Why the delay? That’s what a lot of Sonics fans in Seattle are asking, after a meeting of NBA owners this week regarding the future of the Sacramento Kings.
Seattle and Sacramento groups made competing bids and NBA commissioner David Stern says it will likely take longer than expected to reach a decision.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the answer to the delay question is simple: Sacramento has stepped up its game.
Stern scolded the Sacramento group just a few weeks ago, saying their bid didn't compare to that of the Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. He said if they didn't improve their bid, they wouldn't even be considered.
"Well, they're considered now. Since that scolding, they've added two major investors. Both are extremely wealthy and really completed the purchase portion of that franchise. And since that scolding, Sacramento has also gotten the city council to sign off on a term sheet for building a new arena. So, Sacramento at least, in some respects, caught up with Seattle to be a legitimate bidder for keeping the Kings at home."
Art says the owners on the NBA relocation committee appear to be split: some what Seattle, some want Sacramento. They will now study each bid more closely.
Seattle's advantage? Time. Chris Hansen told the owners that his group has been at this process for 883 days. And Sacramento is just getting started.
"Hansen has a big advantage. He exploited it. I think he told that story very well. And now, Stern is in the position at looking at a city with a team that also has done everything the NBA has asked of it."
Stern smugness gone
Art says the way Stern looked in his post-presentation press conference indicated to him that he's "very exhausted and flummoxed" by this decision.
"There was a weariness about him. In fact, you could even say that Sacramento wiped the smugness off Stern's face. And that's a rare thing to happen for this guy! Because there are two good choices, two good cities and somebody, in theory, is going to have its heart broken."
Expansion an option for the loser?
Art says an expansion is "imprudent" right now because the league is just coming out of a lockout and there are teams that are still losing millions of dollars a year, including the Kings.
But the full effects of the collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout will start to be felt over the next two or three years. That's when we might hear talk of expansion.
"And that's probably the consolation prize that we're looking at here. Stern can't say that now. But he has to find out if there's a sentiment from the owners once they analyze the information they were given from both cities as to whether one can be granted the current team and one will be granted an expansion franchise. So we're going to have to wait and see but it could be late April or early May before they make a decision."
Initially, a decision on the Kings' future was expected from the NBA by the middle of April.