Will Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen drastically overpay for the Sacramento Kings?

11 Comments

News of billionaire Chris Hansen striking a deal with the Seattle City Council hit the wire late Monday night, as the sides have agreed to a framework on an arena deal that moves them a few smaller hurdles away from becoming an NBA-ready city (courtesy of Chris Daniels of King 5 in Seattle).

In a bit of twisted irony, the city that had its team stolen away will now set its sights on any available team, and there is no team that is more available than the Sacramento Kings, who nowadays have a different rumored destination every week.

This most recent news solidifies Seattle’s place on the top of that list, though they still need the Maloofs to sell, and they still have to outdo Sacramento. Neither task should be considered a slam dunk, or even likely at this point.

The idea that Sacramento could lose its team, of course, is a black eye for the league as the city has supported its team in every conceivable way, including where it counts financially and at the ticket gate. The only reason we’re having this discussion is because the Maloof family, internal squabbles aside, doesn’t want to be there.

Their roots are in New Mexico, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, and being broke in relative NBA owner terms they’re looking for a short-term infusion of cash, which they hope to find by moving the team to another city that will both build them an arena and also let them keep the profits from it.

Cities such as Virginia Beach, Louisville, Vancouver, Kansas City, and the like are potential candidates if anything because they’re willing to pay to be on the NBA map. But the math starts to get fuzzy because the markets are smaller than Sacramento, and the Maloofs end up no better off than they were in Sacramento over the long haul.

That, and the NBA doesn’t really want those markets, at least not at the expense of Sacramento, where the league enjoys the No. 20 sized TV market without interference from other sports leagues. When you factor in the public relations hit of moving the team – it’s hard to see the league supporting a move and to date we have not.

Even when considering a larger market like Anaheim, the league isn’t falling all over itself to allow a move. The NBA blocked the Maloofs’ relocation attempt last year after Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson raised over $10 million in untapped sponsorships at the drop of a hat and promised a viable arena deal. Things seemed to be moving along reasonably well and a deal for a new arena was agreed to in principle during All Star weekend in Orlando.

But that was before George Maloof created a how-to-guide for burning bridges in Sacramento. He torched the deal live on public television in a tirade for the ages, and any goodwill that was leftover at the league offices was probably lost. Commissioner David Stern has used measured words in describing the arena situation since then, and none of them have painted the Maloofs in a flattering light.

In fact, the commissioner would probably like to see the family sell the team, but as usual the issue comes down to money, antitrust law, and the other 29 owners that one day will be negotiating with both the league office and their home city about something.

Aside from not wanting anybody to tell them what to do, owners want the right to move their teams to the cities they feel they can make the most money in. Leagues don’t like to allow this as it creates a number of problems, and the courts have found that the intersection of those opposing ideals lies in the concept of a relocation fee. Relocation fees are the amount that a league can charge to indemnify parties that are damaged by an owner’s decision to move.

The law is much more detailed than this, and the case law that has been favorable to relocating owners isn’t an exact match to the situation in Sac, but one thing is clear – neither party wants to land in court over this.

And that’s why the Kings arena situation has been allowed to play out, to the detriment of the league’s image, and as an affront to the other 29 owners that one day will have to negotiate with their municipalities.

While it’s unclear right now what impact the Maloofs’ apparent bad faith dealings in Sacramento will have on other team owners seeking public subsidies, a small shift in public sentiment could cost the league and its players tens of millions of dollars and a large scale shift could put the billion dollars the league has received in subsidy back on its balance sheet.

But even with the Maloofs’ name now toxic inside the league and out, to the point it’s being pulled off the signage at the Palms, the league cannot afford a bad ruling in an antitrust case. Aside from treble damages the Maloofs would seek, which are significant, a bad ruling would be held over all sports leagues’ heads by owners wanting to play franchise free agency.

The best hope for the league has always been to see the issue play out on its own, with the Maloofs realizing that they have no options besides going back to the city with its hat in its hand, or selling the team outright.

