The 12 members of the NBA's relocation and finance committees today unanimously rejected the proposed relocation of the Sacramento Kings. The saga is not completely over at this point, but one thing is certain -- the NBA will contain the Sacramento Kings next season and it will not contain the Seattle Supersonics.
I'm no expert on the in's and out's of the various committees and approvals involved in this process. There is for instance still going to be a vote of the full membership on May 13. But the owners will almost certain go along with the recommendation of the committee, and besides, relocation needed 23 owners to vote for it in the first place. So relocation is off the table.
I suppose the Seattle ownership group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, could pursue purchasing the team anyway, with the understanding that they would not be able to relocate to Seattle at this time. But that's not going to happen for a couple of reasons. For one, they're not interested in the team unless it is relocating. Also, the sale would likely not be approved at this point, even if they said they weren't going to move the team at a later date. The NBA doesn't need another Clay Bennett scenario.
All of this opens the door for the ownership group led by software magnate Vivek Ranadive to purchase the team. Ranadive and others, urged forward and supported by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, put together an offer that was competitive to that of the Seattle group. Again, these parts haven't happened yet, and I suppose the Maloofs could turn around and take the team off the market now if their only goal is to obstruct the process, but with an NBA record sale price on the table, it seems clear that the Kings will be sold to the Sacramento group.
I've said all along that this was the only reasonable outcome. There's an ownership group in place with a competitive offer and the city has ratified plans and funding for a brand new downtown arena. There's no way that any league would take a city's team away under those circumstances -- and apparently the owners committee agreed with that reasoning.
Nor do I think this is the end of the line for the Seattle group. With a half a billion dollars, an arena plan and a big local TV contract all in play, the NBA will almost certainly fast track expansion for the Sonics. The Kings will play in Sacramento next season -- and my guess is the Sonics will play in Seattle the season after that.