The NBA Board of Governors will meet in Dallas on Wednesday and is expected to vote on the relocation and sale of the Sacramento Kings to a group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer that wants to move the team to Seattle.
DALLAS — Another month, another city, another NBA Board of Governors meeting that might put an end to the tug-of-war between Seattle and Sacramento over the Kings that began in January.
The Board of Governors will meet at 11 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday, with an announcement of a decision likely to come anytime after noon.
As a second decision day neared, there were some rumblings that recent events could again cause the NBA to need more time to sort it all out. The league already has postponed the decision once, deciding after a meeting in New York last month that more work was required to cast a vote.
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Representatives from Seattle and Sacramento are expected to again make presentations and answer questions. Chris Hansen, head of the Seattle group that in January reached an agreement to buy the Kings from current owners, the Maloof family, will attend, possibly accompanied by Wally Walker, who was seen checking into the hotel Tuesday. Also in attendance will Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Vivek Ranadive, head of the potential Sacramento ownership group.
George Maloof is in Dallas, and several times Tuesday talked with reporters camped out in the lobby of the hotel where the meeting will be conducted.
Maloof told The Seattle Times that the family’s goal remains to sell the team to the group fronted by Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who are attempting to bring the NBA back to Seattle. After 41 years in Seattle, the Sonics left in 2008 for Oklahoma City.
“We have a binding agreement,” Maloof said. “That’s our commitment, to Chris and Steve. We want to see it through.”
Hansen and Ballmer upped the ante Friday when they increased their offer for 65 percent of the team to $406 million, for a total valuation of $625 million. They also came to a backup agreement with the Maloofs to purchase 20 percent of the team if their bid to become majority owners is turned down by the NBA. And they further told the league they would pay a $4 million per team relocation fee.
All of those moves came after the NBA’s relocation committee reported it voted 7-0 on April 29 to recommend against allowing the Kings to move. It was initially expected that the Board of Governors would follow that recommendation.
How much the recent moves by the Seattle group have changed the equation is one of the big unknowns.
Many in Sacramento were heartened Monday when it was revealed the relocation committee decided after a teleconference not to change its recommendation.
But sports law expert Michael McCann said there’s enough that remains uncertain to make it hard to predict what will happen, noting that the finance committee might also make its own recommendation at the meeting Wednesday.
“Since the relocation committee has apparently not changed its mind or re-voted, I think Sacramento has the edge,” said McCann, an on-air legal expert for NBA-TV. “We still don’t know whether the finance committee — which is focused on the merits of Hansen/Ballmer/Nordstrom as opposed to the merits of Sacramento — could … recommend approving (the Seattle offer) in spite of the relocation committee’s recommendation. If there are conflicting recommendations, the Board of Governors would have a difficult choice. So it’s hard to make a prediction in the absence of all the relevant information going into (Wednesday’s) vote.”
It’s thought that the Board of Governors will vote specifically on the Seattle offer to buy the Kings — all purchases must be approved by the league — and on relocating the Kings. It’s unclear if the NBA would also be able to vote on a possible sale of the team to the Sacramento group, if the sale and relocation to Seattle are denied.
Johnson said he was unsure of the schedule of votes Wednesday.
“I have no idea how this is going to play out,” he said, adding his hope was Sacramento could get positive votes on both relocation and its ownership group on Wednesday and the issue could be settled for good.
Johnson, speaking to reporters as he arrived in Dallas early in the evening, also said he had no worries about whether the Maloof family will sell the team to the Sacramento group if the sale to Seattle is denied, as has been reported (George Maloof said he would not answer that question).
Johnson said the family already has accepted a backup offer from the Sacramento group that “kept us in the game.” If the family hadn’t, he said, Sacramento’s hopes would have been dashed long ago.
It has also been reported that the Maloofs have encouraged the Sacramento group to put 100 percent of its $341 million offer into escrow as a show that it has the money. Johnson would not answer directly when asked if the money is in escrow but said the ownership group is “100 percent prepared” to do what it takes to get the team.
Johnson also said he did not think the recent move by the Seattle group to raise its offer to a total valuation of $625 million, compared to the original offer of $525 million, will matter.
“We have been told by the NBA early on this would not be a bidding war,” he said in comments to reporters in Sacramento before he left for Dallas. “I don’t think it’s going to go to the highest bidder and I never believed that. We respected the process that was laid out and we are going to abide by it.”
Johnson also shrugged off as “baseless and desperate” a lawsuit that was filed in Sacramento earlier in the day by two local attorneys who contend the city intentionally attempted to mislead the public by undervaluing land, billboards and parking spaces it is providing developers of a new downtown arena.
Also Tuesday, another Sacramento group announced it will begin launching a ballot initiative as part of a campaign to “end the financially irresponsible diversion of over $250 million in public funds” for the arena.
The big news, though, will come Wednesday — even if few involved could say they had a clue what the day holds.
“There’s so many different scenarios,” said Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin as he checked in, representing Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. “We’ll see what happens.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org