"This ownership transition will remain fluid until the final documents are signed — and even then litigation may follow," said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. "In the interim, the NBA will be working with team owners to determine their preference, which may boil down to considering whether to accept a higher bid or protect a franchise in an existing market."
For Seattle, this week could be the conclusion of a two-years-plus effort by Hansen to bring the NBA back and it would come nearly five years to the day after the relocation of the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City was approved by the Board of Governors.
Hansen started talks with Seattle city officials in 2011.
Hansen and the city of Seattle and King County reached agreement last fall for funding on a new $490 million arena. Other investors include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.
Construction on the building could start as early as late 2013 — but only if the Kings are moving. The purchase offer based on a $550 million franchise valuation — which implies selling the 65 percent stake for about $357 million — would be $100 million more than Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid for the Warriors in 2010.
Hansen has banked on fan support, noting the ticket waitlist campaign that saw more than 44,000 season tickets requested. And he has touted Seattle's thriving economy and the market's reach around the Pacific rim.
Slowly they've helped heal wounds left when the original Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City. But what happens if the sale is blocked and the Kings remain in Sacramento?
Hansen has preached patience from the start. The memorandum of understanding with the city and county lasts for five years. And in an interview with The Associated Press last June, he worried about fans getting overly excited too soon.
"I'm sure there could be some disillusionment if this takes a long time," Hansen said. "That's one of the things that worries me. We live in a society and a culture where everybody wants what they want right now and in this particular case there are a lot of aspects that are out of our control. I don't control when a franchise is available for relocation. All I can do is be ready and be opportunistic when that time comes."
If anything is certain, it's that Sacramento will not be the last leveraged NBA city. Five teams have changed cities since Stern took over as commissioner in 1984 — six if you count the Nets' move from New Jersey to Brooklyn this season.
The Kings have been a particularly well-traveled franchise, too.
The team began its first NBA season as the Rochester Royals in 1949, moved to Cincinnati in 1957, was rebranded the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972, then just the Kansas City Kings in 1975 before making the move to Sacramento. If this really is the end for the Kings, they coincidentally lost 108-104 to the Clippers — Wednesday night's opponent — in the first regular-season game in Sacramento on Oct. 25, 1985.
But nobody in California's capital city wants to believe this game will be Sacramento's last.
While the Lakers loss two years ago felt like a funeral, this season's finale is expected to be more of a pep rally. The possibility still remains: it could once again be goodbye for Sacramento.
"I know there's probably going to be a lot of fans there. It's going to be loud. It's going to be a fun environment," said Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, a Tacoma native and former star at the University of Washington who has been torn between Sacramento and Seattle all season. "It stinks because you just don't know if that will be the last game ever in Sacramento. You just don't know."
AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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