As a point guard during his illustrious 12-year career, Kevin Johnson was known for getting it done when his team needed him. Now the mayor of Sacramento, Johnson's plays for the city. And as he likes to say, he's "playing to win" when it comes to keeping the Sacramento Kings in the state capital.
This figures to be no small task for Johnson, as there's a binding agreement between the Maloof family, who currently owns the team, and Seattle investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to purchase the Kings and move them to the Emerald City. But Sacramento is moving forward with its own plans to keep the team, and they are expected to be unveiled as early as Feb. 28.
Assuming Sacramento comes through with its counteroffer, the NBA will then consider both proposals before voting on the matter at the Board of Governors meetings.
The agreement alone would seemingly give Seattle the upper hand. After all, as it came at the end of January, the NBA has had plenty of time to examine the pact. That means Sacramento needs to be diligent with its plans so it can allow the NBA ample time to consider its offer. To that end, a lot has been done recently.
First worth considering is that Sacramento is working on a self-imposed March 1 deadline to publicize its offer. It is unknown whether passing the deadline without an offer would be a deal-breaker for Sacramento, but it's certainly expected to be finalized before then by the NBA.
Stern expects Mayor Johnson's pitch for the #NBAKings 'well before' March 1— Ryan Lillis (@Ryan_Lillis) February 17, 2013
Stern's comments came at the All-Star Game, during his annual press conference on league affairs. Considering that took place a couple weeks ago, Sacramento has been on a mad scramble since to cobble everything together.
As Stern explained at the time, his expectations on what will be included in the offer are extensive—meaning Sacramento has a tough assignment.
Stern: Mayor Johnson's plan will 'include the construction of a new buildings with a significant subsidy form the city of Sacramento'— Ryan Lillis (@Ryan_Lillis) February 17, 2013
The most complicated part of the proposal, for both Sacramento and Seattle, has been the approval of a viable arena, which Stern indicated was expected as part of the counteroffer. To that end, Sacramento has been working feverishly of late.
On Feb. 24 it was announced that the city would be updating the docket for its City Council meeting to include a vote that, if passed, would authorize the city to begin negotiations for an arena. That City Council meeting occurred on Feb. 26 and the vote was passed, allowing Sacramento to move forward in negotiations.
City Council approves city manager's request to negotiate terms of arena financing plan by 7-2 vote— Ryan Lillis (@Ryan_Lillis) February 27, 2013
It's not yet known exactly with whom the city will be negotiating on the arena plan. That's because no official announcement has been made verifying the investors who are interested in buying the team. However, it's been widely reported, if not publicly verified by Mayor Johnson, that supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle and founder of 24 Hour Fitness Mark Mastrov are expected to be involved.
City mgr's office tells us they will not officially reveal whales' names (Burkle and Mastrov) until whales announce they want to buy team— Tony Bizjak (@TonyBizjak) February 24, 2013
As Bizjak points out, we're just waiting on confirmation that they want to buy the team. But the announcement was described as imminent, and could come as early as Feb. 28 as part of Mayor Johnson's scheduled "State of the City" address.
Still unclear on when investors - aka Burkle/Mastrov - will make formal bid for #NBAKings. But it appears imminent.— Ryan Lillis (@Ryan_Lillis) February 24, 2013
That means the rest of this saga is a wait-and-see approach for Kings fans. We've seen nothing but positivity coming out of Mayor Johnson's camp, which gives fans every reason to be hopeful that Sacramento will come through with its end of the bargain. Even then, there are no guarantees; this whole thing is pending a vote at April's NBA Board of Governors meetings.
At the meetings, it will be up to the NBA to decide which offer works best. So far, the only indications we've seen either way have come from Stern's comments at the All-Star Game. When asked whether it's plausible the team remains in Sacramento, Stern said:
"Certainly it's plausible to me, but I don't have a vote," he said, adding, "I expect that the owners have a very open mind on this."
One possibility, that B/R's Josh Martin proposed in a recent article, is that the NBA should just add an expansion team, thereby keeping both cities happy. Alas, Stern seemingly put an end to expansion when he added:
Stern, presiding over his 37th and final All-Star Game before his retirement, said most NBA owners don't want to add an expansion team—a solution that would let both Sacramento and Seattle have teams. He said the owners believe expansion dilutes revenue from broadcasting, licensing and other sources.
"I don't see any scenario where both cities are happy," he said.
Do you expect the Kings to remain in Sacramento?
That seems to imply it all will come down to the decision made on April 19 at the BOG meetings. Some can be gleaned in the lead-up to that day. We can get a better idea of Sacramento's proposal if/when it's publicized later this week. We'll figure out how Seattle handles its remaining obstacles in its arena plans. But we won't get any definitive answers until April.
Who has the upper hand? At this point, it's decidedly Seattle. It has a binding agreement to purchase the team. But we haven't seen what Sacramento will bring to the table.
However, one thing we do know is that Sacramento has Mayor Johnson up its sleeve. It's getting towards crunch time now and his team/city needs him to step up. He's done it once before when he staved off relocation to Anaheim two years ago.
Knowing Johnson, he can do it again.
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