The day began with a tweet, was fueled by a fast-spreading media report and ended with rumors and reaction. But by the end of the day, nobody seemed to know the fate of basketball in Seattle or Sacramento.
The two cities reacted very differently Wednesday to swirling rumors that a group from Seattle is negotiating to buy the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
In Seattle, there was excitement that the NBA might return after its exit five years ago. In Sacramento, there was despair among fans and defiance from public officials, punctuated by Mayor Kevin Johnson vowing to fight to keep the team in town.
"It's a significant day for the community because it appears it's the first day that the Sacramento Kings are for sale," Johnson said at a news conference.
Johnson, a former NBA player, said that if the report is true, it marks an opportunity for his city to find local buyers to keep the team in Sacramento. Indeed, the team's owners, the Maloof family, have never stated publicly the team is for sale, instead pursuing options in the past to secure a new arena or move the team themselves.
Johnson made it clear he believes it's unlikely the Maloofs — who bought the team in 1998 for $156 million — will themselves keep it in Sacramento.
The family that owns the Sacramento Kings wants to maintain a say in how the team is run if they sell it to Chris Hansen, creating a possible snag in the sale negotiation, an NBA source told The Seattle Times.
The Maloof family has owned the team since 1998, and brothers Joe and Gavin have been particularly involved and visible presences in the franchise since day one.
An initial Yahoo! Sports report on the sale, since confirmed by others, is that the family would retain a small percentage in the team. But the question now, according to the source, is whether that percentage also would allow the Maloofs some say in how the team is run.
With two proud cities fighting for control of the Sacramento Kings, the National Basketball Association will soon be called upon to pick a winner.
One city, Seattle, has signed a tentative, $340 million deal with the Maloof family to buy and move the team, and appears to have the inside track. Sacramento, in turn, is expected to counter any day now with a bid of its own, and has been gaining momentum in recent days.
It's unprecedented, said Bay Area sports consultant Andy Dolich, a former NBA team executive. "This is a unique circumstance. We have a thoroughbred horse race."
A decision is expected in mid-April, when the 30 NBA owners convene for a postseason board of governors meeting in New York.
Last week, a triumphant Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced a potential Kings purchase group had submitted a fair and competitive offer to keep the team in town. Friday night, NBA Commissioner David Stern said no, not quite.
Speaking to the news media before a Golden State Warriors game in Oakland, the commissioner delivered a bombshell, saying a Sacramento group's counteroffer to buy the team does not measure up in dollars to a tentative deal the Kings recently signed with a group that hopes to move the team to Seattle.
"The counter bid has got very strong financial people behind it, but it is not quite there in comparison to the Seattle bid," Stern said. "There is a substantial variance."
Sacramento has less than six weeks to convince the NBA that the Kings are better off not moving to a larger, wealthier city where investors have made a more generous offer to buy the team.
As its fight with Seattle heats up, Sacramento is casting itself as the scrappy underdog – the small market that has loyally supported the Kings and is doing everything in its power to keep the team. It appears to have the sympathy of NBA Commissioner David Stern, who has championed Sacramento over the years and is urging the city's investors to strengthen their bid for the Kings.
Ultimately, the decision will have little to do with sympathy. Issues of dollars and cents will rule the day, including data on economic factors such as per capita incomes and television markets. Much will depend on the strength and credibility of each city's proposal for a new, NBA-worthy arena.
Dueling teams of billionaires and mayors are heading to New York for a pivotal Wednesday showdown over the future of the Sacramento Kings.
Before an elite committee of NBA owners, delegations from Sacramento and Seattle will present their arguments on the issue that's been making headlines for weeks: Should the Kings stay put or be allowed to move to the Pacific Northwest?
The meeting, to be held at a Manhattan hotel, comes a week after the Sacramento City Council approved a non-binding term sheet for a new $448 million arena at Downtown Plaza - a crucial piece in the city's attempt to keep the team.
The committee is likely to make a recommendation sometime this month. A final decision is expected April 18 or 19, when the league's Board of Governors, consisting of all the team owners, convenes in New York.
The Maloof family has given the Sacramento investors seeking to buy the Kings until 5 p.m. Friday to submit a written, binding "back-up" offer that matches the deal the family has in place to sell the franchise to a group in Seattle, a source close to the deal told The Bee today.
The source told the Bee that if the Maloofs receive a matching offer by Friday, they will consider it as a serious back-up proposal should the NBA nullify their tentative deal with Seattle. If the offer doesn't arrive, or doesn't match the Seattle bid, the Maloofs have said any talks are off with the Sacramento group. The source declined further comment about who issued the ultimatum, when, or why.
The source said the NBA a few weeks ago forwarded a "statement of interest" in buying the team to the Maloofs from the Sacramento group, but NBA Commissioner David Stern said the dollar amount in that offer was substantially lower than the offer on the table from Seattle. The source described the initial offer as "not even close" to the reported bid from Seattle of $341 million.
The NBA board of governors began gathering in Dallas today in an effort to resolve the five-month-long struggle over the future of the Sacramento Kings. The board's tasks: Decide whether the team should move to Seattle or stay in Sacramento, and then figure out who should own the troubled franchise.
Owners and league executives trickled in for the climactic meeting, which was expected to begin at around 11 a.m. Sacramento time.
Kings co-owner George Maloof was prowling the Hilton lobby this morning and greeted Commissioner David Stern and his wife Diane at the hotel coffee shop. After breakfast, Stern waved hello to four purple-and-black-clad Kings fans who had arrived minutes earlier from Sacramento, but declined comment to reporters.