Over the past week, news began trickling out (from USA Today) that the Maloof family was willing to sell the Sacramento Kings. On the surface, this sounds like a positive step for the franchise as the Maloofs have been terrible owners over the past couple of seasons. The problem is the most likely new owners of the franchise are investors from Seattle looking to move the team to the Pacific Northwest. Given these developments, how should Sacramento Kings fans proceed?
What Kings fans need to do is stay faithful. Remember, this is a franchise that was on the brink of moving to Anaheim, Calif., just two short years ago. At that time, many thought the team was gone, including the team's longtime broadcasters, Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds, who gave a tearful sign-off following the team's last home game of the 2010-11 season, thinking it would be the last time the Kings played in Sacramento.
Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson went to the NBA's Board of Governors meetings, where the Maloofs were preparing to file for relocation, only to convince the NBA to give the city one more year to strike an agreement for a new arena.
The city followed through on its part, came to an agreement with the Maloofs for a publicly funded arena and got the term sheet approved by city council, only to have the owners renege at the last minute.
That's led us to where we are today—with a team without plans for a new arena and the lack of a long-term lease preventing it from exploring relocation. Up to this point, all the Maloofs have been doing is exploring, and that's imperative to remember.
Amidst multiple reports that an agreement was close, including one from Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area that the Maloofs had a handshake agreement to sell the team to Seattle investors, nothing has been finalized.
I've heard from reliable source that the Kings' sale to Hansen-Ballmer in Seattle is done deal. Source said price sulia.com/my_thoughts/98…— Matt Steinmetz (@MSteinmetzCSN) January 11, 2013
In fact, the most recent developments are looking up for the Kings staying in Sacramento. According to The Sacramento Bee, local investors, who wish to remain anonymous for the time being, have emerged. They wish to keep the team in Sacramento. On top of that, these new investors have plans to build a new arena downtown.
Other deep-pocketed potential owners, including supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and founder of 24 Hour Fitness Mark Mastrov, are also interested in keeping the team in Sacramento.
Burkle's current interest in obtaining the franchise is unknown. However, when the Kings were preparing to move to Anaheim, Burkle's name surfaced as someone who wanted to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento. The Maloofs scoffed at the notion, saying the team wasn't for sale.
As for Mastrov, he's expressed interest in purchasing the team. In fact, owning an NBA team has been an interest of his since he made a bid to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010. If he ends up buying the team, he'd also be willing to go forward with the arena proposal the Maloofs turned down last April.
Furthermore, NBA commissioner David Stern has said that he'd be in favor of allowing a Sacramento bidder an opportunity to match any agreement the Maloofs should make.
While the Seattle investors seemingly have a lot of financial backing, going against their favor is the Maloofs' dreary financial situation and a steep relocation fee required to uproot the franchise. The repayment of the loan, as well as the relocation fee, would cost upwards of $100 million.
Any investors keeping the team in Sacramento could assume the loan to the city and also obviously wouldn't have to pay a relocation fee, meaning they could get the team for considerably less than an ownership group from Seattle.
With the Maloofs asking for a reported $500 million, investors from Sacramento could obtain the team for $400 million once the relocation fee and loan to the city are taken into account.
Now, none of this means the team is staying in Sacramento. Nobody, not even the Maloofs, can say with any certainty where the team will be playing next season. There are too many obstacles and too many moving parts to know for sure what will happen. But that alone is reason enough to stay optimistic for Kings fans. After all, the team was gone to Anaheim—until it wasn't.
As long as there's any glimmer of hope, Kings fans need to hold onto it.
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