Did you hear that?
Sounded to me like the grinding of gears on the Seattle SuperSonics' return to the NBA Thursday night, as Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson announced a plan for 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle to bid for the Kings.
Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver reported that Johnson, during his State of the City address:
Pledged to keep the Kings in Sacramento in the wake of a purchase and sale agreement between the Maloof family and an investment group led by Valiant Capital’s Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that has filed paperwork to relocate the franchise to Seattle.
“With all due respect to Seattle,” Johnson said. “Let me be perfectly, crystal clear: it is not going to be this team. Not our team. No way.”
In many ways we expected this day to come and kudos to Johnson for continuing his fight.
But now what?
The Seattle Times Bob Condotta added that specifics on the actual offer are hard to come by at the moment:
Johnson did not offer details of Mastrov's offer other than to say "my understanding is that it will be a very strong and competitive bid."
The Seattle group paid $341 million to purchase 65 percent of the team and also put down a $30 million nonrefundable payment.
Thursday, no specifics were announced about the funding or the cost of an arena, though it is expected the city of Sacramento would contribute more than $200 million, which will still need approval from the Sacramento City Council.
By knowing what Hansen and Ballmer bid, doesn't this technically give Mastrov and Burkle a bit of an advantage?
Will the Mastrov and Burkle group be subjected to similar terms and conditions as Hansen and Ballmer?
If the Sacramento bid is higher, will Hansen and Ballmer be offered a chance to counter?
Will the Maloofs continue to accept non-refundable payments from bidders without actually selling the team?
Could Hansen and Ballmer, and by extension the city of Seattle, end up with egg on their face thanks to the NBA?
Will David Stern and the NBA allow all of this to happen while laughing all the way?
For today the answers to most, if not all, of these questions are hard to find. What's funny is that Stern doesn't think the final decision will be based on money, yet seems keen on watching the drama unfold as the owners decide in a few weeks. SI's Golliver explains:
“I don’t see any scenario in which both cities are happy here,” Stern said, ruling out the possibility of expansion to accommodate both cities’ desire to have a franchise.
The NBA’s Board of Governors will meet in New York City on April 18 and 19 to vote on the sale agreement between the Maloofs and the Seattle-group as well as the application for relocation. Johnson said he will be in attendance at the meetings to make his pitch.
“I’ve been assured by the commissioner of the NBA that we will be given full consideration,” Johnson said.
Stern said in Houston that it was “plausible” that a Kings over could win out over Seattle’s agreement but cautioned against this turning into a bidding war, saying that the owners would have a “very open mind” as they weighed the two offers.
“I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics,” Stern said of the Board of Governors’ consideration of two possible offers. “I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide. … We don’t have the predicate for that tough decision yet. It’s going to wait upon Mayor Johnson making good on his statement that there will be an offer. And it’s going to be upon the Sacramento area, a number of the regional municipalities and the various people who have been saying they’ll give the mayor the support he needs.”
Does having a "very open mind" really mean having a "very open wallet?"
The whole ugly spectacle is basically an invitation for all of the owners to choose how they want to maximize and leverage their investment.
Regardless of which city they choose, it opens the door for owners to hold their respective teams hostage as a means of getting whatever deal they wish. Otherwise they can phone up the loser from the Sacramento/Seattle tussle and talk to them.
It's wickedly fiendish, but brilliant from a business standpoint.
"You don't want to help build a new arena? Well, the folks in ..."
What should be upsetting to us is that two cities, both filled with loyal fans, are going to be stuck on the sidelines having to watch this soap opera/game show play out while knowing the loser's future will be the punchline in the aforementioned quote.
How do you feel knowing that your heart will be used and leverage?
The "open mind" of Clay Bennett and the rest of his fellow owners possesses the power to rip your heart right out of your chest in a matter of weeks.
What happens if the unthinkable happens again?
How many more times can Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, or someone like them, write the Maloofs a non-refundable check?
When Chris Hansen came out of the woodwork a little over a year ago I was skeptical to say the least, but to his credit he has slowly but surely made significant strides on all fronts in making the Sonics' return a reality.
Will he stay true to the course if this deal falls through?
Given that we've come so far during the past year I can't help but have a few doubts, perhaps a little guilt, and wonder, is it all worth it?
I also can't help but wonder, how many more times can one city have David Stern and his "open-minded" owners twist the knife in our backs?
Perhaps time heals all wounds, but when those wounds keep getting cut open they can either make you feel worse than before or become scars that change you forever.
How you deal with them is up to you, but if this deal dies, so with it does my hope for Seattle ever getting the Sonics back.