Sunday Musings: Is Sacramento vs. Seattle really a tough decision for the NBA?

Sacramento Kings Sign Lady at Here We Buy Night (Photo: Steven Chea)

If the week that was can teach us anything about the week to come, it is that nothing is for sure.  Not in Seattle.  Not in Sacramento.  There is no safe bet in this incredible fight over the Sacramento Kings.

Here we sit on the precipice of the most unprecedented of weeks, perhaps in sports history.  Has there ever been so much on the line for two cities?  Has there ever been a story that changes directions so quickly?

The answer is no.  This is groundbreaking in so many ways and clearly, this is a situation that no professional sports league ever wants to find itself in again.

Was all of this avoidable?

Probably not.  The relationship between the Maloof family and the city of Sacramento grew untenable a long time ago.  While Mayor Kevin Johnson may have hugged it out with George Maloof in New York, they are anything but okay.  What is happening right now is spiteful, ugly and completely personal.

The same goes for the relationship between the Maloofs and the NBA.  The league is done being dragged through the mud by these folks.  They are done with the attempts to move to Anaheim, Virginia Beach and Las Vegas.  They are done with the arena waffling, overextended lines of credit and league minimum salaries.

A divorce is in order.  A check will be written and the Maloofs will no longer be part of one of the most exclusive clubs known to man.

The only question is how much damage to the league and Sacramento will they inflict before exiting stage left?

There are no coincidences in this fight.  It could not have been an accident that the Maloofs set a deadline for a legally-binding deal from Sacramento, only to see Chris Hansen raise his bid for the Kings.

This was intentional.  It was worked out in advance with Hansen and his group of investors.  The same way Hansen’s presentation to the relocation and finance committee made its way into the hands of a particular media outlet Friday evening.

That’s right.  To use the words of Gavin Maloof, Chris Hansen, Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom family have decided to be “stewards” of the family’s franchise.  And before they have even come into the league, they are acting like their soon to be predecessors.

Does that seem harsh?  I hope so, but that doesn’t mean it is untrue.

In trying to return basketball back to Seattle, a city the league left behind a few years back, Hansen and his group are playing by their own set of rules.  And in doing so, they are giving the league a window into what they will be like as owners.

They have no regard for the rules, be it the league’s or the city they hope to move Sacramento’s team to.  They have forced the hand in every situation, regardless of the potential fall out.  They throw money at everything just to overcompensate for some cosmic shortcoming.

And again, this is all before the pearly gates of the NBA have even opened their doors to the group.

The Kings minority owners have already been told about their fate if the team moves north.  They will be cash called at every step, diluted at every opportunity.  This is the end of the road for them.

In the same way that the Maloofs’ name has been painted over at the Palms, Hansen and his group intend to wipe away the Kings from the record books.  They will take down the banners of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Mitch Richmond and put them in a box somewhere.  They will gut Sleep Train Arena and leave a blight of a shell at 1 Sports Parkway.

And don’t forget that the Maloofs will get their revenge, too.  They will get their revenge on the league for blocking their move to Anaheim.  They will get the last laugh on the mayor, Ron Burkle, thousands of fans and the 800-plus employees who have served them loyally for the last 14 years.

There is a right and a wrong answer here.

Seattle had a team and they lost it.  Fair or unfair, it is the reality of the situation.  The owners of the league, including the Maloof family, voted and allowed the SuperSonics to move to Oklahoma City and become the Thunder.  It is unfortunate, but it happened.

There is no way to “bring back the Sonics”, the same way there will never be a way to bring back the Kings if they are taken away from Sacramento.

There is no way to turn back the clock and rewrite history – revisionist or otherwise.  You don’t right a wrong by creating an even bigger one.

A large market did not play the game and they lost their team.  A small market has done everything asked of them and more.  That is the long and the short of it.

The question has now become – who are you with?  Are you with the city of Sacramento, which has put it all on the line?  Which has fought tooth and nail the last two years to keep the Kings from leaving and met every demand from the NBA?  A city that has sold out completely in 19 of 28 seasons through mostly horrific basketball?

Or do you side with the Maloofs and their friends from Seattle?  Do you side with the worst owners your league has to offer, a city that told you to get lost five years ago and a group that continues to strong arm you every step of the way in the current process?

The answer seems pretty simple.


James Ham

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