The NBA confirmed Tuesday it will not vote this week when the league’s Board of Governors meets in New York to discuss a sale of the Sacramento Kings to a group that would relocate the team to Seattle for the 2013-14 season.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday he had been told by NBA Commissioner David Stern in a phone conversation Monday that the league needed more time to sort things out.
McGinn said the NBA was looking to “tee up” the decision with its discussion this week and that Stern was in the “same place” he was after a meeting with representatives of each city in New York two weeks ago.
Stern had said after those meetings, when each city made 90-minute presentations to the league’s Relocation/Finance Committee, comprising eight team owners, that the league might not be ready to vote by the time of the Board of Governors (BOG) meetings. Those meetings are held each year at the conclusion of the regular season.
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Stern reiterated that sentiment to McGinn, saying the owners need to look closely at the proposals before they vote.
It was revealed last week that the Relocation/Finance Committee will hold a separate meeting Wednesday in New York in advance of the regularly scheduled BOG meetings, and that had led to thoughts that a decision might come this week.
There is no date set for a vote, and an NBA spokesman confirmed the owners do not have to assemble again in person to vote.
Bid not competitive?
The news appeared to catch Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson off-guard during his news conference Tuesday, held in Sacramento the same time as McGinn held one in Seattle.
Johnson said “we are on the verge of something very transformative in New York tomorrow” as he introduced the members of the ownership group that will attempt to keep the Kings from relocating.
Johnson told The Sacramento Bee after the news conference that he had not been told there would not be a vote. He also told the newspaper that the city’s updated, formal offer for the team will be submitted to the NBA on Wednesday and that “we’ve done what we said we are going to do.”
Johnson indicated to The Bee that the offer did not match an increased bid the Seattle group made on Friday.
The Seattle group, led by Chris Hansen, initially offered $341 million for 65 percent of the team based on a valuation of $525 million. Friday, Hansen announced he had raised his offer to make the total value of the team $550 million, increasing his bid by about $17 million.
A league source told The Seattle Times that it is thought the Sacramento offer did not include the increase, nor did it include a $30 million nonrefundable deposit made by the Hansen group to the current controlling owners, the Maloof family.
Sacramento to get an expansion team?
League sources say the vote wasn’t delayed, because it was never placed on the agenda for the meetings this week. But that didn’t stop speculation that the league might use the extra time to at least consider adding an expansion team.
A spokesman for Hansen’s group said he had no comment on news that the vote would not come this week.
Sports-law expert Michael McCann said reasons for waiting to vote could include the Maloofs simply wanting time to examine the Sacramento offer. But he also said “another explanation is that expansion is gaining more traction.” That could take longer than two more weeks, though, he said.
Stern has insisted that expansion is not an option. But the fact each city has ownership groups willing to pay what would be a record for an NBA team could make it more enticing to other owners.
One league source said it could be possible the league would consider allowing Hansen to buy and move the Kings (re-branding them as the Sonics) and give Sacramento an expansion team (allowing them to stay the Kings).
McGinn broke the news that the vote won’t happen at a news conference at KeyArena to talk about an agreement with Hansen announced Tuesday concerning improvements that will be made to the arena. At least $3 million of the improvements will remain at the end of the tenancy.
The agreement contains a guaranteed rent to be paid by Hansen’s group as well as a guarantee that all current city employees at KeyArena will retain their jobs, according to a news release from the city.
Hansen’s group, ArenaCo, will reimburse the city for the employee cost.
If approved by the City Council, ArenaCo will assume operations of KeyArena at the beginning of July 2013 through the duration of NBA basketball being played at the facility.
Hansen’s group will guarantee Seattle at least $2 million in rent annually. An additional $750,000 would be paid to the city annually if a National Hockey League team is brought to KeyArena.
The rent is for two years, with a third-year option.
Under the KeyArena deal, Hansen has the option of selling the naming rights to KeyArena. KeyBank’s naming contract expired in 2010, but Seattle Center kept the name for continuity.
Hansen would have to remove the name when the team moves to its new home. Hansen also may sell sponsorships inside KeyArena.
Stern said at the meetings two weeks ago in New York that the league would reach a point where it would have to make a decision so the Kings can begin making plans for the 2013-14 season in whatever city they play. But he indicated that was not a reason for urgency.
The Sonics did not move from Seattle to Oklahoma City until July 2 in 2008.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.
Seattle Times staff reporter Steve Miletich contributed to this report.