Keep in mind, Simmons works on ESPN's NBA pregame show, is buddies with Magic Johnson, the GM of the Rockets, and many more. He has A TON of NBA connections. A TON. This isn't the first time he's said this, either.
Q: News just broke that [Chris] Hansen is funding an anti-arena group in Sac, hoping to bring it to a public vote (and sabotage their deal). I suspect otherwise. I think it's only, say 30%, about Sac and 70% about getting an expansion team. It's clear that Hansen has ZERO leverage right now. (He's the perfect blackmail for every other struggling franchise — as you have already pointed out.) Also, there's an election coming in Nov. and it's possible that several of Seattle's top politicians, who signed off on the MOA that eliminates the Seattle public arena vote, could go away. The ONLY leverage Hansen has to move this forward is to make this Sac arena deal an ugly public fight. Nobody wants that. Hansen's end game: tells Stern he'll call off the dogs if NBA commits in writing to a Seattle expansion team. What other play does he have?
SG: You're right. Here's what Hansen knows …
1. Regardless of what they're saying publicly, Adam Silver and David Stern have turned Seattle into a relocation blackmail city for every NBA owner who needs to muscle his city for help building a state-of-the-art arena. NBA Seattle = NFL Los Angeles.
2. Our last collective bargaining agreement was apparently negotiated by Billy Hunter while he was dressed like General Custer. Did Billy have any idea that Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network were coming, or that live content in the DVR/Twitter/Netflix era was the single most important TV property you could have? It's unclear. But the league's franchise values have been climbing from the moment that lockout ended. Three years ago, Joe Lacob's group paid $350 million less for the Warriors than they're worth today. Josh Harris's group paid a little less than half as much for the Sixers as Vivek Ranadive paid for the Kings just 30 months later. Hansen missed his window to steal an NBA franchise for anything resembling a good price.
3. You'd be crazy to sell an NBA team right now. Even if you own a team in a less-than-thriving market — say, Detroit or Charlotte — you could thrive by throwing out a $45 million player payroll, collecting TV/merchandising/luxury tax revenue and letting your franchise appreciate. That's how we knew the Maloofs were broker than broke: NOBODY wants to sell an NBA team right now, and yet they had to sell their team.
OK, so you're Chris Hansen. (Not To Catch a Predator Chris Hansen, but Really Really Rich Chris Hansen.) You and Steve Ballmer just spent the last two years making it clear that you'd do anything to bring basketball back to Seattle, even if meant overoveroverpaying for the Kings. And you didn't just get screwed over; David Stern effectively hit you over the head with a steel chair, then climbed on the top rope while waving "THE SONICS ARE DEAD" and "CLAY BENNETT 4EVER!" T-shirts at Seattle fans. You're not getting an expansion team at anything less than extortion prices for a simple reason: Why would the other 30 NBA owners want to dilute their share of the league's booming media rights? They don't care if Seattle has a basketball team. I can't see Hansen getting an expansion team for less than $1.05 billion ($35 million per franchise), and at that point, why even do it?
Your only possible relocation prey? The perennially mediocre Milwaukee Bucks, who rank behind the Packers, the Brewers, Wisconsin basketball, Marquette basketball, Wisconsin football, and the Packers a second time on the Wisconsin Sports Fan Priority Scale.3 Still, they're owned by retired politician Herb Kohl — or as every NBA employee respectfully calls him, "The Senator" — a 78-year-old guy who doesn't seem especially motivated to become The Guy Who Killed Professional Basketball in Milwaukee. Even if you offer a record price for the Bucks (something like $850 million, not including the relocation fee), nobody thinks Kohl would bite. He's the same guy who values being a perennial no. 8 seed over blowing things up and going into über-tank mode (like the Sixers just did). Now he's just going to quit on professional basketball in Milwaukee completely? At his age???
So if you can't get an expansion team, and you can't get the Bucks, who's left? The answer: nobody. Hence the turd-in-the-punch-bowl strategy with the Sacramento vote. Maybe it's a legal Hail Mary, but it's the only move Hansen has left. And it's not going to work. The NBA seems determined to screw over Sonics fans for as long as humanly possible. Uh-oh, I feel a song coming on …