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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.

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