The NBA owners are set to vote in Dallas next Wednesday on what the heck to do with the Sacramento Kings, and if you’ve been following closely, you’ll know that it’s actually two votes: One on whether to approve the team’s relocation to Seattle, and one on whether to approve the Maloof brothers’ sale of the team to Seattle-area buyers Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. And while the league’s relocation committee voted unanimously last week to recommend rejecting the move to Seattle, its finance committee still hasn’t weighed in with a recommendation on the actual sale.
And even after the city of Sacramento came up with $334 million worth of cash and other goodies toward an arena, and the would-be Sacramento buyers agreed to give up any future revenue-sharing money, that doesn’t mean the NBA is going to stop leaning on Vivek Ranadive and his Sacramento partners to sweeten their offer:
With an NBA vote on the future of the Sacramento Kings just a week away, a source says the league is encouraging a Sacramento business group to put 100 percent of its $341 million team purchase offer into an escrow account in hopes of persuading the Maloof family, team owners, to sign a deal with the local group.
A league source familiar with the situation said NBA officials are suggesting the private investment group led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vivek Ranadive make the move to prove it has the wherewithal to sign what has been described as a back-up offer to purchase the team.
What appears to be going on here, if the Sacramento Bee’s unnamed sources can be believed and I’m reading between the lines properly, is that the NBA really really wants the Maloofs to withdraw their offer to sell the team to Hansen and Ballmer, instead sell to Ranadive et al., thus absolving the league from having to pick one buyer over the other. And the best way to make the Maloofs happy, apparently, is to present them with the purchase price in the form of briefcases full of cash.
If Ranadive’s group balks at putting the full amount in escrow, then things get interesting. Do the Maloofs threaten to make things ugly for the NBA if their sale is rejected? Do Hansen and Ballmer? Does the NBA tell the Seattle group, “Fine, go ahead and buy the team, but we’re not going to let you move it?”, thus setting up Sonicsgate: California? Does the league just put off voting on the sale — because hey, can’t do anything while the finance committee is still thinking about it, right? — until after next week, while voting on the relocation request? Are you getting yet why the NBA is hoping the Ranadive group will just cut a deal with the Maloofs and save them all this agita?
Further complicating matters: The relocation vote is a straight majority, while a sale requires a three-quarters supermajority for approval. Which seems like it likely won’t be an issue, given that the unanimous relocation committee vote probably indicates that commissioner David Stern is insisting on reaching league consensus before any official votes are taken. But it does raise at least the possibility of even more craziness before this whole long saga draws to a close.