Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Precedent on Sacramento's side

Published: Thursday, May. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Sacramento's arena drama has gone on long enough. Seriously. "The Sopranos" came and went. Hall of Famer Charles Barkley started a new career and began gobbling up the Emmys. Heck, "War and Peace" proved to be a quicker read.

With respect to the disappointed folks in Seattle, who lost the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 because of their own arena problems, ownership issues and political infighting, it's time for Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to turn the page, to find another city and another franchise to pick on.

Be wary of taking on incumbents. NBA owners argue like siblings and even have been known to scream at their commissioner. But they adhere to a system governed by bylaws and procedures, confer with attorneys whose numbers match those of a midsize law firm, and when it comes to issues pertaining to franchise sales and relocations, they form committees, elicit recommendations and then vote along party lines.

And they hate the headaches that come with relocation.

With a rare dissenting vote – including Paul Allen's and Mark Cuban's opposition to the Sonics' relocation five years ago – the full board of governors without exception has endorsed the finance/relocation committee recommendations during David Stern's 30-plus years as commissioner.

"I think that (Hansen's) initial reaction was understandable," sports legal attorney and analyst Michael McCann said Wednesday. "The league knows he's very disappointed and that he's venting. He probably thought he was going to win this. The more accurate barometer will take place when he makes his presentation and the full board of governors makes its final decision on May 15."

Two more words of advice for Hansen and Ballmer: Lose graciously.

If the Seattle-based billionaires have any hope of pursuing an NBA franchise in the future, perhaps overcoming the league's sentiment against expanding to 31 teams, then this will be the time to visit France, leave the laptops and cellphones at home, avoid the newspapers, and refrain from anything that hints at possible retaliation or litigation.

Before the Hansen/Ballmer group offered the Maloofs $341 million for controlling interest in their franchise, Kings fans empathized with Sonics fans who had suffered through owner Howard Schultz's quick exit, Clay Bennett's even quicker exit, and the organization's resulting exit to Oklahoma City.

But there are several differences between the situations and even more reasons Sonics fans should give Kings fans a break, among them that Seattle has other professional franchises (Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders) and a major college sports program (Washington).

Sacramento has the Kings … and only the Kings. And the reality is few cities know heartbreak like Sacramento. Losing to the Lakers in 2002 was a one-tissue tearjerker compared with the decades-plus of uncertainty here, the recurring relocation threats and the failed arena incarnations.

This is Sacramento's time, Sacramento's first big break. The mayor, the head of the state Senate, the City Council and the public all bought in.

Then, when the Kings were barely breathing, seemingly inhaling nothing but exhaust from the anticipated moving vans headed to Seattle, Kevin Johnson assembled the investment group that changed the game.

That caught the league's attention and led to Stern and the NBA's owners to believe Sacramento had grown up and, with Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive heading the effort, was prepared to go global.

Europe. Russia. South America. China. The NBA has been there, done that.

Now, within a matter of weeks, Ranadive will introduce Sacramento's passion play to his native India.

Imagine that.

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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