Four days after the NBA relocation committee unanimously recommended that the Board of Governors vote to keep the Kings in Sacramento, the prospective ownership group lead by Vivek Ranadivé, partial owner of the Golden State Warriors, has placed 50% of the purchase price for the Kings in escrow.
While many take this vote as a sign of defeat for the Seattle group, both the Maloofs and Seattle are holding fast to their prospective deal.
A spokesperson for the Maloofs told Reuters, “There is no acceptable deal possible and no serious desire by the Sacramento group to arrive at one. It has become too onerous for us to continue spending time and resources on a process that cannot succeed.”
That the Maloofs have no desire to work with the Sacramento group is no surprise. They have consistently spurned Sacramento for the greener pastures of the Northwest and were considerably affronted when the Sacramento group did not match Seattle’s $16.5 million bid increase. What is surprising is that they remain obstinate despite their seeming defeat.
Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising. The Maloofs are married to their villainous role — a change from which would be as shocking as when Hulk Hogan turned heel and joined the NWO. Still, it’s not too much to expect human decency, is it?
The Seattle group, too, is not giving up hope. Prospective buyer Chris Hansen released a statement following the committee’s vote, arguing “we have a binding transaction to purchase the Kings for what would be a record price for an NBA franchise … have clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid Arena plan, have offered a much higher price than the yet to be finalized Sacramento Group, and have placed all of the funds to close the transaction into escrow.”
Hansen concluded by noting that they “have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up.”
Chief among those options is Hansen’s plan to continue with the purchase of the team, even if the Board of Governor’s does not allow relocation. Once Hansen has controlling interest of the team, he would, according to Reuters, “work in good faith with the city of Sacramento to try to keep the team there, setting a deadline for the construction of a new arena and working to keep attendance high at the games.”
Hansen would then bide his time, waiting (and hoping) for Sacramento to slip. “If arena wasn’t built according to the schedule, or if attendance slipped at the games,” a source told Reuters, “Hansen could apply again for permission to move the team – and it could be more likely to be granted.”
In essence, Hansen would have one foot in the door of Seattle and one in Sacramento. If and when Sacramento faltered, he would effectively bolt for the Northwest. If this plan seems underhanded, it’s because it is. To work “in good faith” with Sacramento to build a stadium, while keeping sites on Seattle is some sort of polygamous business ethics. In effect, the Kings would be sold from one pair of unscrupulous owners to another.
Though it sounds crazy, some believe it’s a legitimate strategy. David Carter, a professor of sports business and marketing at the University of Southern California, noted that this strategy “allows the NBA to have a strong exit strategy. They’ve done everything they could to protect a home market, but if it doesn’t perform, they’ve protected themselves.”
In all, it’s hard to fault the Seattle group’s persistence. Such fight is what has Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson reminding his constituents that there is still work to be done.
”It’s definitely been a mountain that I’ve climbed,” Johnson said. “I think we’re getting closer to being at the top, but we’re not there yet. And as all of us have said, we’re not gonna celebrate prematurely. This was a big win for Sacramento. We would not be telling the truth if we didn’t act like this was a big win. But we’ve got to respect the process. Owners are still gonna deliberate and make a final decision. If they vote in our favor, then we’ll come out and have a real party in Sacramento.”
The Board of Governors is expected to vote on May 13th, at which point the future of the Kings should be much more defined. Of course, there’s always litigation to consider. Hansen and the Seattle group could legally challenge the Maloof’s prospective deal with the Sacramento group as a violation of their original written agreement Which is to say, this thing may drag on through the summer.