On Wednesday, April 17, NBA Commissioner David Stern indicated in an impromptu press conference that there is not likely to be a vote of the NBA Board of Governors on neither the sale of the Sacramento Kings franchise nor the relocation of the team to Seattle, according to the Seattle Times. The press conference, which happened outside of NBA headquarters in New York, commenced after a four-hour meeting of the joint Relocation and Finance Committees. When pressed for a timeline, the commissioner said that, “… possibly the first week of May… but, I’m guessing two to three weeks.”
The response from both sides of the table has been somewhat pessimistic. Both the Sacramento Bee and the Seattle Times have a negative tone to their reader’s comments. When looking at the events of the last few weeks, however, it may be a very good sign for Sacramento that the league owners are wary of stripping the capital city of their team. A delay in the vote for the Sacramento Kings sale is a potential ray of hope for the capital city.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Peter Holt, the owner of the San Antonio Spurs, said there is not a general consensus with the other owners and that they are, “… not even close” to coming to a decision. With the increased financial commitment from the Seattle based ownership group, headed by hedge fund billionaire, Chris Hansen and their apparent lead in the arena situation, one would have assumed that the move to Seattle was closer to a reality than the news Wednesday indicates.
On Wednesday, the Sacramento group submitted its formal offer to purchase the Kings from the primary owners, the Maloof family. According to the Seattle Times and the Sacramento Bee, this offer is not a matching offer to the increased bid of the Hansen-led Seattle contingent. Last Friday, Hansen made the announcement that his group was increasing the valuation of the Kings franchise from $525 million to $550 million, thus increasing his 65 percent share commitment by about $17 million. This move, potentially out of desperation in an effort to take attention away from the arena issues, looked to have given Seattle some cause for confidence.
One potential, inadvertent outcome of this delay is the examination of whether or not expansion of the league is possible at this juncture. At his annual press conference during the All-Star break, Stern indicated that this was not the time for expansion and that there was going to be a winner and a loser between the Seattle and Sacramento investment groups and communities. Expansion, although not discussed at the Wednesday meeting of the joint committees, does have a little more time to gain the legs that it needs in order to accommodate both cities.
Being that the Seattle group has been more of the front-runner in this saga and Sacramento being on the reactionary defensive this entire time, one would have to believe that there is a strong feeling within the owners that the Sacramento franchise is valuable to the league. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been making it very hard for the NBA to turn their back on a city that owns two of the top five longest NBA sellout streaks in league history.
According to NBA bylaws, once the Relocation and Finance joint committees submit their recommendations to the NBA Board of Governors, the league owners have up to seven business days to review all the information before a formal vote is made on the issues. After the events unfolded on Wednesday regarding the delay in the report, this will mean we do not have an answer before the end of the month concerning the fate of the Sacramento Kings.
The longer this process takes, however, the more it seems clear that the NBA finds the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings to be of value to the league. There are a lot of answers on both sides of the coin to be answered. It is also clear that this is not an issue of trying to give the franchise to the highest bidder. This is not an auction of the franchise. The main issue, as we at HoopsHabit wrote about on Tuesday, is the issue of the Arena and the timelines for those to be built.
Regardless of when the vote will happen, the league requires a two-thirds vote by the owners on the issue of transferring ownership of a team. It will then require a simple majority of 16 votes (of 30) on whether to move a team. Clearly, however, if two-thirds of the leagues owners (23 of 30) feel as though the Kings should be sold to the Seattle group, the relocation vote is more of a rubber stamp than anything else.
This may not be “General Hospital,” but this soap opera will continue on deeper into the Spring as both cities hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Expansion, however, may be the kissing cousin that one city may at least be able to cling some hope upon as this continues.