NBA Commissioner David Stern has never had a problem saying no – ever – so Stern’s continued round-about ways, filled with shoulder shrugs and “not right now answers” when it comes to expansion are a bit more telling than he wants to lead on – at least in my opinion.
Let me make this clear – expansion isn’t an option yet – it can’t be. There are legal ramifications if the NBA goes that route. Entering into a binding agreement with the Seattle based Hansen-Ballmer group, the Maloof family (who will most certainly never set foot into NBA ownership again) would cause a legal ruckus if the NBA even remotely brought up the idea of expansion, which would heavily devalue the sale of the Kings franchise. There’s just no benefit for the NBA to do it – again – right now, a word that continues to find its way out of David Stern’s mouth.
What the NBA appears to be doing is poking holes in the Sacramento bid – trying to see if they’ll be able to sink or swim. Yes, Stern has seemingly assisted Sacramento along the way – holding their hand, if you will, to put them into a proper position to have more than a punchers chance at keeping their franchise and this appears to be more of the same.
The Sacramento bid, while very appealing, was clearly rushed. How could it have not been? The Seattle based group has been putting together plans to return basketball to the Emerald City for years – the Sacramento group was more or less compiled in a handful of months, outside of Ron Burkle who has been assisting since the Anaheim fallout. As Stern pointed out in yesterday’s post BOG meeting presser, the Sacramento bid continues to improve and that’s what Stern appears to be desiring – reason to have both ownership groups in the NBA.
Throughout the process, Stern has more or less informed Sacramento of their shortcomings – something that hasn’t exactly sat well with Seattle media and fans. Now, it’s purely speculation on my part, but there’s good reason for this.
What the Sacramento and Seattle groups have done is essentially unprecedented. The two potential ownership groups are the elite of the elite. These are the type of groups that the NBA puts wanted signs out for. Neither side is a fly by the night core who’ll spend a decade floundering in the lottery before they opt to sell for a small profit. These are two groups who in due time are going to be a Championship contender on the floor and maintain that status, wherever the franchise is located. These are two groups who are willing to put their money where their mouth is – build an entertainment/arena complex, support the local communities – essentially be the model NBA franchise and they’re doing it outside of the bright lights of a Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. You couldn’t ask for more if you were Stern and the NBA. So how do you turn one of these groups away? You can’t.
That’s why the NBA is doing what they’re doing in attempting to find fault in the Sacramento bid. Now, when I say “fault” – that’s not used in a negative sense, rather, they’re trying to see if the Sacramento group can patch the holes poked into their ownership boat. Is the NBA helping them patch those? That’s up to your discretion, though, it certainly appears they’re lending some assistance.
We’ve all known – Seattle and Sacramento fans alike – that the best scenario for all parties in this is expansion. And despite NBA owners barking about the idea, you’re talking about one of the league’s smaller markets selling for record financial numbers. That only increases the value of other franchises around the league and does so relatively dramatically. Sure, there are small financial issues – say like revenue sharing that would dip a bit, but in the grand scheme of things, fellow NBA owners would be profiting off of this scenario and profiting well.
Now, I fully understand the NBA not wanting to expand into Boise or Tuscaloosa, but this is a unique situation and they’re very well aware of that. You have two groups willing to throw oodles of dollars your way that is only going to help you in the long run. That’s a problem?
Right now, David Stern and company are doing their best to break down Sacramento’s offer and to find the faults in it, whatever they might be. And when found, it’s a matter if the issues are repairable or not. So far, so good. If they’re not, then it’s a pretty simple decision for the NBA – opt for the Seattle group. But assuming that the Sacramento offer is everything the NBA desires, there’s no reason to not bring both ownership groups into the league – despite what the NBA wants you to believe, again, right now.
Stern just can’t close that door – and there’s a reason for that.
Personally, despite all of the drama – all of the rumors – all of the frustration, I’d be feeling pretty good if I was a Sacramento or Seattle fan right now, odd as that is to say. You have two groups who the NBA would love to have in their boys (and girls, Jeanie) club. Don’t underestimate that.