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With solid plans in Seattle and Sacramento, NBA owners face hard decision

Mar 1, 2013, 8:01 AM EDT

Seattle skyline

Seattle’s ownership group has plenty of money with the Microsoft CEO as the No. 2 guy (and a $30 million deposit to buy the Kings), an arena with approvals and on to the environmental stage, an energetic fan base, and most importantly an agreement with the current owners to buy the Sacramento Kings to move them north.

Sacramento has put together a counter-offer that appears to have everything the league would want — an owner who almost bought the Golden State Warriors a couple years ago, a billionaire behind him driving an effort for a new arena, and a proactive mayor in Kevin Johnson putting it all together. Those are the kind of things the NBA looks for in a market.

Which means come April 18-19 in New York — when the owners get together and vote on the proposed sale and relocation — there will be a hard choice.

On one hand, the league does not want to set a precedent of leaving a market that has shown a genuine commitment — especially from local politicians who have voted to put up money— because what Sacramento has done is exactly what the league wants from its cities.

On the other hand, pretty much every owner in that room is going to sell his team some day. If the Maloofs have struck a legitimate deal to sell the team, why should the league dictate who a team can be sold to? Those owners don’t want to tie their own hands. The owners are going to fear that prescedent and what it could mean for them.

Putting a team in Seattle does right an old wrong, but at the cost of creating a new problem.

There are no easy answers here for owners, no tidy solutions. Do they leave a market that has done everything right to keep its team? Do they ignore that the Seattle group has done everything right to get a team? Seattle is a slightly larger television market with a higher per capita income, does that play a role?

Owners have time to think about it. It likely comes down to money for the league (questions such as how much does that Seattle television market impact the next national TV deal?). But there are no easy answers and eventually they will have to make a vote that will make one market very angry.

  1. harper2 - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Sacramento has done EVERYTHING the NBA has ever asked from us.

    In 2010 the NBA says we need a new arena deal within the next year or they would allow the Maloofs to relocate. So Kevin Johnson and Sacramento step up to and spend an entire year and over $800,000 to study, negotiate, and finalize an arena deal. And guess what? We pull off the impossible, only to be rewarded with the Maloofs unexpectedly pulling out of the deal and selling our team to another city.

    Really what else is left for us to do to keep our team?

    • ss3walkman - Mar 1, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      When it comes down to it, it’s about the deal. It’s not really deciding one over the other but more so if everything checks out with the Seattle owners.

      It’s not quite the best scenario but what if you have a car that your supposed to drive your brother and sister around in. They give you gas money here and there and maybe replace a tire. Since they put those things into the car, as the owner, do you have the right to sell your car even though it benefits the people your driving around and if they replaced a tire or busted headlight here and there? Kinda weird, but its kind of the way this is. The Maloofs have the car and the minority owners and/or city have the spare tires. Despite what they’ve done for the car, do they have say on rather it should be sold or not?

      I think the part that sticks out the most is, no owner is going to want to be told they can’t sell a team to a buyer and worry about other owners vetoing the deal. It’s like going against yourself. I’m not going to tell someone that I can’t do what I may have to do someday.

      Should the Maloofs sell to someone who plans to stay in Sacramento? Yes. Should they have to? No. Should they be allowed to sell to whoever they please? Yes.

      Let my family tell me I can’t sell my grandma’s home and we got a problem.

    • pacific102938 - Mar 2, 2013 at 12:41 AM

      The Sacto offer is a lowball offer. It’s not even close to the amount of money the Seattle group agreed to pay. The entire net worth of the would-be Sacto owner is less than what the Seattle group agreed to pay!

  2. cox221 - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    The thing that outsiders do not realize about this whole situation is 2 years ago when the Maloofs tried to relocate to Anaheim, Kevin Johnson went to the BOG meeting and told him he had an investor Burkle, who would be willing to buy the team to keep them in Sacramento. The Maloofs were pissed and said the team is not for sale and they do not plan on selling the team at all. A few more times this past year interviewers have asked them if they would consider selling to someone to keep them in Sacramento and they would say time and time again “As we have said many times before, the team is not for sale.” Then the day we find out it is for sale, is the day they sell the team to a Seattle group.

    Sacramento is getting screwed big time, NBA, and don’t you forget that.

  3. deadeyedesign23 - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    How about we put a cap on how much the Maloofs can sell the team for, but Sacramento is allowed to offer a bit more. Fair is fair right?

    • pacific102938 - Mar 2, 2013 at 12:43 AM

      You think the other NBA owners want to limit how much a franchise can sell for? Uh, no, not gonna happen. They all want to sell to the highest bidder. If you’re selling your house, do you want to sell to the highest bidder, or do you want someone to force you to take a lot less money?

  4. money2long - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    dang, so wherever the team lands, we’ll all know it was the owners who made the decision to make it happen. that’s a lot of pressure for the owners.

  5. zerole00 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    If you burn Sacramento there’s going to be bad blood in any request for public assistance. The downside of that should outweigh whatever perceived constraint the owners see in selling their teams.

