What happened? How could Seattle lose the Kings to a Sacramento Group whose offer was clearly far and away inferior to that of Chris Hansen’s group? How did that happen … and what about the future of basketball in Seattle? Is another team for Seattle in play? Is an expansion team an option? It certainly sounds like expansion could happen for Seattle in the very near future.
I don't know how many of you caught this on Wednesday, but for those who missed it, I found this extremely fascinating and encouraging actually. Brock Huard and Danny O’Neil over on 710 ESPN had a very interesting chat with Tim Montemayor Wednesday morning [5/15] (so prior to the announced vote) of KNBR in San Francisco. Montemayor is a guy who is pretty plugged in to some high level NBA sources. He talked extensively about what apparently happened in the Kings to Seattle deal … and also about the possible return of the NBA to Seattle (which sounds like could happen sooner than later). Here is the full interview ...
If you’re interested in listening to the podcast, just click on the link below while you follow along with the transcript …
710 ESPN Brock and Danny Interview with KNBR's Tim Montemayor -- 5/15/13
Huard: “…because you were all over it last night, and the words I have heard for the last week, week and a half have been ‘disappointment’ and ‘clear path’ I think you took that to a whole another level on Twitter last night. Give me a latest and greatest.”
Montemayor: “Well, I think that the ‘clear path’ is the phrase that keeps coming through and what I heard started Sunday night and really kind of carried over was, Chris Hansen’s looking for space and to create space between his group and the Maloofs. And I think it’s about time because that relationship is damaging Seattle’s opportunity to return to the NBA. And I think it’s been a disappointment to the league and to owners on these committees that the Hansen group has continued to marry itself to the Maloofs. And they’ve been told repeatedly that was poor strategy and it would hurt their opportunities. And so what happened was, um, from what I was told was Chris reached out to some people he trusted in the league because he felt like this was coming to a rapid end for him – and he finally said, ‘OK, I’m going to pause.’ And he told the Maloofs, ‘I’m going to need a couple of days, a day or two to reconsider our position.” And when he did that, things changed for him and the tone of conversations between the league and the Hansen group changed from one of a combative nature coming from Chris to one of, ‘OK, how are we going to fix this and create a clear path forward to bring the game back to Seattle?’”
O’Neil: “Tim, when you hear kind of the conversations that are going on between Chris Hansen and the league, how much of this is a concession on Chris Hansen’s part of, ‘OK, we’re not going to get this team’ and how much of this is an acceptable outcome all along if they get a ‘clear path’?”
Montemayor: “Well, I think that concession certainly happened some time Monday between mid-day and Monday evening. Uh, it became very clear that – and frankly the league (and Brock I told you this last time we talked) – the league has known that the Kings are not moving to Seattle for (I would guess) 6 to 8 weeks now. And certainly when the last presentations were made in New York, uh, that deal was over – that the team was not going to leave Sacramento. Um, I think Chris and his group didn’t want to accept that and I think everybody understands that – that that’s a competitive guy, who’s seen nothing but success in any business endeavor that he’s tried. And this was tough for him to take. But I think he got the message and finally changed that tone that you were talking about Danny on Monday – at some point late Monday. And now, uh, I think that things are going to be much more productive for Seattle. That’s the feeling that I get from the sources that I’m talking to.”
Huard: “OK Tim, I’ve got 3 things here. Number one, don’t these owners know (you talked about these owners being kind of sensi-poo or whatever to this process) – these are all smart men -- don’t they know that this was really the only strategy (it may have been a poor strategy), but if every one of them were in that position desperately trying to get a franchise back – tell me an alternative strategy that Ballmer and Hansen could have taken.”
Montemayor: “At some point though (and I don’t disagree with what you said), but at some point you have to be smart enough to say, ‘This is going to kill any opportunity that we have.’ And when you have every owner on committee and not on committee telling you, ‘If you continue to do business with the Maloofs, the chances of the NBA returning Seattle, not only with you but perhaps in the future at all, are going to die.’ And when they are continually telling you that, and you don’t listen, that’s where the problems begin. I don’t disagree that Hansen and his group were holding on to every chance that they thought they had. But at some point you have to listen – and until Monday, Hansen and his group weren’t listening. And I think that was the problem. Um, I don’t disagree with you Brock; I want to make that clear that I agree that they were fighting for what they thought was the right thing to do – only it wasn’t the right thing and it damaged their effort.”
Huard: “Tim Montemayor from KNBR Radio down in the Bay Area been valuable in this process to add a little context and understanding. I’ve asked you this question before, but we’ve got to ask it again and I think all your Twitter and all this conversation leads to it – just how bad are the Maloofs?”
Montemayor: “Awful. They’re the worst owners in professional sports. Um, and I covered that team for several seasons and what they do is – one, they’re not honest; two, they don’t care about protocol or what is good for the game. They care about what’s good for their pocketbook. And if you’re an owner in professional sports, you’re not – you certainly shouldn’t be owning a team for profit. Owning a professional sports team, especially in the NBA, is not a profitable business in most cases. They’re so desperate in finances (the Maloofs) that they have begged, borrowed, and stole every cent they could from that franchise. They’ve have opportunities to build arenas. They’ve lied. They have misled now two markets because the common consensus in the NBA is that they misled, uh, the Hansen/Balmer group and they pulled them down a road that would make their family (the Maloof family) the most money. And that, to me, is what’s so wrong with this situation – because the Hansen/Ballmer group, I think, is one of the strongest groups. Were they to own an NBA team they would be one of the strongest owners in all of professional sports. And they allowed this family to mislead them – and it’s almost tragic, guys. That’s the word that keeps on coming to mind for me. It’s tragic what has happened to Seattle and the NBA, both with the Oklahoma City situation and even more now because these leeches in the Maloofs took a lot of life and energy out of the efforts to bring the game back to Seattle.”
