Sunday Musings: Is Chris Hansen fighting for the right cause?

Chris Hansen addresses media in New York following NBA relocation/finance committee meetings (Photo: Morgan Ragan)

A quiet murmur of an idea has made its way around Seattle the last few days.  It is an alternative suggestion of what could happen to the Sacramento Kings.  It borders on the insane and gives an incredibly small amount of optimism to a fanbase anxiously praying for the tiniest morsel of hope.

No Seattle – the NBA is not going to let Chris Hansen purchase the Kings and keep them in Sacramento for a year just to make sure that Vivek Ranadivé and Mayor Kevin Johnson are for real.

The NBA has no interest in creating another Clay Bennett situation when there is a vetted ownership group ready and able to take the team now and keep them in Sacramento for the foreseeable future.

Regardless of what the Maloofs and the Hansen camp throw out, the group led by Ranadivé, Mark Mastrov and others have the financial wherewithal to purchase the Kings and build a new arena at the Downtown Plaza.

They have an arena plan that includes more than a quarter of a billion dollars in public subsidy.  The plan, while in a slightly different location than last year’s venture, has been worked on and mulled over for almost two years.  This plan was vetted and approved by the NBA last year and then again over the last few months.

More than that, this is the group and the city that the NBA’s relocation committee has recommended to the Board of Governors.

The NBA wants stability for this franchise, not an owner betting against success.  And that is exactly what Hansen would be doing – betting against Sacramento and pulling for Seattle.

If this isn’t the most intellectually dishonest approach possible, I’m not sure what would be.

When the NBA’s relocation committee voted 7-0, they sent a resounding message that Sacramento is still a viable market. But you can bet that it wouldn’t be if Hansen were allowed to own the team.

Corporate sponsorships would dry up, season ticket holders would vanish and all of the momentum to build a new arena would shrivel up and die.

And that would be the point of the exercise.

Hansen would turn Sacramento into Seattle circa 2006-2008.  He would put a dagger in the heart of Kings fans and shoot holes in Johnson’s arena plans like the Maloof family has done time and time again.  And maybe more importantly, he’d wait out the departure of NBA Commissioner David Stern, who will retire in February of next year.

What Hansen is missing is that the relocation committee worked hand in hand with Stern, soon-to-be commissioner Adam Silver and the finance committee in this process.  They know the numbers and for that matter, they have the numbers.

While only seven of the 12-member joint committee voted, those seven only need nine more owners to block relocation and one more vote to block the sale of the Kings to Hansen and company.  You don’t need to call a Vegas Sports book to figure out those odds.

And regardless of what Seattle thinks of Stern, Silver is his right hand man and hand–picked successor.  While Silver is his own man, he isn’t counting the days until he succeeds his mentor just so he can screw over Sacramento to right all of Seattle’s wrongs.

The recommendation is in.  Barring a complete change of heart, both the relocation and the sale of the team to Hansen, Ballmer and the Nordstrom family will be shot down.

How do we know this?  The NBA has asked the Ranadivé camp to make a huge deposit into an escrow account.  They also reportedly visited Sacramento late last week and toured the Sleep Train Arena property with the prospective buyers.

So why continue to fight specifically for this particular franchise?  Why not change your pleas to expansion and garner some public support that way instead of making bold statements “to the Sonics Faithful” vowing to take this thing to end?

I’m not sure.  The NBA is a litigious group that has spent the last few decades cementing its rights as an organization.  They like to dot all of their “I’s” and cross all of their “T’s” long before they even allow a bid to become official.

According to multiple reports, the league has a clause built into the bid process that bars prospective buyers that are rejected from pursuing litigation against them.  That means that before a bid can be accepted, Hansen’s group had to sign away their right to sue the NBA if they lost the battle over the Kings.

If a lawsuit is out and the NBA Board of Governors votes down both relocation and the sale to the Seattle group, they have one hope left – the Maloof family.

Yes, the Maloofs could still have a role in this story.  But let’s be honest here, they have very little power in this situation.

The league has already accepted the fact that the Kings are being sold.  They have spent countless man-hours mulling over arena deals and financial records to figure out where this team will play.

The answer is Sacramento.

So the Maloofs can walk away from a deal that would pay them a record valuation of more than $500 million from Sacramento out of pure spite.  But if they do that, they have to be prepared for the league to stymie them every step of the way going forward.

If the NBA votes down Seattle, the Kings are no longer a mobile franchise waiting for the highest bidder.  That offer has already come and gone.

Without Seattle looming as a threat, Sacramento has all of the power in negotiations.  If the Maloofs want to test the NBA and reject Sacramento, then the offer will decrease.  And sponsorships, season tickets and television deals will dry up.  And they will be choked out of the league in months, not years.

If Hansen is banking on the Maloofs forgoing a tremendous payday to risk losing this team for virtually nothing, then he has another thing coming.

Spite only goes so far and the Maloofs already have an out.  There is no such thing as a legally binding agreement with a contingency.  Hansen has no right to sue the Maloofs or anyone else in this situation.  And if he does, he knows full well that he will never own an NBA franchise.

So the question remains- what exactly is Hansen fighting for?  Is he fighting to change the minds of 16 NBA owners that might go against the relocation committee’s recommendation?  That’s a fools errand.

Expansion.  It is the only option for Seattle going forward.  And if Hansen wants to fight with the league now, he will kill any prospect of ever owning an NBA team.  So once again, let me remind everyone of this following quote from the great Muhammad Ali.

I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right.   That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me.  We all have to take defeats in life.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".