    By the way, hasn’t the fan turn out been historically lower for Seattle than Sacramento? I think a commenter posted the stats a while back on ticket sales.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      I question the idea that the next city asked for money for an arena will look at Sacramento and base their decision on that. These NBA arenas host many other events (hockey, concerts, circus, rodeo, whatever) and the economic impact is beyond just the NBA with arena upgrades.

  6. raysfan1 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM


  7. liddogg33 - Mar 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    How in the world can this article claim Sacramento has a “solid” plan?? How can it be solid when the major equity partners net worth be close to what the purchase price would have to be?? Burkle is only involved with the arena!! The seattle team of Hanson and Balmer have combined net worths of over 20 BILLION DOLLARS while mastrovs net worth is only around 300 million. I do think it is a valiant effort by the city of Sacrememnto but take all this hub ub with a tiny grain of salt as its practically a GURANTEE the sale will be approved and the team will be playing in seattle next year. It’s just a forgo e conclusion. Sorry sactown and kj but your window has basically SLAMMED SHUT!!

    • livebreathekings - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Actually, Burkle IS involved in the purchase of the team.

    • radrntn - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      lmao…lets see mastrov had gyms with magic johnson in ca,, shaq in florida, yao ming in bejing, jackie chan in asia, andre aggassi, lance armstrong just to name a few while he was w/ 24 hour fitness before he sold that for 1.7 billion, and he now does gyms with steve nash in canada, with maddona hard candy fitness with locations around the world, a-rod, a chain of gyms through out south america, and is doing the UFC Gyms, owns YogaWorks, Crunch gyms, and the list goes on …..but he has no connections, he is all alone … I’m lmfao

  8. loungefly74 - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    new reports have said the owner of “24 hour fitness” may throw his hat in the ring and keep the Kings in Sactown. the Kings need to….STAY! there is a rabid fan base there. the Maloofs are a joke now…and its wrong…just wrong to think a team can just be bought and moved. hey…seattle screwed themselves by not keeping the sonics. dont make the Kings pay for their loss.

    Personally, i’d like the league to expand more! have a team in seattle, columbus ohio, st. louis, louisville, baltimore, fargo, bismarck, walla walla…okay…i’m kidding now.

  9. norcaldeportes - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    @liddogg33, How did Mastrov bid over $400M for the Warriors if his net worth is only $300M? But more importantly, Burkle will have a share of the team too. Look it up. Do some research.

  10. tbyrd1016 - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    A deal is already in place the team is sold to the Hanson/Balmer group it over. Sorry Sactown but its over. NBA owners will approve the sale abd relocation unanimously

  11. liddogg33 - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Ive done my research have you??? The equity partner in the franchise deal is only Mastrov!!! Burkle is only going to be involved in the arena deal!! Doesnt matter anyway because the hansen and balmer group have a BINDING PURCHASE AND SALE AGREEMENT WITH A 30 MILLION DOLLAR DEPOSIT!!! As well they have a two year arena plan agreed to! No group of owners is going to step in and tell an owner who he can sell his team to as one day they might want to sell their team. This whole deal is just a Publicity stunt that is too little too late. I do feel bad for your Sacrementonians but its over say good night.. Ill be in key arena next season to watch the SONICS!! GAME..SET…..MATCH!!!!!!

    ps if you want to do some research look up the net worths of Mr. Balmer and Mr. Hansen… They poop turds bigger then burkle and mastrov!!! Kind of like how Seattle compares to Sacremento!!

    • nodaclu - Mar 1, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      Quick…..who’s the owner of the Oakland A’s?

      Lew Wolff, right? I mean, everyone from national papers to local beat writers refer to Wolff as the owner of the A’s.

      Except that, it isn’t true.

      Lew Wolff only owns 10% of the team:

      Gap heir John Fisher owns approximately 80% of the team. He’s also considered the 4th richest owner in MLB.

      But you never really hear about him, do you?

      The Kings deal is no different. Mastrov is the public face of the deal for two reasons:

      1. Burkle is almost phobically publicity-shy
      2. Burkle pissed off the Maloofs in 2011 with his interest in buying the club, and putting Mastrov in front of this group allows the Maloofs to save faced once they’re essentially forced to sell to the Sacramento group by the league.

      And even if they do end up in Seattle…good luck with that. You’re getting an immature team with some unbelievably bad chemistry issues in the locker room and no hope of winning anytime soon.

      Sacramento fans have supported hopeless teams for most of the club’s 28 year run in Sacto. How long will Seattle support a horrible team?

      • pacific102938 - Mar 2, 2013 at 12:49 AM

        Nope. Mastrov is trying to buy the team. Burkle is only involved with the arena.

        “Mastrov will try to buy the team. Burkle will use his experience as co-owner of the National Hockey League Pittsburgh Penguins to work on the arena side.”

      • Kurt Helin - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:35 AM

        Burkle is expected to own part of the team.

