While Chris Hansen insists he isn’t giving up on his quest to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, would he be willing to risk his relationship with the NBA by picking a fight? That’s the question as many debate what happens next in the saga to return pro basketball to Seattle.
“While this represents yet another obstacle to achieving our goal, I just wanted to reassure all of you that we have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up,” Hansen said Monday night in a statement.
Although Hansen said he plans to make his case to the league’s Board of Governors (all of the NBA owners) and get them to support his purchase of the team and relocation, others wonder if he’s setting the stage for a legal challenge.
Among them, AP sports reporter Brian Mahoney, who told 710 ESPN’s Bob and Groz Show he was surprised when talking to NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy Adam Silver recently that they didn’t seemed worried about the Sacramento situation ending up in court.
“Honestly, I think he’s got a case,” said Mahoney.
Hansen repeatedly referenced his written agreement with the Maloof family to purchase the team.
“We just wanted to let you all know that we remain fully committed to seeing this transaction through,” Hansen said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if at least Chris Hansen’s group makes an attempt to see whatever rights they have left,” Mahoney said.
For months Mahoney thought Hansen’s group would emerge victorious, but then he started hearing on and off the record in the last week that many owners felt the Maloofs didn’t handle the sale appropriately.
“They felt like this wasn’t done properly,” he said, with many arguing the Maloofs should have at least given notice they planned to sell and give the community a chance to find a local buyer first.
But even if Sacramento is no longer in play, others say Seattle’s NBA hopes aren’t completely dashed.
Longtime NBA observer Rick Bucher with CSN Bay Area told 710 ESPN’s Brock and Danny Show the increased value of teams driven up by the Sacramento bidding battle could prompt another owner to sell their team to Hansen.
“The feeling still is while I don’t expect expansion, Seattle now remains the most viable market for the next team that becomes available. And I have to believe that is a large part of the thinking that went into this,” Bucher said.
Bucher and others speculate the Milwaukee Bucks are the most likely candidate to consider moving. While team officials have repeatedly said they aren’t selling, the NBA has told them the franchise will have to leave the city after the 2016-2017 season if a new arena isn’t built.
“I just don’t see the forces that be being able to put together even an arena deal or a new ownership group in Milwaukee that can contest with what Seattle already has in place,” he said.
While Hansen could take legal action if the league ultimately blocks his efforts to land the Kings, Bucher said that’s unlikely since the league doesn’t take kindly to a “scorched earth policy.”
“Chris Hansen has to play that card, but I would venture a guess nobody wants to go there,” he said of Hansen’s statement vowing to continue the fight.
Given what happened with Sacramento, some wonder if the NBA would simply use Seattle again as a pawn to get a new arena or ownership group in one of its struggling cities like Milwaukee or Memphis. But Bucher said it’s pretty clear owners don’t want to burn the city again.
“It still has far too much value to the league for them to step on Seattle a second time.”
While others are far less confident, Hansen is clearly not about to go down with a fight, quoting Muhammad Ali in his statement: “Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”