By John Boyle
Wednesday brought expected, but bad news for basketball fans in the Northwest when the NBA Board of Governors voted 22-8 against relocating the Sacramento Kings.
Perhaps worse than that news—we did, after all, know the result of an earlier vote recommending the league deny relocation—is that NBA commissioner David Stern made it clear that there was no firm plan in place to bring basketball back to Seattle. There had been hope that, to avoid a messy situation and reward an ownership group that has bent over backwards to bring basketball to Seattle, Stern and NBA owners would put in place a plan to get Seattle an expansion team, and while expansion was apparently discussed, there is currently nothing in place.
“We look forward to continuing a dialogue of some type with the potential owners in Seattle, but we don’t have anything concrete to support with respect to an NBA franchise in Seattle as this time,” Stern said in a press conference in Dallas.
Asked about expansion, Stern said, “I think there was a generalized talked that it would be good in the future just to consider that issue, but awaiting the next television renegotiation, which is virtually upon us.”
Stern said those negotiations are a year or so away, and said owners decided “that it was best to await that event” before deciding on expansion.
Stern also said that, while the Kings’ current owners, the Maloof family, have the right to retain ownership, he is hopeful that the NBA can help facilitate a sale to the Sacramento-based group trying to buy the team. According to reports out of Dallas, the Maloofs said they are considering keeping the team, and Chris Hansen said in a statement that he is still trying to pursue the backup plan that would make him a minority owner of the Kings (presumably to wait and see if the arena deal falls through in Sacramento).
On Sonicsarena.com, Hansen wrote, “While we are obviously extremely disappointed with today’s relocation vote and truly believe we put forth both a significantly better offer and Arena plan, we do thank the league and the owners for their time and consideration and look forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as Limited Partners in the Kings.”
Hansen went on to thank fans, and ended the message with, “Our day will come…and when it does it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle. I love you Seattle!”
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn also weighed in on Twitter, saying that Seattle will continue to push for an NBA team.
I share the disappointment of Sonics fans about today’s vote. But we are in this for the long haul. #sonicsarena
— Mayor McGinn (@mayormcginn) May 15, 2013
The MOU we have with Chris Hansen is for five years, and we will continue working to bring the NBA back to #Seattle #sonicsarenaSo apparently this thing isn’t over yet. But Wednesday was definitely a blow. Perhaps expansion is coming down the road, or maybe another city won’t bow to the league’s demands like Sacramento did, leading to relocation, but you have to wonder if the loss of momentum could lead to future area leaders to not put in as much fight (though it doesn’t seem like Hansen and company will ever give up).
— Mayor McGinn (@mayormcginn) May 15, 2013
If any good came out of Wednesday, it was that Stern’s successor who will take over next year, Adam Silver, sounds a lot more pro-Seattle than his current boss (and if Stern doesn’t want people think he has a grudge against Seattle, how about he doesn’t open a press conference by saying he has to get to a game in Oklahoma City. That was insensitive at best, if not a downright jerk move).
“We’ve never wavered in our desire to return to the Seattle market at some point,” Silver said. “As Chris Hansen made clear in his presentation to the board of governors today, the league continues to enjoy strong support in the Seattle market. We have strong support for our national telecasts in Seattle, and expansion was discusses at least as a possibility down the road. We want to wait and see what happens in our next national television negotiations, but we’re very appreciative of the fans in Seattle. We regretted having to leave the market the last time and we fully expect we’ll return there one day.”
When “one day” is remains to be seen, but now we know it won’t be next season.