Another day, another piece of drama surrounding the Sacramento Kings' potential relocation to the City of Seattle.
This time, the Maloof brothers are pulling the one trump card out of their bags that ultimately could force league owners to approve a move to Seattle: The NBA can't force the Maloofs to sell the team.
By the sound of things, current Kings ownership will milk that fact for all it's worth.
According to a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the Maloofs have made a deal with the Seattle-based firm interested in relocating the Kings to the upper Northwest, this time in "backup" fashion if NBA owners try to block the move again at the league meeting next week in Dallas.
If the owners do not approve the Kings' move to Seattle, the Maloofs will be in no hurry to sell the team to the group trying to keep the team in Sacramento. Instead, they are more likely to try to sell a small share to the Seattle group to further complicate this growing issue.
Here's an excerpt from the report:
Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, the deep-pocketed Seattle-based investors trying to acquire the team, have struck a new deal with the Maloofs that may create more drama in Sacramento and the league office.
Two sources told ESPN.com the Maloofs have informed their fellow owners that if their deal to sell and relocate the Kings to Seattle is not approved by league owners next week, they will not sell the team to a Sacramento-based group that promises to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
The news comes on the heels of Hansen announcing that he upped his bid for the team to a total mark of $625 million, hopefully enough to convince other league officials that Seattle is ready, financially stable and independent enough to handle the switch.
Northwest Basketball summed it up pretty well on Twitter:
The Maloofs are essentially protecting themselves against the potential pitfall of Sacramento ultimately winning out in this saga. This could force the city to do business with the Hansen firm in the event that the NBA blocks the team from making the long talked-about move to Seattle.
Here's another excerpt from the ESPN report, explaining that theory:
The strategy is rather transparent. If the relocation bid is officially blocked, Hansen and Ballmer want a piece of the Kings so they could apply pressure on the City of Sacramento to execute an arena deal with them. The city and the Maloofs have failed to come to an agreement on a new arena several times in the last decade. If the Maloofs keep the team and an arena deal couldn't be reached, the franchise could apply for relocation again.
The saga between the Kings and the Maloofs has gone on for quite some time and encompasses many factors, including the team's low attendance over the past few years and the fact that the city has been largely unable to strike a deal for a new arena. Seattle has been the hot name for a new NBA team since the SuperSonics left and became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.
About a month ago, it looked like the deal would be approved.
"Kings to move to Seattle" headlines rocked local papers, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that the NBA relocation committee would side with the current owners and help facilitate this move away from the city of Sacramento.
The NBA has not been in support of a move to Seattle, as it seems that the Maloofs are trying to force the league to do something that should be a collective decision; one set of men is deciding something that 29 other teams should have input on, if you will.
As recently as Thursday, news leaked that the NBA tried to strong-arm the brothers into taking the offer from the Sacramento group, headlined by Silicon Valley billionaire Vivek Ranadive. R.E. Graswich had the report on Twitter:
The Maloofs are now playing hardball of their own with the NBA and make it clear with this news that they will not be forced into any decision by the NBA—the same conclusion the league has about this potential move to Seattle being forced upon it by the Maloofs.
So far, neither side is ready to admit defeat.
This latest report proves that both sides are tactically thinking about how to handle things at the league meeting next week. Expect more pressure from the league on owners about not approving any sale of the team (partial or otherwise) to the Hansen group, and that could put us back at square one all over again.
It'll get a lot worse before it gets better, or at least until things reach a boiling point at the league meeting next week in Dallas. For now, it seems the Maloofs have taken a slight lead in the race to get what they want, but Sacramento has been steadfast about keeping the franchise, and the NBA is behind it.
It's going to be a long summer for both sides—regardless of the outcome.