Addressing the perceptions of the Sacramento Kings/Seattle situation

Fans send a message to the NBA using signs at the Kings' last home game of the regular season. (Photo: Steven Chea)

In a situation as complex as the pending sale of the Sacramento Kings, there are perceptions and misconceptions of the information.  Below are three critical points of contention we’ve noticed are frequently brought up in squabbles among fans.

Chris Hansen and the Maloofs have a binding transaction that the NBA cannot deny.

Any agreement to sell a team is subject to Board of Governors’ approval.  Although owners have the right to negotiate and sell their teams to whomever they want to, the NBA still holds the final decision on that agreement.

Some might argue that the NBA has no right to deny the sale because a $30-million deposit has already been exchanged between the Seattle investors and the Maloofs.  However, NBA Commissioner David Stern squashed that notion in comments he made to local media in early March.

“It’s okay for them to set up processes,” Stern said in Oakland of the Maloofs and Hansen’s arrangement. “But the ultimate process will be decided by the board.”

Board approval is typically an overlooked feature of the NBA’s sale process.  But because Sacramento has proven it’s still a viable NBA market, it has been a difference-maker in this tug-of-war between two cities.

Community support doesn’t matter.

Cynics will argue that the financial bottom-line is all that matters.  But the NBA relocation committee’s recommendation in Sacramento’s favor has proven that’s not necessarily the case.  Since the Maloofs threatened to move the team in 2011, Sacramento has had the right combination of fan support and political will in its efforts to keep the Kings.  Without both, the franchise would have bolted long ago.

“I think some people are surprised at the preliminary decision the relocation committee has made because they say well but look at Seattle,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said on the Charlie Rose show last week. “There’s more corporate headquarters, there’s more TV households, there’s the potential to generate more revenue there – shouldn’t you move a franchise to the market where there’s more revenue?  And our response is not necessarily.

“That if you look at total value over time, and brand building, and community support –  that continuity is important.”

That has been one of the major differences between Sacramento’s ordeal and Seattle’s loss of the Sonics.  Fans in Seattle fought hard to keep their team five years ago, but without any help from city, county and state legislators.

“I guess what I would say is in Seattle, there was a hostility by the Mayor (Greg Nickels) who was interested in doing nothing,” Stern said after the Maloofs withheld their application to relocate to Anaheim two years ago. “As opposed to the way Mayor (Kevin) Johnson has put himself out on this it for the people of Sacramento.”

Expansion will never be an option.

Semantics are key when interpreting the league’s stance on expansion.  Stern has consistently stated that adding a 31st team to the league is not prudent right now.  But that doesn’t mean expansion can’t be explored sometime down the line.

“Without knowing what you’re selling, what the next TV deal is worth, what the full scope of international is, what our social media, digital rights, et cetera, to cut off a chunk of that and have an expansion is just imprudent on a quick decision,” Stern said following the special advisory meetings in New York on Apr. 3rd.  “It doesn’t mean that at some time in the future it isn’t potentially on the table, but right now it’s not.”

The NBA has a national television deal with ESPN/ABC and TNT that runs through the 2015-16 season.  Theoretically, the league could look into guaranteeing expansion for Seattle when the current TV contract expires.

Taking a slice out of the current revenue pie by adding a 31st team might not be a logical business move right now.  But negotiating a bigger cake that accounts for an additional team to feed is not a stretch.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.