Sacramento & Seattle: One City Will Get Screwed

Well, apparently I have chosen to spend the whole weekend inside writing sports blog posts …

The way I see it, someone is going to get screwed in this deal.  Here’s an update from the Seattle perspective, and here’s one from the Sacramento perspective.

Here’s where we are:  the Maloofs have sold the team to Chris Hansen’s group.  There was a $30 million non-refundable deposit given, which many see as a way to force the hand of the NBA into allowing the deal to go through and not let anyone back out.  Seattle has the arena deal in place, with a few minor lawsuits and environmental studies left to get out of the way.  No one sees these blips as anything that would overturn a team’s move to Seattle.

However, on the other side, we have Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former point guard in the NBA who knows how important having an NBA franchise is to a city – especially a city like Sacramento without any other teams in the other major professional sports.  Ever since word came down that the Maloofs agreed to sell to Seattle, Kevin Johnson has been busting his ass to get his own ownership group together.  Per reports, the NBA has agreed to let Kevin Johnson state his case for why the team should NOT be sold to the Seattle group, but instead sold to local investors who aim to keep the team in Sacramento.  At the same time, Kevin Johnson is working to secure a new arena deal to replace the old one they had in place at this time LAST year, when the Maloofs originally agreed to stay, then ultimately backed out.

My read on the situation is this:  Seattle just has to sit here and wait for the Board of Governors to meet sometime in April.  In the meantime, it looks like Kevin Johnson WILL have his investors in place, they WILL be able to make an offer on par with what Chris Hansen has offered, and they WILL figure out a way to finance a new arena.  Anything short of all of that happening, and Sacramento can kiss their team goodbye.

As a quick aside, I’m legitimately curious:  is the Sacramento city council just going along with WHATEVER Kevin Johnson decides to do?  Do they not have to get together and vote on these things?  And, if so, how do we get that kind of support up here in Seattle?  I mean, Jesus Christ!  If Seattle had a tenth of the competent leadership back in 2008, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first fucking place!

I have nothing but the utmost respect for Kevin Johnson.  And a small part of me (that small part of me that died in 2008 when Seattle gave the Sonics away for nothing) kind of hopes that he succeeds.  But, the overwhelming majority of me hopes he falls flat on his face and Seattle has an NBA team this time next year.

An interesting aspect of this Seattle Waiting Game is the fact that there’s really nothing Seattle can do to strengthen our position before the April BOG meetings.  We’ve done everything that has been asked of us.  We have an arena deal.  We have local political support.  We’ve had meetings with David Stern and other high-ranking NBA officials.  We have an ownership group comprised of respected, wealthy public figures who are passionate about the sport of basketball and the city of Seattle.  Seattle, as it stands right now, is everything the NBA is looking for in a city:  affluent, supportive, and most of all, subservient.  Seattle crossed the NBA one too many times in the years preceeding our loss of a franchise and the NBA opted to make an example of us.  Now, we have the arena deal in place, it meets NBA expectations, and we’ve done nothing but kiss the ring of David Stern and everyone else throughout this entire process to try to bring the Sonics back.  At this point, we can do no more.  And, if we DID try to do more – like send Chris Hansen down to Houston at this All Star Week to schmooze it up with owners and NBA officials, it would look desperate and in poor taste.

For Kevin Johnson, it’s dramatic and heroic.  He’s doing literally EVERYTHING in his power to save his team.  He’s the Little Engine That Could, Rudy, and the Miracle on Ice all rolled up into one smooth-talking politician.

Which leads me to believe that Kevin Johnson has a real chance to win this thing.  In any political race, it almost always boils down to the final weeks of any campaign.  It’s not how you start, but how you finish.  Kevin Johnson is going to have ALL the momentum going into these BOG meetings.  And, if he does succeed in getting the financial backing to purchase the team AND secure a new arena, we’re essentially looking at a 50/50 proposition.  There will be a 50% chance the Kings move to Seattle and a 50% chance the Kings stay in Sacramento.

So, what holds more weight?  One little nugget Sonics fans in Seattle have clutched onto like it’s their Precious is this notion that David Stern doesn’t want to retire until Seattle has its Sonics back.  This, in spite of the fact that David Stern has never publicly stated this; it’s all ENTIRELY hearsay and conjecture!

Yes, having the Sonics leave Seattle after 41 years was probably the biggest black eye of his tenure as NBA Commissioner.  But, truth be told, having ANY franchise move from one city to another is a black eye.  With Seattle, it was especially galling because it was 41 fucking years!  But, with Sacramento you’re still talking about a team that’s been there for 28 seasons, that’s nothing to sneer at.  On top of that, the Kings are the only game in town!  Seattle still has the Seahawks and Mariners to fall back on.

And, furthermore, if David Stern was so preoccupied with the plight of the city of Seattle before he retires, why wouldn’t he just use all of his remaining clout with the owners to force them to accept an expansion team?  After all, he’s FUCKING RETIRING!  What does he have to lose?  Being beloved by a group of 30 owners for holding firm on their shares of the financial pie isn’t going to make his retirement any more worthwhile.

So, no, I’m not really buying this whole absurd notion that David Stern feels any obligation to the city of Seattle whatsoever.

In the end, it’s going to come down to one of two things:  does the NBA choose to recognize the agreed-upon deal between the Maloofs and the Hansen Group (and thereby recognize Seattle’s right to fucking EXIST), or does the NBA overthrow the deal and let the Kings stay in Sacramento (and thereby fuck Seattle over yet again, as an opportunity this sweet surely won’t come around again anytime soon).

Truth be told, that last paragraph was written from the perspective of a jaded, pissed-off Seattleite, but you can really see both sides of the argument if you take a step back.  Yes, Seattle would be fucked over by the NBA overturning a supposedly-binding contract to sell the Kings franchise.  It would open up a whole can of worms with that $30 million non-refundable deposit as well.  Lots of lawsuits, lots of drama, lots of headaches would follow.  Should Seattle succeed with that route, I’m damn certain Seattle would be a pariah among the rest of the NBA nation.  But, hey, at least we’d have a team back.  Or, if the NBA didn’t want to deal with all the lawsuits, maybe they could make a back-alley deal of their own to just give us what we wanted all along:  Howard Schultz & Clay Bennett’s severed heads an expansion franchise.

On the other hand, though, if Kevin Johnson does everything he has vowed to do – find the financial backers, secure the arena deal, confirm local political support – and the NBA still takes their team away and gives them to Seattle … I know if I was a Kings fan, I’d be very fucking upset at such betrayal.  At that point, in all honesty, it would be a betrayal far worse than that they bestowed upon Seattle in 2008, because in 2008 Seattle didn’t do SHIT to deserve to keep a franchise compared to what Kevin Johnson has done.

So, you know, that’s where we are now.  By this time, two months from now, we will know one way or the other.  Either Seattle can go fuck itself, or Sacramento can go fuck itself.  The agita is fucking destroying my insides …

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