By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — How did you react last Monday when the NBA’s Relocation Committee recommended, with a unanimous vote, that the Kings should stay in Sacramento and not be moved to Seattle?
Were you furious, devastated? Did you swear off the NBA forever? Or maybe you held onto hope, knowing that Chris Hansen wouldn’t just give up on his fight to bring the NBA back to Seattle.
Me? I shrugged.
Now don’t get me wrong. My apathy had nothing to do with my desire to see the NBA — and hopefully the NHL, too — back in the Puget Sound region. The sports fan in me and the sports journalist would enjoy life more with another professional sports team, or two, in our neck of the woods. Trust me, I really want this to happen for the region.
But for whatever reason, I didn’t have the strong reaction to Monday’s news that I expected I would or should. It was kind of weird. Then, as the week went on, it started to make more sense. Monday’s news wasn’t a total gut punch because, after so many highs and lows in Hansen’s quest to bring the NBA back, nothing feels final anymore. Even Monday’s big news.
Monday night brought Hansen’s reply on his website, sonicsarena.org, saying, “We remain fully committed to seeing this transaction through.”
Hansen, who has put so much time, money and energy into getting an NBA team back in his home town, ended the post with a quote from Muhammad Ali, which reads, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
If the NBA was hoping the recommendation would result in Hansen and his investment group quietly bowing out, well they haven’t been paying attention to how hard he’s fought thus far. Add to that the fact that the Kings’ current owners, the Maloof family, have made it known they would prefer to sell to Hansen and Steve Ballmer’s group, and that, according to the Sacramento Bee, there is now an anti-arena group suing the city claiming that it is suppressing evidence of secret subsidies to the developers of the arena project, and two things seem pretty clear.
One, this could get messy. And two, it ain’t over yet.
And let’s not kid ourselves, Monday’s vote was a blow to Seattle’s chances of landing the Kings, but it wasn’t final either. Even if owners don’t vote against the relocation committee’s recommendation, which seems unlikely, there are a lot of ways this could still play out.
The NBA has to realize the Seattle group won’t let this thing end without a fight. Remember, Hanson and Ballmer’s group already has reached an agreement with the Maloofs to buy the team, one that included a non-refundable $30 million deposit.
The NBA could decide that Hansen and Ballmer are too good of owners to not have in their league and decide that if the Kings are staying, then Seattle needs an expansion team. And yes, NBA commissioner David Stern has said repeatedly that expansion is not on the table right now.
But if you were trying to use Seattle to leverage Sacramento into building a new arena, would you want it known that a situation existed where both cities could win? And ultimately, if the Sacramento could keep its team and we could get a new one here, wouldn’t that be better?
I get that there are those who want the NBA right now, regardless of what it takes. But there’s something to be said for saving another group of fans the heartbreak that Sonics fans dealt with in 2008, even if that means waiting two or three years for an expansion team.
Another seemingly less likely option is that Hansen and company could push forward and convince the league to let him buy the team while denying relocation. He could then hold onto the team a couple of years, and if the Sacramento arena deal doesn’t come together — many observers are skeptical that Sacramento’s quickly thrown together arena plan will work out — Hansen could then seek relocation. Or if that arena is built, Hansen could flip the team for a healthy profit in a few years assuming the NBA gets the lucrative TV contract it is expecting when the current deal is up.
So yes, Monday was a blow to Seattle’s hopes of landing a team, but what the week that followed has shown, and what this whole process has demonstrated, is that we’re best served avoiding the emotional highs and lows if at all possible.
If you can manage it, patience is a good approach. I totally understand if that’s not an option, if you’re hanging on every up and down of this strange saga, but if you’re able to just wait for final resolution, it will save you a lot of stress.
Now for Hansen and company, patience is the worst possible option. It’s the same for Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who is leading the fight to keep the Kings. But for those of us with no say in things, letting the whole process play out could spare everyone some premature moments of joy and heartbreak.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.