February 15, 2013

NBA teams in both Seattle and Sacramento unlikely

It appears unlikely that the ongoing saga involving the future of the Kings will end with teams in both Sacramento and Seattle.

It appears unlikely that the ongoing saga involving the future of the Kings will end with teams in both Sacramento and Seattle.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle this week, NBA Commissioner David Stern said he does not think that league expansion is an option.

Still, he continued his support for Sacramento, while at the same time expressing encouragement for Seattle – the city trying to lure the Kings.

"The idea of (the NBA) leaving Sacramento is not a good one," Stern said. "The idea of going back to Seattle is a good idea. We'll have to see how that plays out."

The commissioner's comments were made in advance of this weekend's All-Star Game in Houston, where Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson arrives today to begin lobbying league owners to keep the team here.

Stern told reporters Thursday he has no plans to meet with Johnson in Houston this weekend.

Johnson is assembling an ownership group and an arena plan to counter the deal the Kings' owners have with a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen to sell the franchise and move it to Seattle. The NBA will ultimately decide whether to accept the Seattle plan or keep the team in Sacramento.

Johnson and the City Council are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a symbolic resolution expressing support for the mayor's cause. That resolution asks that the NBA "approve the sale of the Kings to an ownership group that commits to keeping the Kings in Sacramento long-term."

The resolution also touches on the city's quest to build a new arena.

"The City of Sacramento expresses its continued commitment to enter into a public-private partnership to develop a new sports and entertainment facility for the region that meets NBA standards and represents a sound fiscal and economic development investment for the City," the resolution reads.

The council voted last year to approve a financing plan for a new downtown arena, only to have the plan collapse when the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, backed out.

A strength of the Seattle plan is its proposal to build a $490 million arena south of downtown.

That plan has been approved by both the city of Seattle and King County, along with $200 million in public subsidies.

But the Seattle arena proposal is also undergoing environmental review and is the subject of two lawsuits.

One of those suits – filed by the Seattle longshoremen's union – argues the arena financing agreement involving the city, county and Hansen's group violates state environmental law.

Hansen's attorney earlier said a memorandum of understanding reached between his client and public officials "does not approve development of an arena" and "simply describes the process by which the arena proposal will be reviewed and how it will be financed if approved."

Stern was noncommittal in comments made about the Seattle arena situation.

"Right now, we have no approved plan for an arena in Seattle," he said. "We have a very good potential ownership group and set of plans, but there's a lot of work to be done."

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