O’Neil: “It’s very shocking that a family that has one of the characters on the Real House Wives of Orange County would be anything short of forthright. But, uh, Tim, I think that one of the things that – the biggest question now facing Seattle is, ‘What does clear path mean?’ Does that mean -- when will Seattle have a franchise, if they do in fact get a clear path to a team?”
Montemayor: “I think that the best case scenario is a year from now you will be 99% through an expansion process. And I’ve said this for two months – that the Hansen/Ballmer group is in position to become an owner of a franchise through expansion. And that has been talked about and bandied about in NBA circles for several months. And I think the clearest indication that that information’s correct is the news that the NBA is going to re-negotiate their TV Contract early – and they have an out after every year in which they can re-negotiate that. But they need that negotiation to happen in order to leverage it for the most money and expansion. I think ‘clear path’ for Seattle means that they’re going to re-negotiate that TV Deal, which would include a new franchise. And once this decision comes down – and they other thing here on ‘clear path’ is – I don’t know what’s going to happen today in Dallas. The vote may not even take place. There may be no vote today. Uh, but you will have some clarity over the next two days as to what the forward direction will be. And I think the change in tenor and tone of these conversations with Mr. Hansen and his group has made that possible.”
[End of Interview]
710 ESPN Brock and Danny Interview with KNBR's Tim Montemayor -- 5/15/13
In the press conference on Wednesday, both NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver made comments that lend some credence to what Montemayor is contending. I’ve spliced together a few of the more pertinent comments from the press conference …
COMMISSIONER STERN: “We look forward to continuing the dialogue of some type with the citizens and potential owners in Seattle, but we don’t have anything concrete to support with respect to an NBA franchise in Seattle at this time.”
Q. So was there any talk of expansion at all in this meeting today as a way to satisfy?
COMMISSIONER STERN: I think there was a generalized talk that it would be good in the future just to consider that issue, but awaiting the next television renegotiation which is virtually upon us. Especially in terms of the year or so, or what have you, that it was best to await that event.
Q. Are there any promises at all to the Seattle group as we sit here tonight?
COMMISSIONER STERN: Just that our promise of fair dealing and ultimate consideration down the road.
Q. What does Seattle have to do now to attract an NBA team?
COMMISSIONER STERN: Well, I guess that’s an ongoing conversation that I think would best be had by Commissioner elect Silver, and then Commissioner Silver and the powers that be in Seattle and interested purchasers. There have been, from time to time, several interested purchasers. Adam?
ADAM SILVER: The only thing I’d add is we’ve never wavered in our desire to return to the Seattle market at some point, as Chris Hansen made clear in his presentation to the Board of Governors today. The league continues to enjoy strong support in the Seattle market. We have strong support for our telecast, our national telecast in Seattle, and expansion was discussed at least as a possibility down the road. We want to wait and see what happens in our next national television negotiation, but we’re very appreciative of the fans in Seattle, and we’ve regretted having to leave the market the last time and we fully expect we’ll return there one day.
And yesterday (Thursday) on Softy’s show over on KJR-950 am, he played some very interesting comments of Stern’s that he made during the Thunder-Grizzly game …
COMMISSIONER STERN: “Well, it was a very strong offer with a very strong group and a lot of work. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner. But I think there’s a dialogue that we would like to continue to have with the city of Seattle with the goal eventually of returning a team to Seattle.”
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Based upon yesterday’s events (the Maloofs and the Sacramento Group reaching an agreement), it looks like Tim Montemayor’s information is correct. That is, that despite how it might appear to the public that Chris Hansen and his group actually backed away from the Maloofs, as that relationship was seriously damaging their chances of getting the NBA back to Seattle. Now that that’s happened, it sounds like the dialogue has opened up. Stern admitted in the press conference that there were a lot of owners talking very favorably about the return of basketball to Seattle … and if what Montemayor is saying is correct, that could happen much quicker than most of us think. Consistently, the NBA’s TV Deal has been cited as being a big impediment to the idea of expansion (and Stern reiterated that point in the press conference on Wednesday). If what Montemayor is saying is correct in that the NBA is in fact renegotiating its TV Deal early (after this season), and they are able to reach a max deal, that speed bump would appear to be gone. One thing’s for sure – Stern, Silver, and the league certainly want to be in Seattle. These guys may be the devil incarnate, but they’re not stupid. The Seattle-Tacoma area is the 12th largest TV market in the country (and the Sonics market would obviously be much bigger than that once you factor in the rest of the Pacific Northwest). Think they wouldn’t like to increase the NBA’s stake in that market? They also know they have an absolute godsend in the Hansen/Ballmer/Nordstrom group and that political forces are such that if lose this group and they leave Seattle high and dry with nothing, it is highly unlikely the Sonics would ever return. The fact that Chris Hansen didn’t more aggressively pursue joint ownership with the Maloofs says to me that he and his group have been promised something. One year from now, Seattle could very well be 99% of the way through the process of getting an expansion team … and to hearing “Boom goes the dynamite!” once again.