"It's going to get ugly." That's how a source close to the ownership group attempting to purchase the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle described the next steps after the NBA relocation committee recommended that the team should stay put.
The Seattle group isn't taking no for an answer. They plan to take their case to the Board of Governors during a meeting scheduled two weeks from now to formally vote on the Seattle proposal.
In a statement posted Monday night on the group's Web site, SonicsArena.com, lead investor Chris Hansen vowed to fight.
"While this represents yet another obstacle to achieving our goal," wrote Hansen in a letter addressed to Sonics fans, "I just wanted to reassure all of you that we have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up."
In the statement, Hansen made clear the aggressive argument he plans to make to the Board of Governors. He said that his group is "one of the best ownership groups ever assembled," has offered "a much higher price" for the Kings and has "a much more solid Arena plan" in Seattle than the proposal to build a new arena in Sacramento.
The task ahead of the Seattle group is challenging: They must convince at least half of the league's owners to vote against the relocation committee's recommendation. According to the source, multiple owners indicated in private conversations they intend to vote along the lines of the recommendation. The Seattle group has to hope that the entire Board of Governors is more favorable to its position than the seven-member committee, which included four owners from small markets.
Working against the Seattle group is the sentiment Stern expressed on NBA TV in explaining the decision.
"I didn't see a unanimous vote coming," he told reporter Dei Lynam, "but they decided as strong as the Seattle bid was -- and it was very strong -- there's some benefit that should be given to a city that has supported us for so long and has stepped up to contribute to building a new building as well."
It's clear the recommendation caught the Seattle group off guard. Investor Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, told local radio host Mitch Levy that he was "horribly, horribly disappointed" by the decision. But the decision isn't final yet, and the Seattle group still believes it can win the fight for the Kings.