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The latest news about the NBA's possible return to Seattle.

March 31, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Could the Maloofs just keep the Kings if Seattle bid is denied?

A question throughout the Sacramento/Seattle/Kings saga that has been hard to answer definitively is what happens to the Kings if the purchase agreement by the Chris Hansen-led Seattle group is denied.

The assumption is that the current controlling owners, the Maloof family, will sell then team to the ownership group being assembled in Sacramento as long as the offer is similar, which it has to be for the Seattle bid to be denied.

But the Maloofs don’t have to sell the team — their only contractual agreement is with the Seattle group — and have never said anything publicly one way or the other if they’d sell to someone else.

And Saturday night, writer Scott Howard-Cooper — who previously worked at the Sacramento Bee — Tweeted that he is hearing that the Maloofs might want to hold onto the team if the Seattle bid is denied:

(And yes, it’s interesting that Howard-Cooper posted these Tweets a couple of days after he wrote this story quoting Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson saying he thinks the Maloofs “probably” prefer for the team to stay in Sacramento, while also seeming to attempt to publicly mend some fences with the family).

The Maloofs desiring to keep the team could obviously be a big wildcard in this situation, and would be something the NBA would have to seriously consider in its decision — does it want a team in Seattle with an ownership group that commissioner David Stern called “very strong” last  month at the All-Star Game, or take the chance that it remains in the hands of the Maloofs, whose stewardship has been widely questioned (and further considering that their increasing financial issues led to their wanting to sell the team in the first place)?

The assumption  is that the NBA will have a pretty good idea from the Maloofs about their true intentions before the league makes a decision, even if publicly it’s unclear.

The Seattle view of this would likely be that the Maloofs saying they would want to keep the team is potentially good news, given the rocky nature of the team’s ownership the last few years. But Howard-Cooper wrote in a later Tweet he’s not sure how much it will play a role in the decision, that the decision is pretty much where the NBA prefers to have the team, saying specifically that the NBA won’t approve a Seattle deal just to get away from the Maloofs.

Whatever the interpretation, what we know for sure is that it’s another uncertainty among many  heading into a stretch of meetings over the next few weeks that figure to finally render some finality.

To recap, representatives of both cities will  meet before a select group of NBA owners Wednesday in New York to state their case. Then, the NBA Board of Governors will meet to cast a final vote on April 18-19, also in New Y ork.

— Also this morning is this story from the Sacramento Bee breaking down aspects of the arena deal the city council approved this week.

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