In Seattle, Bob Condotta in a front-page piece reports Stern and Silver's comments on future expansion seemed to "soften their previous stance that adding teams was not in the cards." Silver said that the league "might take a more serious look at expansion after its current national TV contracts expire after the 2015-16 season." Condotta notes Hansen "did not speak to reporters afterward but released a statement through his sonicsarena.com website." He said he was “extremely disappointed" with the vote and believes his group "put forth both a significantly better offer and Arena plan.” He added he would "look forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as Limited Partners in the Kings" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/16). Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears said Hansen will get his "own brand-new franchise" after the new TV deal is done. Spears: "Just let it go, be patient and let the process happen." Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Jim Kozimor said, "This is just like in Charlotte. They lost their team, they eventually got a team back" ("Chronicle Live," CSN Bay Area, 5/15).
ARENA PLAN TO CONTINUE: In Seattle, Lynn Thompson in a front-page piece notes while the decision was a "blow to many of Seattle’s political leaders, they vowed to continue the environmental and economic reviews already under way for a new sports arena" in the city. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn noted that the agreement with Hansen to build a $490M arena is "good for five years, and that the city would continue to work with him to bring a professional basketball team back to Seattle" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Spears noted the fact the Seattle arena plan was not complete "was the problem" with the bid for the Kings. Spears: "Their arena was probably flimsier than the one in Sacramento" ("Chronicle Live," CSN Bay Area, 5/15).
SEATTLE SEETHES: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes the city "lost in the same way that a sparring partner loses to a boxer in training." It "wasn't a real fight, just an exhibition for the benefit of one." Hansen "really wasn't competing for the Kings," as Seattle "existed solely to be used to make Sacramento better in the NBA's eyes." Brewer: "For the past four months, we have been Stern's pawn. Now, we're back to being his punch line." The next time Seattle "plays with the NBA, it has to be a fair game that the city is capable of winning." That means it "has to be a game that Stern isn't overseeing." The Stern/Seattle relationship is "too toxic to bother mending" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/16). In Tacoma, Dave Boling writes under the header, "Don't Let Door Hit You On Way Out, Commish." If the NBA "just came out and gave Hansen and the boys the expansion team they deserve, they could no longer be used as leverage. ... Don't you know there were a half-dozen owners in that meeting in Dallas thinking about their aging facilities, and taking notes on exactly how Sacramento used Seattle's robust bid to help them get into the taxpayer's pockets" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 5/16). SPORTSPRESSNW.com's Thiel wrote Stern spoke "like an insincere, unctuous monopolist," and Sacramento "no more deserved to lose the Kings than Seattle deserved to lose the Sonics" in '08. But the NBA "takes no responsibility; it merely takes advantage" (SPORTSPRESSNW.com, 5/15). Former Sonics F Shawn Kemp said that he "thought the NBA exploited the Seattle group ... to rally investors in Sacramento." Kemp: "It seems like we were used a little bit as leverage here in Seattle, and it feels that way, too. ... I felt like David kind of stuck it to us today" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/16).
THE RIGHT MOVE IN THE END: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote "logic prevailed" with the vote because the "simple, reasonable thing to do was actually done. ... The incumbent won." Berger: "Just as it should have been." When an NBA city has "proven it can support a team, has made a compelling case that it can continue to support the team, has a credible plan for a new arena and a strong ownership group, it shouldn't lose out to a shinier city with richer potential owners just because money talks" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/15).