    • radrntn - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:21 PM

      a 30 million non-refundable deposit…….i wonder why the Maloofs required a non refundable deposit…that is allyou need to know

  12. rdav29 - Mar 1, 2013 at 12:36 PM


  13. norcaldeportes - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Haha. You think the NBA would lead one of their own, Kevin Johnson, down this path if it was over? You think they want other cities to see that even if you do everything that’s asked of you, it won’t matter? You think Stern doesn’t remember the Seattle politicians that adamantly opposed a new arena years ago? And when it comes to other owners worrying that this would set a bad precedent, remember one thing… This is the Maloofs. They are not viewed in a positive light by other owners or the NBA. They have no leverage. And believe me, this will soon hit the Seattle press, Burkle will share ownership of the team. He’s a private guy and wants Mastrov to be the face of the team.
    Seattle is a great city. I love it up there. I just wanted to let you know that this deal may not be as “in the bag” as you think.

  14. norcaldeportes - Mar 1, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    USA Today: “Mastrov would be the new face of the franchise if the NBA turned down Seattle’s bid and the Maloofs agreed to take his offer, while Burkle would also have a smaller stake in the team.”

  15. norcaldeportes - Mar 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    The league can absolutely reject a sale (and has). Minnesota Timberwolves 1994.

  16. eugenesaxe - Mar 1, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Seattle’s deal is DONE, and was done before Sacramento finally got its act together. Sacramento had years to get their ducks in a row, and failed to do so until after the Seattle agreement was signed. TDB for them.

    • radrntn - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      i think you mean seattle couldn’t get their act together and that is why they are now in OKC. Last i checked the kings are still in sac.

  17. nickbigsmoke - Mar 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    send Charlotte to Seattle. They clearly arent fans of the NBA, that way everybody wins. sure 100 people in Charlotte will be angry, but who cares

    • mogogo1 - Mar 1, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      To be fair to Charlotte, they WERE fans…of the Hornets. Right up until Shinn turned everybody off, and then eventually left town with the team. The NBA wasn’t even smart enough to make Shinn leave the nickname behind. What they were given to replace the Hornets has barely qualified as pro basketball…Paul Silas finally got canned for winning 26% of his games and their current coach would need a winning streak to get his win % up to that level. I can guarantee you that if the Bobcats played as poorly in Seattle as they have in Charlotte, there’d be a sea of empty seats in no time flat.

  18. liddogg33 - Mar 1, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Well we will see.. I realize how tough this can be for the town having their team taken away.. i lived it.. My only point is Mr. Balmer and Hansen im sure have a group of lawyers that would have went through that purchase and sale agreement with a fine tooth comb.. What happened in Minnesota couldnt have possibly had the backing of multi billionaires with 500+ million dollar areans allready agreed upon in cities that the league and board of governers feel as if they owe something too. I am very impressed with what sacremento has put together and honestly have nothing against them. I for one wish the league would just expand but i do not feel that is going to happen, just like i do not feel the kings will be staying in sacremento..,

  19. dans761 - Mar 1, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    What “solid” plans does Sacramento have again? Just because a bid is made doesnt make it solid.

  20. jimeejohnson - Mar 1, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    You’re telling me there’s life east of I-5?

  21. radrntn - Mar 1, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    I live east of I-5 and there more money (gold country) in the foothill, and the sierras then there is in the valley…bottom line microsoft and seattle had their chance to save their team, and they were to cheap to keep them…they lost. City of Sac has put together a solid counter, and deserves to keep “their” team. Plus Burkle and Mastrov are the dynamic duo.

  22. allidoiswin55 - Mar 2, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    Done deal pack your bags sonics back baby.

    A couple side notes the disparity in Seattles market and Sacramentos market it pretty vast!! What many people who haven’t been to Seattle and to these other cities is the surrounding area isn’t included in Seattles market like it should be. Yess the city population isn’t a crazy amount of people but your ” IN THE CITY ” continuously for nearly an hr any direction from the downtown on I5. That surrounding area is rarely ever acknowledged and makes it seem like a smaller market.

    I’ve traveled all over the country and many of you can attest to this mother their are literally cities in the south and Midwest and sac where your in the downtown city area then ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in a matter of 15 on the freeway. That is not possible on seattle.

    Sac can’t compare there are a couple industrial towns within an hr and nothing else close. Even Portland is about as close as getting to SF from Sac.

    Also the arena is Not deficient for hockey or concerts or anything else. SAC nor seattle needed a new arena for that. That’s just the nba pressuring for it. It won’t affect that much at all.

    It’s too little too late, if they had done this before the sale maybe the force the maloofs hand but this isn’t going to stop it. Sorry that we stole another cities team.

    Sucks because we watch out on tv with an future hall of famer who was drafted here on seattle and Westbrook who was here but for a week, win games and contend for championships. Sorry sac town your B*tches are bad though. Lol

  23. allidoiswin55 - Mar 2, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    *sorry for misspelled words sucks writing on this phone.

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