Ruling on Kings sale to Seattle group has everyone waiting

NEW YORK — When NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday that a decision on the fate of the Sacramento Kings might take longer than expected, it raised the obvious question: Which city does a delay favor?

Michael McCann, a legal analyst for NBA-TV, said that while he’s not sure the delay indicates either city has the edge, it could be viewed as more of a good sign for Sacramento than Seattle.

“I think it signals that if there was a scenario where Seattle was seen as the favorite, maybe that was premature,” McCann said. “That said, I still think Seattle has a major advantage in that the Maloofs (the current owners) have accepted an offer from a Seattle group.”

Indeed, that remains the question at hand for the NBA — whether to approve a sale of the team from the Maloofs to the Chris Hansen-led group, and subsequent relocation to Seattle.

It had been thought the NBA would make a final decision at its annual Board of Governors meeting April 18-19. Now, it’s unknown when the decision will come.

Each city made 90-minute presentations, with another half-hour for questions, in front of a combined NBA relocation/finance committee here Wednesday.

Stern seemed to indicate afterward that Seattle’s presentation didn’t reveal many, if any, holes in its plan when he said, “There’s no question that Seattle is a vibrant and thriving market with plans for a great building.”

The only specific issue Stern raised is the amount of time it will take each city to build its arena. Seattle has said it could get its arena done by the 2015-16 season while holding out that it could take an extra year. Sacramento’s plan calls for its arena to be done by the 2016-17 season.

“There are questions that the committee has asked us, the staff, to go back and seek details and answers on with respect to exact structure, capital commitments, construction timelines, potential obstacles given the fact that in either case, we’ll be playing in, shall I say, suboptimal arenas for some period of time that it’s difficult to precisely tie it down given the fact that there is no finality to the construction schedules in either city,” Stern said.

Said McCann: “I thought it was interesting that he took that issue and highlighted it. That sort of signals to Seattle to make it two years, and not three.”

There are two potential hurdles to Seattle’s arena plan.

One is a hearing set for April 12 in a lawsuit arguing that the arena deal violates Seattle Initiative 91. The suit asks the court to invalidate the agreement with Hansen to build a new arena with up to $200 million in public funds because the deal doesn’t ensure an adequate financial return to the city, as required by the initiative.

Another legal challenge was rejected in February, but lawyers for the longshore workers union have filed an appeal and continue to argue that an environmental review of the Sodo site should have been completed before the arena agreements were signed.

King County executive Dow Constantine said after Wednesday’s NBA meeting, however, he was confident neither would prove a significant stumbling block.

Sacramento’s arena plan also might face a new challenge. The Sacramento Bee reported Thursday that a tentative court ruling last week struck down portions of a new law designed to fast-track major construction projects that face legal challenges on environmental grounds. The Bee, though, quoted a spokesman for state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg — who was part of Sacramento’s presentation to the NBA — saying, “We’re not concerned” the ruling will cause a delay.

The Maloofs accepted a Seattle bid of $341 million for 65 percent, with George Maloof stating Wednesday the family wants the purchase to be approved. Sacramento’s renewed bid is thought to be less than that of Seattle’s. Stern, though, said that is not an issue.

NBA owners typically side with fellow owners when it comes to approving sales, and McCann said that could also help Seattle.

“You could argue that a jump ball might favor Seattle because of the Maloofs’ agreement with Hansen and (Microsoft CEO Steve) Ballmer,” he said.

Stern did not specify when a final decision might come other than to state the obvious — that it has to come in time for a team to prepare for a new season next fall.

Seattle representatives said they were not bothered by the news of the possible delay.

“We had a good meeting with the NBA (Wednesday) and we look forward to continuing to work with them during their decision-making process,” Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement.


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