Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hail to the Kings, Baby

Seattle lost a basketball team.
Seattle wants a new basketball team.
Seattle thought it had a new basketball team lined up, which is a nice way of saying they were about to do to Sacramento what Oklahoma City did to them, albeit with a smaller carbon footprint and more fair trade coffee at the purchase meeting.
Sacramento said "Nuh-uh" and, at last vote, the NBA ownership voted to keep the team in Sacramento for less money.
This primarily infuriated two groups: the Sacramento Kings' current owners and the prospective owner in Seattle. 

The Kings' current ownership, as manifested in the walking Roadrunner cartoon that is the Maloof brothers, wanted the most money possible out of the deal. With the NBA forcing them to sell the team to the group bidding to keep it in Sacramento, they leave a lot of money on the table - money they no doubt could have used to fund another failed casino expansion or unwatchable reality TV show.
Chris Hansen, the Seattle bidder, wanted a team. The deal he offered the Maloofs was more than fair, even before he upped it, and the stadium plan he proposed for Seattle is pretty damn progressive as such things go.
The problem is, Seattle is the guy holding the last chicken wing when the lights go out and everyone else at the table had a fork.
If the NBA - which is fully within its rights to prevent an ownership group from selling to a new owner the owners disapprove of - had let the Kings go to Seattle, they would make some short-term cash from relocation fees, but at the same time, they'd give up their leverage. Once Seattle has a team, once that lingering resentment over the theft of the Sonics has been assuaged, what hungry city would other NBA owners use as a threat when seeking concessions from their current venues? "Seattle will build us an arena" is a pretty credible threat. "We'll move to Sacramento" is not. Don't believe me? Check the track record of MLB team owners trying to get civic-funded renovations since Bud Selig plugged the eternal gap in Washington. Miami shenanigans aside, any baseball team that threatens to move now is going to get the same reaction I got when at age 7 I announced I was running away from home: "And where will you go?" 
And so, no matter what lawsuits might be threatened and what bluster is unleashed, the Kings were never going to Seattle. Hansen will probably be bought off with right of first refusal on the next franchise to go on the block - Charlotte is looking tasty in that regard - and Seattle? Seattle will get to be used as leverage until the lords of the NBA decide they've pushed that as far as it will go. And at that point, they'll get an expansion team, and all of the owners will pocket huge expansion fees. 
But that's in the future. For now, the Kings are staying in Sac-town. And they always were.
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