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Commentary: Don’t worry, the Sonics are coming

SEATTLE — Two cities. One team. No clear resolution.

From a fan’s perspective, the best solution is expansion: keep the kings in Sacramento, and award Seattle a team.

But here’s my prediction based on what I think is the NBA’s perspective:

Seattle will get the Kings. And the league will consider Sacramento first in line for a future team.

I know, the idea seems to be completely backward thinking. But not to the league. The Kings majority owners — the Maloofs — have a purchase agreement already in hand with Seattle. And on Wednesday in New York, George Maloof asked the others in their ownership fraternity to approve the deal. It would be unprecedented for those owners to say “No” to a potential ownership group as financially strong as Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.

HansenphotoAfter all, the owners will also benefit from splitting a $75 million relocation fee for the kings to move to Seattle.

If I’m an owner, I’m calling it like it is. The Hansen plan is ironclad and much further along than Sacramento’s. It’s always been about the bottom line. No question, I’m voting Seattle’s way.

At the same time, Sacramento made a valiant effort – one the league never expected. But the Sacramento term sheet for an arena is nowhere close to full approval, and there are many more questions that need to be answered. If I’m the league, I’d throw them a bone. I’d say, “Nice job, Sacramento. Now put your money where your mouth is, get the arena deal fully approved by your city council, and then we’ll talk.”

The league should guarantee Sacramento a future team through expansion or transfer, contingent on them dotting all their “I’s” and crossing all their “T’s.”

It would put all the pressure on Sacramento, ponying up major public funds on a future commitment from the NBA.

But if you’re the league, what do you care? If it falls through, you’re off the hook – and at least you made an effort!

We all know it’s a terrible situation. But compromise tends to win out. It did in 1996 when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore, and Cleveland was guaranteed another franchise in three years time. NBA commissioner David Stern says expansion doesn’t fit their business model – but in the future, who knows if that’ll be the case.

Finally, I’d like to address the word hypocracy, because it’s running rampant among Kings fans and some in Seattle. We’re being called hypocrites for doing to Sacramento what was done to us five years ago.

But we’re not the bad guys. The Maloofs are. They’re the ones who spurned local ownership in Sacramento and chose to sell to Hansen.

The business model of the NBA isn’t right, but we’re simply playing by those rules. That doesn’t make us hypocrites. Servants to the system, maybe – but hypocritical? Definitely not.

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8 comments

  • Sean

    The Sacramento Arena term sheet was approved by the City Council, 7-2. George Maloof asking the owners to approve the sale probably doesn't mean much, since George Maloof has lost the respect of almost everyone. The Maloofs backed out of an arena deal last year that NBA approved of. In fact, the NBA was offering to loan the Maloofs all of the money they were going to need to put up for that deal. I don't think the owners will have much sympathy for him after that.
    If the relocation fee were such a big deal, then the NBA would just approve moving franchises around all the time just to rake in the relocation fees, wouldn't they? Why not, if it's all about the bottom line?
    I don't think Seattle fans are hypocrites. But as unprecedented as it would be for the owners to deny a sale, it would be equally unprecedented for them to approve moving a team away from a city that has done everything the NBA asked. The writer of this article is unfortunately uninformed, and more optimistic about Seattle's chances than anyone ought to be at this point.

  • Aaron

    Don't worry, Aaron is a HOMER

    "I’d say, “Nice job, Sacramento. Now put your money where your mouth is, get the arena deal fully approved by your city council, and then we’ll talk.”

    And I'd say the HOMER award doesnt go to Aaron Bruski, but Aaron Levine. Pretty sure it was approved 7-2, what more can they do in the meantime? Build Rome in a day? Seattle needs to stop acting like they have the superior arena deal because they HAVE ALREADY BOUGHT LAND.

    Seattle may be a day ahead because they bought land, but their arena package isnt better for NBA owners. Sure it may have less risk on taxpayers, but last time I checked the owners voted based on the whats best for the fans, at least thats what Seattle fans have told us this whole time. Whats better for owners? a 40% publicly funded arena? or a 58%? Whats better for team values, $525m from Sea or $525m from Sac?

    Sure you have a better corporate base. You better hope thats enough, because there's not much else in your favor – just a sale agreement with a douche developer named George, and $1-2m per owner from the relo fee. Owners are a wash, and i won't even get into who has better fans, because owners dont care about fans.

    • Rob

      Burkle has dropped out of the group. Its over. Stern doesn't like Seattle…you could see how sad he was on April 3rd. He was hoping there would be holes in the Seattle presentation. There wasn't. He has been bending over backward to help Sacramento. He is seeing the writing on the wall. There is a huge difference between the proposals. A difference between 3 years of preperation compared to 3 months. Not your fault. just fact.

  • alex

    LOL. Term sheet gets approved 7-2 and we have AB900 which will fast track arena, plus the land all lined up is nothing, but supposedly your SoDo arena which is facing a law suit and is opposed by 52% of the people in Seattle is iron clad. Homers gonna homer and in this case OP is a homer.

  • Casey

    I've been saying this same thing for a month. There is guaranteed money waiting in Seattle right now, if they diss Seattle a second time there will be little motivation for Hansen or anyone else to risk the time and money to try this again. Meanwhile the deal to Seattle does set a precedent for Sac to continue moving forward and grab a team. The NBAs debate right now is what option ends with both of these strong ownership groups owning teams? Expansion is not a desirable option because the league has too many struggling teams, they are faced with needing a series of sales and relocations in order to avoid talking contraction.

  • Guest

    David Stern said it best that George doesn't get to tell the NBA where it will be playing, especially an owner that is on his way out the door. What's next, selling a team to Anaheim or San Jose and thinking the owners will let it go because an excuse for a person like George says so? They may let you sell it to an owner that has the money, but doesn't mean you can have both a sale and a move. Unfortunately that's the condition for this sale. Don't get wrapped up on just one part of this sale; there are two contingencies at play. The NBA didn't let them move the team two years ago. Why would they let it move today if an even better arena deal than the one they already approved is on the table.
    Funny how too many of the Homers say the financing was cobbled together. They spent a year getting the financing down to fund 2011's NBA negotiated arena plan. That financing is the backbone of this plan too.

  • Paul

    The team is moving to Seattle. That's whats gonna happen at the end. Sacramento was doing anything until they found out Hansen and the Maloof agreed to sell the team. Now they are all desperate and "approving" any new stadium project and begging other rich people to put money to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
    Seattle already spent the last two years planning all that and that's what the NBA owners will look.
    Sacramento is acting all crazy and trying to impress all NBA Owners with all the actions they are taking right now (AT THE END, with few days left before the final decision).
    The kings just need to work on how to get their team back in the next few years and the NBA owners need to make sure Sacramento in first on the list for a relocation or expansion team


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