There was a clear path for Chris Hansen to take the Kings to Seattle: buy the team, get league approval before anyone in Sacramento could leap in the path, then file for relocation. Hansen wanted this to go boom-boom-boom. All reports out of Seattle have suggested that Hansen was looking for league approval ASAP; every report you read or hear about the potential for the Board of Governors to convene at All-Star or vote by email is being pushed in some way by the Seattle group solely to chill Sacramento efforts and give this transaction an air of inevitability.
David Stern ended that plot on Wednesday.
The national audience who isn't paying attention might see the news that the Maloofs have applied for relocation on behalf of the Hansen-Ballmer group and think Wednesday was a bad day for Sacramento. Nope. That news is not terribly surprising. (It is a nice thumb in the eye to hear that the Maloofs had to sign that paperwork. No doubt George Maloof begged Joe and Gavin to let him sign it.) The real news from Wednesday:
"I don't think it's a bidding war," Stern continued. "There's a series of issues that are defined by our constitution that have to be considered. One of the things that our board is mandated to consider is the support for the team in the prior city. So there are real issues for the board to consider, about the buildings, about the likelihood they will be built, about the support from the cities."
Two committees would typically vet both the proposed sale and the move of the franchise to Seattle, but Stern said he has combined the committees into one. The committee will report to the Board of Governors, which is expected to vote on both the sale and the proposed move at its meeting in mid-April.
Stern said the relocation of the franchise requires a majority approval of the Board of Governors and the sale of the franchise would require a three-fourths majority.
"So I did the sensible thing, I combined the committees and said, ‘You guys figure it out.' We'll see how that works," Stern said.
One committee to rule them all. (Sorry.) One committee to not judge whether Seattle can support a team (it can), whether Hansen and company can afford a team (they can), whether Seattle's arena plan is viable (it is). The committee is not being tasked with that question. It is being asked whether Sacramento should lose its team after all it has done. That's how the framing of this must be.
And again, creative solutions exist. Expansion is possible. The only better news we could get from Stern is that the committee will also weigh expansion. But it takes one owner on the committee to bring it up, and hopefully the others will all see what a smart decision that'd be. That should be a piece of Kevin Johnson's lobbying at All-Star. When you point out a problem, you have to offer a solution. A solution exists.
Kudos to Stern for leading the Board of Governors into taking a holistic approach on this issue. It could save the Sacramento Kings.
I also hope the committee looks into the right of first refusal issue. I don't think the Board of Governors really wants to go into next season with ownership unresolved due to a lawsuit from a minority owner who wasn't dealt with fairly. I'm not sure majority owners are too concerned with the rights of minority owners, but long legal battles that leave a franchise in fugue are pretty terrible for profits.