But the Sacramento Kings don’t even know for certain where they will tip off next season.
Next month, the NBA will decide whether to approve the sale of the Kings to an investment group itching to bring basketball back to Seattle. But a competing group, with the help of Sacramento Mayor and former NBA veteran Kevin Johnson, has emerged, and hopes to counter the relocation efforts.
The bids in question are between billionaire Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov pitching to remain in Sacramento, and the Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
On April 18 and 19, the league will make its decision on the Seattle group’s bid, as reported by the Sacramento Bee Wednesday.
Sacramento has largely built a case that they can give any owner of the Kings the entire market share of sports fans, since there is no other major professional franchise closer than San Francisco Bay. Seattle already has the NFL’s Seahawks and Major League Baseball’s Mariners, and reguarly receive large crowds for the Sounders of MLS.
The Kings' current owners, the Maloof family, have long tried to move the club out of Sacramento, citing the obsolete Arco Arena failing to draw fans compared to shiny, mega-million dollar venues opening around the NBA.
Both bids reportedly involve new arena deals, though Sacramento still needs city council approval on a subsidy to help finance a new arena, which is a weighty, difficult task in cash-strapped California.
News of the sale to the Seattle group leaked back in January, with the Maloofs raking in $341 million in exchange for 65 percent of the franchise.
The sale included a non-refundable $30 million in their bid last month, according to the Seattle Times, but that cash may go to waste should Hansen and Ballmer lose out.
Johnson, who played point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns during a 12-year NBA career, has fought any relocation of the Kings from the outset of the controversy.
"Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a top 20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history," Johnson said, according to the Associated Press, after news of the sale leaked.
"When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL."
Each city has made their case, citing a rich basketball history.
Seattle had its heart ripped out when the Sonics left after the 2007-08 season, and therefore many believe it “deserves” a team in restitution. The Sonics made three trips to the NBA Finals, and captured the 1979 title behind late guard Dennis Johnson. Many former players and media members have shamed the NBA for letting the Sonics leave for Oklahoma City, and ex-Seattle superstar and nine-time All Star Gary Payton pledged his loyalty to fans in the great Northwest.
Sacramento hopes to avoid ending its near 28-year relationship with the Kings. One of the most traveled franchises in league history, the Kings enjoyed their most successful years in Sacramento after stints in Rochester, N.Y., Cincinnati and Kansas City. In 2002, the Kings reached the Western Conference Finals but fell to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
This season, the Kings are last in the West with a 21-41 record, but have promising talent in center DeMarcus Cousins, and guards Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans.