For Sacramento and Seattle, the end is finally near – at least – that’s what were told as the NBA’s Board of Governors is tentatively scheduled to give their recommendation on the franchises potential relocation Monday. There will still be a vote among the rest of the league owners about a week later, but it would be a last second hail mary for the remaining owners to go against the grain and oppose the recommendation.
It’s the end to a five year battle for Seattle – even longer for Sacramento (who has essentially fought relocation since the early 90′s outside of their glory years), as both cities have continually found themselves in a fight to either keep their franchise, or in Seattle’s case – return the franchise that was unfairly taken from them.
As the clock strikes down on the situation, both fan bases are feeling confident and honestly, why shouldn’t they be?
For Sacramento – despite fans of Seattle feeling differently, this is their game to lose. This is no longer the fourth quarter where a half court shot was needed just to tie the game – that shot was already made when the new potential ownership group, city and fans of Sacramento put an end to the “formality” that the Kings would move. The game clock is under twenty-four seconds and it’s Kings ball in a tie game. Now it’s all about execution – how well did the Sacramento group piece together their rushed plan? Will they make the shot? Will they turn it over?
Make no mistake – this isn’t the homer in me talking – it’s just how the NBA works. The incumbent team has the advantage until they don’t. I’d say the same thing if the situation was reversed and it was Sacramento attempting to bring a franchise to the California capital. The NBA needs a reason to remove a franchise from a city and despite how wonderful of a city Seattle is – despite how fantastic their ownership group might be – despite how overly deserving they are of NBA basketball returning to the Emerald City, Sacramento has to drop the ball to lose the Kings. They have to turn it over on this final possession. This isn’t a scenario where Seattle can one-up them and be awarded the Kings, despite a solid plan in Sacramento. This is a situation where Seattle has to put forth an excellent plan in the case Sacramento doesn’t.
I know that might not be something Seattle fans agree on or even want to hear, but this is a scenario where Sacramento has to make a mistake. Now – that doesn’t mean they wont. This isn’t a praise job or an unrealistic expectation for the potential new Sacramento ownership group. This really could go either way. Just as easily as they could’ve presented a flawless plan – they could also stumble, so don’t take this as some homer rant that Sacramento has a much better chance at keeping the Kings than Seattle does as bringing the franchise north. What it is though is an explanation on how this process continually plays out in the NBA. Sacramento has to lose this battle – that’s no slam on Seattle or their ownership group – it’s just how the NBA views franchise relocation.
All that said – this isn’t doom and gloom for Seattle, who should be (and are) feeling extremely confident in their own right – for two reasons. One, the potential Seattle ownership group is about as rock solid as it gets. You have passion, desire and despite some unique financing options – a vast amount of money coming from the ownership group. You have a city that has supported NBA basketball at the highest of levels for decades and a market that is rich for the return of the NBA.
The Seattle ownership group, from everything we’ve been told, has put together one hell of an offer for the Kings franchise – an offer that many outside of Seattle and/or Sacramento might feel is too much, given the Kings’ overall value and debts owed to the city of Sacramento and NBA. The pro-activeness from the Seattle group has not only put themselves in a real position to bring the Kings to Seattle, but to also bring the NBA back with expansion if they aren’t awarded the Sacramento franchise.
NBA Commissioner David Stern can talk about how expansion isn’t an option “right now” until he’s blue in the face, but there’s a reason he can’t fully commit to slamming that door. In a league filled with Donald Sterling’s and Maloof’s, you as David Stern (and fellow NBA owners) want to decide that the Hansen group or the Ranadive group aren’t what you want representing your league? You don’t want one of your league’s smallest markets – smallest teams, selling for a record value, only improving values across the league? A new franchise in Seattle with a brand new arena that too – would only help to increase other franchise values? Seriously? I have a pretty difficult time believing that. And that essentially gives Seattle two opportunities to bring the NBA back, either through relocation or expansion.
So as the final seconds tick down on the game clock that is the Seattle/Sacramento saga, both fans, both cities, look surprisingly confident and with good reason. Crazy as it sounds – there’s an awfully good chance that in two years, the NBA might be opening their 2015-2016 season with a primetime Kings-Sonics battle.