Biggest Challenge for Maloofs, Neo-Sonics: Taking a Hint
Hopefully, the conference rooms in the NBA head office come complete with a full bar.
There are still some decisions to be made in the matter of that franchise currently known as the Sacramento Kings. They have more technical descriptions, but the issues can be simplified thusly:
- How much does the NBA hate the Maloofs?
- How much longer must the NBA tolerate the Hansen-Ballmer group?
- How solid are the pending arena commitments in Sacramento?
- When will expansion be officially put on the table?
Adding an insider side deal to the overt side deal it already has proposed to the NBA, the neo-Sonics have agreed to purchase only 20% of the Kings franchise from the Maloof brothers if the NBA Board of Governors ratifies the recommendation of its re-location committee and rejects the pending proposal to transfer the Maloofs' majority control to the neo-Sonics. On top of that, the Seattle group is willing to pay $115million to the league as a re-location fee.
Hansen, Ballmer & Co clearly have too many balls in the air on their side of the ledger to accept a reality that would have them cool their jets and wait for another opportunity. Ironically, their prime tactic is to emphasize that Sac-Town's alpha dogs have too many balls in the air to have their bid receive the league's ultimate stamp of approval as the winning position.
This sets up the just-as-ironic logic that the group with the least balls should prevail.
There is nothing happening on the courts of this season's playoffs that is this entertaining.
An intriguing array of chess pieces remain on the board, so it remains to be seen how events unfold:
- David Stern obviously wants the franchise to remain in Sacramento; among other factors, Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Ranadivé group have coordinated their moves with the NBA front office while the neo-Sonics have only let their intentions be known to the league office and communicated directly with the committee members.
- Stern still has a hammer on the cash-strapped Maloofs, as they have an outstanding loan of $75million to the NBA; if the Commish calls that loan, the Maloof's $125million back-up deal with the neo-Sonics leaves them with significantly less money to mis-manage.
- Hansen and Ballmer run a definite risk of becoming the NBA's version of Jim Balsillie, the former hi-tech high roller who wanted an NHL franchise in Hamilton, Ontario so badly he became his own worst enemy.
As of this moment, the trump card in Sac-Town's favor would seem to be that it has done everything in the proper way to keep its team. In contrast, the latest neo-Sonics side deal would grant minority ownership to a crowd that wants to move the team even as it remains in Sacramento and has a pending deal on the table there to build a new arena with public money while it is simultaneously moving forward with plans to build a new arena with public money in Seattle. On top of that, it would just as clearly petition the NBA to purchase the majority stake as soon as possible.
Given that the NBA owners as a group have played -- and will play in the future -- the blackmail card when seeking funding for new or upgraded arenas, it's difficult to see them taking the latest bait.
That leaves the expansion option. Given the neo-Sonics' persistent spoiled-brat actions, sympathy for that move may be fading, too.
However, more twists and turns probably await. Stay tuned.