It’s the day after the unsurprising, totally expected vote by the NBA Board of Governors. Sacramento stepped up with a credible ownership group. Whether or not it was responsible for the municipality to promise as much as it has, both publicly and possibly privately through deal sweeteners, is debatable. Still, Sacramento did what it needed to do to keep its team.
It’s obvious that the NBA directed the owners to treat this as a referendum on Sacramento. The owners’ papers left behind state as much. As such, it is easy to see that Seattle was used to squeeze as much money out of Sacramento as possible. Time will tell if this is a good investment for them or not.
Where does that leave Seattle, the now-twice-spurned Emerald City?
As it stands now, I’m sitting at my desk at the studio looking out of my window south toward the Seattle arena site. I have a feeling that ground will be broken there within a year. I am looking at several different news reports as interconnected. This story is similar to one of those 3-D images where you have to put your nose next to it and slowly pull away in order for the picture to reveal itself.
Anyone who pays attention to the NBA knows that you have to parse Commissioner Stern’s very measured way of speaking. During the Stern/Silver presser yesterday, I heard enough to know that Seattle has a clear path toward an expansion franchise. When asked by King 5 Seattle’s Chris Daniels about whether or not expansion was discussed, Stern said that it was brought up as a possibility for when the next television deal “which is virtually upon us.” It’s a possibility that within a year, this subject will be seriously discussed - at least publicly.
I have no doubt that it has been seriously discussed behind closed doors. Consider the report that the NBA wants to begin discussing the new deal this summer after the playoffs. That this report leaked out the day before the NBA BOG was set to vote on the Kings situation is more than a bit coincidental. Consider, too, that incoming Commissioner Silver was quick to talk up the desire to return to the Seattle market and that both Stern and Silver reiterated their desire to have Hansen and Ballmer be involved with the league.
The cliched saying is good things come to those who wait. I know that my fellow sportsball friends in Seattle don’t want to hear that. Still, the only right way to do bring back the Sonics is through expansion with Hansen and Ballmer as an ownership group. If the NBA television rights are shored up by the time Silver takes over, then it seems only natural that he will announce a new franchise for Seattle, allowing H/B to break ground on Sonics Arena. It would also begin Silver’s tenure with the league with a franchise indebted to him for favors. And as we’ve seen with Stern’s reign as commissioner, considerable power belongs to those who have favors owed to them.
Many in the sports media point out that the NBA would have to open up expansion to the other, available markets (Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas). However, the league points out that this is an unprecedented situation. Perhaps the league should look no further than the situation with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens.
It would make sense that the NBA allow an expansion franchise (at the $625 price point) for the Seattle group and then take bids for the another franchise once the media rights deals have been signed. Bringing the Seattle market back in to the the league makes the NBA that much more valuable, which could drive the media rights price up and make more money. Adding a 32nd team in 2015-2016/2016-2017 would give the NBA balance in terms of franchises. This is the only logical end to this saga.
You don’t walk away from nearly a billion dollar investment in your product.