And with Seattle standing in the on-deck circle and doing what they need to do to land itself an NBA franchise, the question on everybody’s mind is whether or not Hansen will be able to drastically overpay for the Kings.

The Maloofs owe about $70 million to the city of Sacramento and well over $100 million to the NBA, and a sales price in excess of $400 million is needed to give the 43 percent stakeholders an easy way out of Dodge. Considering the franchise is valued at $300 million by Forbes, which is a generous valuation, Hansen would need to hope that the bump of moving to a larger market in Seattle and owning land near the arena would justify the Maloofs’ likely asking price.

But more importantly, when you factor in a relocation fee, which sources tell me will be assessed to give Sacramento buyers a fair shot at buying the team, Hansen could be looking at $500 million or more to buy the Kings. After paying $300 million and counting to build an arena, that’s approaching a billion dollars to get in the game.

It’s possible that the man known for his patience will wait for a less toxic situation to pop up, and it’s fair to wonder now if the league would reconsider expansion now that multiple cities have expressed interest in NBA clubs.

As for Hansen’s involvement with the Kings, he said weeks ago that he had not made an offer to purchase the Kings after a local report emerged saying otherwise. If he decides to make a play for the team, and assuming the Maloofs are ready to cry uncle, it probably puts Sacramento on notice that it’s time to formalize an offer to buy the team.

Sources on the city’s side have indicated that they have more than one buyer lined up, and ultimately Seattle’s progress could force some sort of endgame here. If the goal is to sell for the Maloofs, then they will likely have squeezed the best sales price out of Sacramento that is possible, and anything close to a Seattle offer (after the relocation fee) will likely be supported by the league.

If the Maloofs still don’t want to sell, they’ll continue to play the dating game with other cities and the league will continue to deal with a public relations nuisance. The family will not get a different arena deal in Sacramento, and any talk of renovating the unrenovatable Arco Arena with public funds has been met with collective laughter both inside and outside of the city.

Even if the Maloofs can find a sweetheart deal somewhere else, it’s unlikely that they’ll have the clout to force a move the league doesn’t want. Sure, they may have some antitrust law on their side, but they probably can’t afford the lawsuit and even if they win, they’re left in a place where they’re not wanted. They don’t have the fortitude of antitrust victor and deceased Raiders owner Al Davis. And other than George, they want to be wanted.

In Sacramento, the framework for a deal exists not just for the Maloofs but for any owner that wants to pick up the ball and run with it.

The deal that was struck between the city, arena giant AEG, and the NBA is still considered a good deal by each of those parties, and the only thing that would theoretically change are the owner contributions. In a concept the Maloofs cannot come to grips with, if a new owner wants to pay more for arena construction they can enjoy more of the profits.

Unlike anywhere else in the country, including Seattle, an agreement can be reached in Sacramento under the current terms and design could start within about a month according to sources.

As usual, though, the story goes right back to the Maloofs and whether or not they’re ready to face the music. They can’t do nothing, as Arco Arena is dilapidated and barely up to NBA code. They’ll eventually need to do more than polish the concourse floors.  Eventually, they’ll either need to take the Sacramento offer, try to make something out of nothing in an unlikely move out of town, or sell the team.

And when the music stops and the only thing left to do is sell, will Hansen or any other buyer want to drastically overpay for this particular franchise to the extent that Sacramento can’t match the offer?

Until these questions are answered or the Maloofs are nudged out the door with greater efficiency, Sacramento Kings fans have to endure the same fears that plagued Sonics fans before their team was ultimately ripped away.  And that’s just not right.

Free agent Gerald Green had offers, chose not to play in Orlando restart

Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gerald Green is a free agent veteran wing who shot 35.4% from three last season — the kind of player a lot of teams could have used heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando. He was traded by the Rockets and waived by the Nuggets at the trade deadline because a foot injury and surgery that sidelined him for the season, but the delay before the restart gave him extra time to get healthy and he was medically cleared.

