The NBA lowered an emphatic boom Monday on Seattle's hopes of bringing
the Sonics back, as the league's Relocation Committee unanimously recommended
that the Sacramento Kings not be allowed to relocate.
The recommendation of the seven-person committee will be forwarded to the NBA Board of Governors for a vote on the week of May 13. It is expected the board will follow the recommendation of the committee and deny the request of the Kings to move to Seattle.
That puts a halt, for now, to Chris Hansen's nearly three-year quest to bring the NBA back to town.
Hansen leads a group that reached an agreement in January to buy the Kings from the team's owners, the Maloof family, and then filed for relocation, hoping to begin playing in KeyArena in the 2013-14 season.
Hansen made an aggressive move for the team, offering $357 million for 65 percent, a total valuation of $550 million that was the most ever bid for an NBA franchise.
The sale, and a later request for relocation, needed approval of the NBA's Board of Governors to become official, however, and that gave Sacramento time to mount a counteroffer that ultimately kept the Kings where they have played since 1985.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said in an interview on NBA-TV that the Seattle bid was "very strong" but that "there is some benefit that should be given to a city that has supported us for so long and has stepped up to contribute to a new building, as well."
The new building in Sacramento came as a result of a dogged effort led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former three-time NBA All-Star who made it a priority to keep the team there.
Stern had also said his preference was to not relocate a team, and his support of Sacramento's offer was likely a critical part of the team staying.
Stern was seen as helping the Sacramento group revamp its ownership group -- now led by Vivek Ranadive, a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors -- to get into position to make a bid that could keep the team.
Johnson numerous times had said a key selling point of Sacramento's bid was that the local government had "stepped up" every time it had been asked to in recent years, specifically in helping fund arenas. Sacramento's plan for a $447 million arena includes $258 million in public money.
"I know this doesn't mollify the anger, but I think this decision was really about Sacramento and not Seattle," said Michael McCann, a sports legal expert and an on-air analyst for NBA.com. "I think it was an affirmation of Sacramento, and the significance of that, I believe, is that Seattle is still well-positioned for an NBA team."
While many regarded Monday's news as pretty much ending the battle over the Kings, USA Today reported that the new Sacramento ownership group has been asked to put 50 percent of the purchase price into escrow by Friday. Also, the Maloof family still has a binding agreement to sell the team to Hansen's group -- which included a $30 million nonrefundable deposit by Hansen -- and doesn't have to sell the team to the Sacramento group.
A Maloof family spokesman said Monday the family has no comment. Hansen's spokesman also said Hansen would not comment.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, one of the Hansen group's investors, was quoted by KJR-AM saying he was "horribly, horribly disappointed" in the news.
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