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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

April 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM

NBA will return to Seattle, but it won’t be the Kings

By Bruce Baskin

Bruce Baskin of Chehalis has been a football fan since the 1967 Ice Bowl and follows the Dolphins as sports director for WRMI radio in Miami.

Admit it.  You’re enjoying this – or at least part of it, anyway.  I sure am.

With all the drama surrounding the status of the Sacramento Kings and whether they’ll move to Seattle or stay put, we’re witnessing something most of us never expected to see in our lifetime:  David Stern, usually the poster child for condescending hubris, appears to be in a jam that he just can’t wave away:  Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson may have saved the Kings for his city, and that’s something Stern probably never expected.

What Johnson has been able to accomplish in the short time since the deal between the Maloof family and Chris Hansen’s group was announced is nothing short of remarkable.  He has been the anti-Greg Nickels:  Actively engaged by bringing investors local government together to tell the NBA, “Hey, wait a minute.”

Rumor has it that after Hansen’s group gave a solid presentation to the league’s Board of Governors earlier this month. But Johnson stepped up and wowed everyone, creating real doubt as to whether allowing the Kings to be moved would be smart.  Unlike the Sonics’ exit from Seattle, Sacramento’s political and business leaders have responded with clenched fists instead of palms raised skyward.

We can all smile while visualizing beads of sweat on David Stern’s upper lip as both Seattle and Sacramento investors have shown they’ll do what is needed to operate an NBA team.  Choosing one side invites lawsuits against the league from the other.  However, there is a somewhat Solomonic solution that lets Stern and the NBA save face and make a little money:  Facilitate a deal allowing the Kings to remain in Sacramento while awarding Seattle an expansion franchise for 2014-15.

This won’t happen until after a bidding war drives the value of the Kings up (and, in turn, every franchise in the NBA), but in the end, the team will stay put while Seattle gets the league’s 31st team as a consolation prize.  This avoids the inevitable lawsuits out of Sacramento that would keep the league in a California courtroom for years if the team moved.

Subsequently, awarding an expansion team to Seattle (Stern steadfastly denied expansion desires until the last meeting) keeps the NBA out of the courtrooms up here to face different lawsuits from Hansen (who they like) and burning forever any bridge between league and city.

An expansion team in 2014-15 may, in fact, be the best outcome for Seattle.  Hansen would not only get his NBA franchise, he’d get an extra year to hire staff while scouting players to choose from an expansion draft rather than having to inherit toxic personalities (hello, DeMarcus Cousins) or toxic contracts (hello, John Salmons).  It may be easier to build a winner from scratch than sorting out a dysfunctional existing roster.

That extra year also provides breathing room for KeyArena upgrades and pushing the new facility along.  After watching Hansen quietly but efficiently put all his ducks in a row the past few months, it seems evident this is a guy who’s more than able to make such a delay worthwhile.

Almost as worthwhile as the thought of a panic-stricken Stern having sweating and scrambling after the Board of Governors meeting.  Like those old MasterCard commercials, some things are priceless.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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