Okay, here we go: Today is the day that the NBA owners are set to meet and vote (unless they decide to put it off again) on whether to approve the Sacramento Kings‘ relocation to Seattle, and on whether to approve the sale of the Kings to Seattle-area owners Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. The last 24 hours has seen a flurry of unnamed-source-based reporting on what’s likely to happen today:
- Aaron Bruski of NBCSports.com wrote a long article on how Microsoft CEO Ballmer is alienating NBA owners with his “scorched earth policy,” and needs to back off or risk being shut out of not only the Kings talks but any possible future expansion plans.
- Tim Montemayor of San Francisco radio station KGO says that it’s not Ballmer that’s the problem, but rather his and Hansen’s alliance with the Maloof brothers who currently own the Kings — or as Montemayor called them, “that family” — that’s jeopardizing their bid, because the NBA so hates the Maloofs. But Montemayor says that starting this week, Hansen and Ballmer have begun to heed that warning, and could instead accept the offer of an expansion franchise starting play in 2014-15 if they back off of trying to buy the Kings.
This is all rumors at this point, mind you, but it does point to a potential face-saving solution for all involved: Sacramento gets to keep the Kings, Hansen and Ballmer get their shot at a Seattle team sooner than later, and the NBA gets both of its new arenas. Okay, not all involved: The Maloofs would still be out $65 million. But it’s pretty apparent that nobody is in the Maloofs’ corner on this one, and their chances of winning a lawsuit against the NBA would be pretty slim.
There would still be two potential major holdups: First off, the Sacramento arena deal is getting shakier by the minute, with one group announcing yesterday that they’d launch a petition campaign for a referendum to kill the city’s arena funding, and another suing the city on the grounds that it illegally undervalued the public cost of the project when it presented the plan. If either of these measures succeed in tripping up the project — or if the city finance plan just falls apart before the Sacramento council can approve it, which still seems very possible — then the whole NBA plan to keep the team in Sacramento likely goes with it, though I suppose there would be plenty of time to turn around and tell Hansen and Ballmer, “Screw an expansion franchise, you can have the Kings after all for 2014.”
Problem #2, meanwhile, is the Maloofs, who don’t actually have to sell the team at all if they don’t wanna. So we could conceivably come out of today with the NBA having ratified the status quo: The Maloofs still in charge of the Kings, Sacramento still proposing a shaky arena plan and some new owners who the Maloofs don’t want to sell to, and Hansen and Ballmer waiting impatiently on the outside looking in. That rock-paper-scissors option is looking better and better…