SEATTLE — So, here’s how NBA commissioner David Stern opened his Wednesday press conference to announce that the owners had voted to reject the Kings’ relocation to Seattle: “This is going to be short for me; I have a game to get to in Oklahoma City.”
Two possibilities: The man is congenitally bereft of self-awareness, or he has a sadistic streak so deeply ingrained he no longer realizes how insulting he is.
No, commissioner de Sade, we wouldn’t want you to have to take too much time to explain why the Kings can’t be relocated to Seattle because you had to get to Oklahoma to watch the team that you helped be stolen from Seattle.
Following Wednesday’s 22-8 vote by the owners, the news hit Seattle fans like a kidney punch, but one that was not unexpected. Minor solace in the rejection was the fact that the door didn’t seem to be permanently slammed.
The topic of expansion was left as a vague possibility following the conclusion of the current television contract (after the 2015-16 season). And comments by deputy commissioner Adam Silver, soon to be Stern’s replacement, carried a tone far more amenable to Seattle ownership than Stern’s ever have.
“We fully expect to return there one day,” Silver said, adding that the league hasn’t wavered in its desire to have a team in Seattle.
Well, you better hope that tenacious prospective owners like Chris Hansen, Steve Ballmer and the Nordstroms don’t just tell the league to take a flying leap off
Pier 66, because this certainly seemed like the last-best chance of rounding up such motivated owners willing to be so generous with their own dough.
It was Stern who realized the importance of making this a zero-sum proposition. If Sacramento came up with just about any reasonable counteroffer to that made by the Hansen group, Seattle was going to be left out entirely.
Now, ask yourself why the league wouldn’t just jump at setting up an expansion team in Seattle, especially because all plans and funding are in place and protocols have been met, the media market is 13th largest in the nation, and the ownership group would be one of the best capitalized in the league.
If you can’t figure that out, your mind doesn’t work like Stern’s.
If they just came out and gave Hansen and the boys the expansion team they deserve, they could no longer be used as leverage. Stern made it clear that Sacramento was being rewarded for rounding up new owners and, essentially, extorting millions out of taxpayers for a new downtown arena.
Don’t you know there were a half-dozen owners in that meeting in Dallas thinking about their aging facilities, and taking notes on exactly how Sacramento used Seattle’s robust bid to help them get into the taxpayers’ pockets.
These guys are going to be lining up to dangle their franchises in front of Hansen. They may have called him already. So, the league needs to keep the Seattleites on a loose tether as long as possible.
The words might taste bitter on the way out, but congratulations are due to the fans and supporters in Sacramento — most particularly mayor Kevin Johnson, who made keeping the Kings his personal crusade. Stern caused Seattle fans to face the situational morality of hoping to swipe somebody else’s team after knowing exactly how that felt.
Besides, starting fresh with an expansion team seems more promising than taking on a Kings team that was 28-54 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.
But is it worth the wait? Even though he’s a billionaire hedge-fund manager, can Hansen just sit on $80 million in SoDo property for three years awaiting expansion? Sure, Ballmer has a mountain of Microsoft money, and the Nordstroms have a rich legacy of team ownership in these parts.
On his sonicsarena.com site, Hansen wrote of his disappointment, but added: “Our day will come … and when it does, it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle.”
That guy deserves a team, and if the name “Sonics” wasn’t traditional, the “Fighting Hansens” would be appropriate.
So, fans, it might help the cause if you go out today and buy a tie from a Nordstrom store, or download some Microsoft software. I’m not sure what you could do to support a hedge-fund guy, but if you can figure it out, I’m sure Chris Hansen would appreciate it about now.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440