Sacramento Kings Close to Moving to Seattle

David TackeffContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2013

DENVER, CO - APRIL 23:  Seattle Sonics fans display signs as the support the Denver Nuggets against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2011 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Earlier today, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports broke the story that the Sacramento Kings—who are currently owned by the Maloof family—are close to being sold to the Seattle-based Hansen-Ballmer group for $500 million. 

While the deal is not complete yet, NBA commissioner David Stern is reportedly a big proponent of the group, and he has encouraged the Maloof family to sell the franchise to the Hansen Ballmer group.

The Maloof family has recently fallen on hard times and refused a deal to move the team to Anaheim because they did not want to accrue more debt. In addition, the Kings have been at the salary floor for the past two seasons because they cannot support a full payroll.

The Maloofs have yet to trade power forward DeMarcus Cousins (a player who could bring in a veteran leader or a solid group of players to make the Kings compete) because they have not been able to dump any of their larger contracts, such as those of John Salmons and Marcus Thornton. Perhaps the Kings have not received a legitimate offer, but the Celtics were reportedly in serious trade discussions with the Kings a few days ago and talks fell apart.

The sticking point? The Kings wanted Avery Bradley. While the Kings may want Bradley for his skill set, it seems strange that they would trade their best front court player to add him—a shooting guard—to an already crowded rotation that includes Tyreke Evans, Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton.  An explanation for the Kings' desire for Bradley is that he has an incredibly friendly contract, and they cannot afford to keep Cousins. Therefore, they will package Cousins with other unfavorable contracts to lower their salary.

The proposed buyers, the Hansen-Ballmer group, consist of many big names: San Francisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to name a few. The group is working to build a new arena, and if the deal is finalized, the relocated Kings will assume the old Sonics' green and gold, and play in the Key Arena until the new arena is finished.

Although the deal is close to being completed, the Maloofs reportedly rejected the Hansen-Ballmer group's latest offer. It remains to be seen whether the group will make another offer, but the Maloofs appear determined to push the price for their franchise higher. 

This is not the first time the Maloofs have rejected an offer from a possible buyer. Last year, the Maloofs rejected an offer from Henry Samueli, an Orange County, California billionaire to relocate the team to Anaheim. The deal also would have loaned the Maloofs $50 million to renovate the Kings' arena during the transition.  Perhaps the Maloofs truly did not think the offer was sufficient for the franchise, or perhaps they need a more sizable offer to let go of the franchise.

The Maloofs have owned the Kings and their WNBA counterpart, the Monarchs, since 1998 but recently folded the Monarchs due to their inability to find a buyer for the franchise. The Kings have dropped from No. 4 to No. 121 in ESPN's franchise rankings over the past nine years. Although the Maloofs will eventually sell the Kings, today's flurry of activity demonstrates that they still want to do so on their terms.