You know, when I first referred to the custody battle for the Sacramento Kings as a bidding war a few weeks ago, I meant it metaphorically: Sacramento would present a fancy piece of paper swearing that its arena plan wasn’t held together by spit and chewing gum, Seattle would counteroffer with a promise that so long as the NBA plays there all league officials will receive a lifetime supply of fresh sockeye salmon, like that. But lo and behold, what erupted over the weekend looks like an honest-to-god bidding war with cold, hard cash:
- On Thursday, with a looming deadline set by the Maloof brothers — the current owners of the Kings who had been all but forgotten in this back and forth between the proposed new owners in Seattle and Sacramento — for Sacramento bidders to match the Seattle offer for the team, USA Today reported that the Sacramento crew was ready to raise its bid by $30 million, to cover the nonrefundable deposit that Chris Hansen had committed to in offering to buy the team from the Maloofs back in January.
- On Friday, Seattle’s Chris Hansen countered by abruptly raising his bid by $25 million, “as a sign of our commitment to bring basketball back” to Seattle. Hansen would only be paying a pro-rated price for the Maloofs’ shares, so it’s not actually $25 million more in real dollars, but the total team value in the sale offer would rise from $525 million to $550 million.
- The Sacramento group called Hansen’s increased offer a “move of desperation” (in the Sacramento Bee’s paraphrase), and predicted it wouldn’t be enough to sway the NBA’s decision one way or the other.
- Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated ran an article outlining all the things that are dodgy about Sacramento’s arena plan, and the website Sactown Royalty ran a long rebuttal saying that Sacramento is really really trying here, so get off their case okay?
- Oh yeah, and while this was all going on, a Seattle judge dismissed a lawsuit against Hansen’s proposed arena, though only because all the financing details aren’t finalized, so there’s every likelihood the suit will be refiled in a few months.
Phew. So all this certainly sounds like stuff that, on balance, would at least marginally increase Seattle’s odds of landing the Kings — except that, as I hope I’ve made clear by now, whatever process the NBA uses to determine where the team plays next year isn’t going to be nearly so straightforward as weighing two purchase offers, or even two arena deal offers, and seeing which one pencils out to be more lucrative. Both the Seattle and the Sacramento groups have come up with plans that will get them in the conversation; what happens from here really is going to come down to internecine NBA owner politics. So I expect the Sacramento Bee’s source is right about one thing: Whatever harebrained rationale the NBA ends up using to decide the fate of the Kings, a pro-rated $25 million in cash probably isn’t going to be it.