However, as teams start to land in Orlando today, Green is still at home.

This is by choice, several teams were interested reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The Rockets had traded Green at the deadline as part of the four-team Clint Capela deal, which took them out of the running to re-sign Green.

Green will have offers come free agency this October, but for now he will be home watching the NBA restart on television, just like the rest of us.

 

NBA Orlando restart: What players can expect as they arrive at bubble

NBA bubble
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Today we start to find out if the NBA can build a bubble on its Walt Disney World campus and play out the end of the season, crowning a champion.

For the next three days, Tuesday through Thursday, teams will be arriving in Orlando and will be taken to the Disney property and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. There are 113-pages of protocols and regulations laid out by the league — not all of them popular with players, expect some fatigue as the restart wears on — to create this bubble.

Here’s what players can expect, starting today:

ARRIVAL

• Teams will board charter flights from their home market to the Orlando airport, where after they land and go through security they will directly board a chartered bus that will bring them to the Walt Disney World complex. Team arrival dates are:

Tuesday: Brooklyn, Denver, Orlando (no flight), Phoenix, Utah, Washington
Wednesday: Boston, Dallas, L.A. Clippers, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Sacramento
Thursday: Toronto (from Florida), Houston, Indiana, L.A. Lakers, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio

• When they check-in at the hotel, each player will be given a “MagicBand” — a rubber bracelet with a chip that serves as a room key (and wallet, if needed) throughout the hotel. The NBA also will use it to check players in for coronavirus testing.

• Soon after they arrive, players will be tested for the coronavirus. After taking the test (and awaiting results), players must quarantine in their hotel rooms for 24-48 hours until they pass two tests 24 hours apart — they may not be in physical contact with team members, and they will only eat room service meals. Portland’s CJ McCollum had wine shipped from Oregon to his room in Orlando just to pass these 48 hours.

• Once cleared by the initial tests, players will be tested daily for the virus, at least at first, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The NBA’s operations handbook for the restart says players will be tested” regularly.”

• What hotel teams will stay at was determined by seeding. Here is the list of which teams are staying at what hotel.

-Grand Destino: Milwaukee, L.A. Lakers, Toronto, L.A. Clippers, Boston, Denver, Utah, Miami
-Grand Floridian: Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Houston, Indiana, Dallas, Brooklyn, Memphis, Orlando
-Yacht Club: Portland, Sacramento, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Washington

If a lower seed team advances to the conference semi-finals, they likely will be asked to move to the Grand Destino from their hotel (Disney wants to free up those hotels for other guests to the resort).

• All team and league staff — including coaches — will be required to wear a “proximity alarm” that will notify the wearer if he or she spends more than five seconds within six feet of another person who also has the band. The idea is to remind people to social distance. Players will have the option of wearing the alarm band.

• Players also will be given the option to wear the Oura smart ring, which tracks the wearer’s temperature, breathing, and heart rate. The makers says could help indicate if a player has some of the early symptoms of COVID-19 before they realize it, but players are skeptical of wearable technology from the league in general. We will see how many players take the league up on their offer.

LIFE INSIDE THE BUBBLE

• Everyone — players, team staff, Disney employees, probably even Mickey Mouse — will be required to wear a facemask, except when eating, at a workout or practice, in their room, or if they are swimming or doing something more than six feet away from another person (laying out by the pool with nobody around).

• Food will be prepared on site by Disney chefs. Each team has the chance to work with a “culinary team” to design a healthy menu that fits the dietary needs of players. A number of players have private chefs, and they can prepare meals off-site then have those brought into the players.

• Games inside the NBA bubble will take place at one of three facilities:
1)The HP Field House will be the primary game court.
2)The Arena will have a game broadcast court plus has a couple of side practice courts.
3) The Visa Center has a court that can be used for game broadcasts, but this will primarily be a practice facility.
• All three areans have weight and training areas for teams to get in additional work.

