- A horse-shaped screen behind which a hunter can stay concealed when stalking prey.
- A false pretext concealing someone's real intentions.
Stalking horses is an old hunting term. Yet very applicable to our situation with the Maloofs and Seattle. It is relevant to the Sacramento Kings, but really further than that, it is also true for Seattle and their pursuit of the Sonics 2.0.
And I think if the fans from both Sacramento and Seattle realized just how this was played they may realize that both sides are going to get what they want in all this mess.
So, how does this relate to basketball and in particular, the Sacramento Kings. What has become apparent is that the Maloofs have to sell the Kings. They are too broke and probably need the money to buy back into the Palms. Their only means of doing that is selling their last asset, the Kings.
Now this is supposed to be some kind of surprise given that the Maloofs have repeatedly, endlessly, stated they weren’t selling. This was true, but they just didn’t provide all the information. The truth, with all the details, is that they weren’t selling for what they could get at the time. The true value of the team. They needed to raise more money than the team is worth to get out from under their debt and still have enough to buy into the Palms.
So, they decided they would use the old tactic of the Stalking Horse. They sent out a whole herd in misdirection. They had to convince others that they were serious about keeping the team and only relocating. We ended up with them talking Virginia Beach and everybody else who would listen, no matter how ludicrous, but this was just a ruse. A stalking horse meant to confuse other about their intent and to manipulate the price of the Kings.
Some journalists questioned the Maloofs intent at the time and were right. They were just trying to get a really high offer from Seattle. They had to play this game because if Seattle knew they were really planning to sell, or that they were hurting financially, they would get a much smaller offer.
The really weird part of all this is that, IMO, Seattle is really just using the Maloofs in the same way. Clearly, they would be happy to complete the sale and get the Kings, but they have to know, after all that happened with Samueli, that this is not likely. That Sacramento would pony up and fight to keep their team. I think that any reasonable person would have to understand that the Maloofs bailed out on a deal with both the NBA and Sacramento and lost pretty much all their leverage to get a deal done which makes taking the Kings out of Sacramento even harder to do.
And Seattle didn’t even blink? They not only got into bed with the Maloofs, but gave them a $30 million non-refundable deposit? Knowing that the BOG, who is likely pissed off at the Maloofs and not disposed to helping them, doesn’t like to move teams away from arena subsidies? Yep. They did this which could make one question their business acumen….
Unless you start to consider what else they might get out of this whole deal. I think that they get something they want either way...
I think that Seattle is using the Maloofs as their own stalking horse. The Kings are Seattle’s own Stalking Horse in pursuit of Sonics 2.0. They want a team in Seattle and to put Seattle at the top of every list for getting a team. Even if they don’t get the Kings they will have had the chance to make their point loud and clear. They wanted the chance to show that Seattle is stepping up and deserves a team. That they are a great market and ready to build an arena. Trying to get the Kings may be nothing more than the opportunity they needed, whether it works or not, to make their case.
It is certainly a weird mess we are in now, but maybe everybody is going to get what they needed out of this whole seeming fiasco. The Maloofs are getting out with the money they needed. More money than the team is worth. And, surprise, from a Sacramento ownership group they never expected. Seattle is going to get their chance to prove they are ready for a team and make the case for getting one, just not the Kings. Most likely an expansion team.
Now… normally I am not such a cynical guy, but this really is all just smoke and mirrors. It is clear the Maloofs planned to sell the whole time and it is equally clear that the Seattle group knows the risks in pursuing the Kings.
Unfortunately, this herd of Stalking Horses has trampled us fans and has pitted fans against fans. I think people should just realize that this is going down in a way that leaves both sides getting something they want or need. Seattle will get the next expansion team and the Kings are going to have a great new ownership group.
It really is a win-win for everybody.