Hansen ups offer for Kings by another $75 million
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The news has just broken, and it gets funnier and funnier. Chris Hansen, the apparently spurned buyer for the Sacramento Kings, has now bumped his offer to $625 million.

And the only question I have is this: Why didn’t he just go to a billion and make the NBA owners say they’d rather have Sacramento than that kind of jack?

At $625 million, Hansen has valued the right to own a team and move it to be worth as much as the Miami Heat. More than the Montreal Canadiens. Almost as much as the Washington Nationals. He is now testing the NBA’s resolve about “keeping a team where it already is,” in the one way the owners have to listen.

With gobs of money.

So far, the NBA has, through the clever strongarming of David Stern, decided that Sacramento is worth that kind of bother. But Hansen is saying, “Okay then. Are they worth THIS kind of bother?” Hansen and Steve Ballmer are urging the Maloof brothers to raise a new stink about their right to sell their team to whomever wants to pay the most. They are calling the NBA’s bluff on its love for Kevin Johnson’s powers of persuasion.

But mostly, they are trying to make this about money, which is what they should always have done. They have jacked up their price twice, guessing at when Sacramento’s resolve would break, and so far it hasn’t.

So if this is the strategy, and should have been all along, why didn’t the two of them just say, “We will pay what it would take to buy the Los Angeles Lakers”? Why didn’t they crush Sacramento’s ability to find investors right off the top?

Because that’s not what business does.

But we now know how desperate Hansen and Ballmer are to win this, even in the wake of a seemingly game-ending decision by the league’s relocation committee. So if desperation is the new plan, if desperation is what propelled Sacramento from the land of the doomed to the land of the winning, why not push all in? And if a billion seems ridiculous, why not at least $750 million? Why not accept the fact that you miscalculated Sacramento’s original breaking point and ratchet it up beyond even Johnson’s silver tongue and Stern’s receptive ears?

It is clear, after all, that there is no such thing as too late on this process. Deadlines have been dismissed routinely, because owners always operate on the rule that says, “If everyone agrees to overlook a guideline, it isn’t a guideline any more.”

Does this mean Seattle is the favorite now? Who the hell knows? Probably not, but all the rules are gone if Hansen’s new bid will be considered, and we don’t yet know if it will be. Maybe this is just designed to cut Seattle to the head of the line for the next team.

But it is now clear that Hansen and Ballmer aren’t done yet. Why they are taking this ridiculous eBay approach to buying the team instead of just dropping the big one and being done with it is beyond us, but they haven’t quit yet. They’re still playing small ball, but presumably they are trying to show the owners that they’re going to need more than a few more “nos” before they take “no” for an answer.

And Kevin Johnson is now in the bizarre position of having to re-convince the NBA that a deal’s a deal, even when no deal has yet been done.

In short, we are now deeply into the smell-of-burning-money stage of the process. And as long as it isn’t your money, why wouldn’t you like the smell?