I'm going to take Chris Hansen at his word that, even with the denied relocation of the Sacramento Kings, he still plans to buy the Sacramento Kings, and that he will do all he can. And he has the paperwork.
For purposes of this little exercise, I'll also accept that the NBA has the right to determine where its franchises are located.
Therefore, it is plausible to assume that Hansen would be willing to operate the team in Sacramento for a length of time to be negotiated. Again, for exercise purposes, let's say one year.
In that year, the three parties – Hansen, Sacramento investors, the NBA – get what none of them have and all want: time.
Time for Hansen, governments and taxpayers to review the mandatory environmental impact statements for the proposed arena in SoDo and work toward the resolution of any litigation they may prompt.
Time for Sacramento investors to organize themselves, move their downtown arena plans from cocktail napkins to blueprints and work toward the resolution of any litigation that follows.
Time for the NBA to move to a new commissioner, relatively free of the baggage the incumbent has accumulated, and to begin negotiations with TV networks well ahead of their expiration dates. With that information, Commissioner Adam Silver can make a more considered decision on expansion.
Around the end of the 12 months, everyone will know much more than they do now about arena projects in both cities.
If Sacramento is well on its way, Hansen would agree to sell the team to the Sacramento group, led by Vivek Ranadive, for what Hansen paid. Hansen would be able to make a stronger argument for expansion to a more informed NBA (more on this below). If Sacramento fails, the NBA will grant permission to Hansen for a franchise move to Seattle, with no expansion necessary.
There's a technical term for this. It's called win-win-win – not to mention the fact that the Maloofs get their money and the hell out of the NBA.
There's also a technical term for the alternative: lose-lose-lose. Under this scenario, the lawyers – like the Maloofs – will get their money. Only the lawyers won't go away for a long time.
In the wake of the Monday decision that rocked Seattle's sports world and jacked Sacramento's, Hansen's feisty, Ali-quoting retort that "impossible is nothing," that he will fight for the team if he is denied the sale, has led to speculation that he is bound for the courtroom. That would be a shame for everyone in the process – especially the fans, whose money is the entire driver in this deal.
That isn't to say Hansen wouldn’t have a case. I have heard from uninvolved attorneys willing to speculate without attribution. Remember, this is an exercise, not a trial.
Hansen's bid has been identified as "very strong" by the outgoing commissioner, David Stern. So, presuming there are no fatal flaws with the Hansen-Maloof transaction, business law says there is no reason not to complete it. At least, so long as Hansen agrees to the ownership by-laws – which include no relocation, as well as no suing other owners or the league.
If the NBA denies the sale, they risk Hansen suing Sacramento investors for tortious interference. Hansen can claim investors used a procedural maneuver by a third party (the NBA) to thwart the sale.
The NBA, whose acronym among the jaded media pack that covers them has come to stand for "Nothing But Attorneys,” is hip to the claim. That's part of why the vote to deny relocation Monday was 7-0 and not 12-0: The five owners on the finance committee could be cited for conflict if they participated in the relocation vote.
Further, in denying the sale, the NBA risks being drawn into an antitrust argument against, irony of ironies, the city that whipped the NBA on antitrust once before. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that the NBA’s denial of employment to Sonics star Spencer Haywood was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!