• Team hotels will have amenities for players and staff, such as pools, bicycles (there are bike paths), players-only lounge area (with televisions and gaming areas). The hotel will have barbers, manicures and spa services, and more. There also will be movie screenings, some DJ sets, bowling, and other games such as ping pong — just don’t play doubles. Seriously.

• There will be golf available, but no caddies.

• Players can leave the bubble whenever they want. If this is an excused exit for a family emergency — Gordon Hayward and several other players have wives/partners with babies due during the bubble — and players are tested daily while outside the bubble, they face only a four-day quarantine upon return. However, if a player just chooses to leave the bubble without an approved reason, he faces a 14-day quarantine upon his return and will have to have two negative tests. Also, the player will not be paid for any games missed.

• Any team staff that violates the rules of the NBA bubble or leaves the bubble without prior approval will be removed and cannot return to the Disney campus.

WHAT HAPPENS IF/WHEN A PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE

• The NBA has made it clear: Games are not going to stop for a few positive tests

• If a player tests positive inside the NBA bubble, he is immediately be moved to “isolation housing” off the Disney property. That player will spend at least 14 days outside the bubble and must pass two coronavirus tests a dau apart.

• Anyone the infected player came in contact with will face increased testing and will be monitored.

• Teams and the league will more closely monitor and test anyone who was in close proximity to that player between tests.

Dwight Howard will join Lakers for restart, donate check to social justice cause

Lakers Dwight Howard
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

“Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction… I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families? This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families? This is where our unity starts. At home! With Family!!”

Those are the words of Dwight Howard, who was among the players questioning the NBA’s restart in Orlando.  He was grieving the loss of Melissa Rios, the mother of his 6-year-old son, David, and was looking at his family as the biggest priority in his life. As it should be. Howard also is committed to the Black Lives Matter movement and, as he stated, saw the NBA’s return as a distraction.

In the end, he has decided to play in the NBA restart and donate his checks the rest of this season to charity, something Howard announced on CNN (hat tip Dave McMenamin).

Here is Howard’s full statement to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

That is about a $700,000 donation by Howard to Breathe Again.

Howard played a central role as a big man off the bench on a Lakers’ team that is the odds-on favorite to win it all. A ring would be the cherry on top of his Hall of Fame career.

Howard wants to be a part of that, but it means sacrificing time with family. He said it was not an easy decision, and he is putting his money where his mouth is donating his earnings to charity.

The thoughtfulness behind those decisions shows the kind of maturity Howard has grown into, even if fans never see it.

Jaylen Brown heads to restart with Boston, plans to use voice for social justice

Jaylen Brown Boston
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been one of the most active NBA players in the Black Lives Matters movement — even driving from Boston to Atlanta to lead a protest.

That’s not changing because he’s going to Orlando for the NBA restart.

Brown admitted he considered not playing in Orlando due to the pandemic, but the opportunity the NBA’s platform provided to speak on social issues was too great to pass up, Brown said in a conference call with reporters Monday, via the Associated Press.

“Once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I was signed up,” he said. “I plan on using my voice while I’m down there. I plan on spreading light on things that are getting dimmed and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”

Brown is not alone in thinking that. Portland’s CJ McCollum is on the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association as well and said a lot of players see the same opportunity.

“But now [the talk is] more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on?…

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye, so I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

One way players can make a statement is by replacing the name on the back of jerseys with a message pre-approved by the league. Brown, like 76ers forward Mike Scott, is not a fan of how the NBA handled it.

“I think that list is an example of a form of limitations,” Brown said. “I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more…

“The bottom line is there are improvements that need to be made,” Brown said. “The NBA has a great voice, a lot of resources and a lot of influence. We’re appreciative that they’re helping and aiding in a lot of those things that we care about. That’s really important.”

Brown understands the NBA’s voice, and he heads to Orlando planning to use his.