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Originally published April 16, 2013 at 9:39 PM | Page modified April 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM

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For sake of Seattle, NBA owners need to be themselves

Save the soul-searching for later. Seattle needs an NBA team back before the 30 NBA owners turn all warm and fuzzy.

Times staff columnist

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From the "Who Asked You?" Department, some unsolicited (but free!) advice to those money-mad NBA owners who might be thinking about purchasing a conscience:

Don't change. Not now. You've come too far; we've come too far. You've made too much money being coldhearted businessmen, and now, at the 11th hour, you're contemplating having a heart, or worse, a conscience?

Save the soul-searching for later. Seattle needs an NBA team back before you turn all warm and fuzzy.

The 30 of you have the power to give us one. Yes, it requires ripping a franchise away from a lovely and deserving city, Sacramento, but don't act like you haven't done it before. The NBA has relocated so many franchises throughout its history that the league's logo should be modified to show Jerry West dribbling atop a moving van. Teams come and go so often that the NBA could stand for National Barnstorming Association.

The Sacramento Kings, the team of the hour, have previously been called the Rochester Royals, Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings and Kansas City Kings. In 68 years, this franchise has played in five cities. Sacramento has had it the past 28 years, which to some signifies what a quality NBA market California's capital city has been. But in this league, that only means you might be getting too old to perform.

Excuse the bitterness, but the wounds remain fresh, even though it has been five years since you allowed Clay Bennett to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City after 41 years. This isn't about playing the loyalty card, however. It's also not about redemption. And it's definitely not about Seattle "asking for a mulligan," as would-be Sacramento investor Vivek Ranadive said in a shot below the belt two weeks ago. Instead, let's speak your language.

Let's talk business. You know the deal: Unless NBA commissioner David Stern tries to delay this complicated Seattle/Sacramento Kings' custody decision until after he retires in 10 months, you will be voting soon on whether to approve Chris Hansen's purchase of the Kings and whether to allow him to move the franchise to Seattle. For the rest of this week, you will be in a posh New York hotel debating this decision. Feel free to lock Stern in a closet if he gets too heavy-handed. This could be a tough one, fellas, but only if you go against your identity, only if you are suckered into caring about more than your wallets.

It has been almost three months since Hansen entered a binding agreement with the Maloof family to buy the Kings, pending league approval. During this time, as Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has fought impressively to keep the Kings and Seattle has continued to make its pitch, it has become easy to characterize what each group is offering.

Seattle has a superior, more polished $490 million arena plan and an ownership group with deeper pockets.

Sacramento has a passionate mayor and passionate fans so desperate to keep the Kings that they've nearly done the impossible given less than 90 days, but its pitch is full of faith and loyalty and uncrossed T's instead of binding agreements and legal documents.

So, what matters more: Loot or loyalty?

And if loyalty matters now, are you really going to give it to Sacramento over the Maloofs, one of your own? Do you really want to break new ground and tell a fellow owner who to sell to? Isn't there some Rich Guy Code that tells you to stay out of the way?

In Seattle, you see an ownership group that has raised the value of the Kings to $550 million, $200 million more than what they should be worth, an offer the Sacramento group might not be able to match. Most of your franchise values have increased significantly because of the Seattle bid. It's almost like Hansen, Steve Ballmer and Erik and Peter Nordstrom just handed you gift bags full of gold nuggets. This group plans to spend like a big-market team, which means it won't be living off revenue-sharing and instead figures to pay the luxury tax in pursuit of building a quality product. And returning to the Seattle market would benefit the league when negotiations start on a new television contract soon.

It's a simple decision, owners, unless you make it difficult. You have to come to Seattle. Now, if you want to become better people, if you want to be kinder and gentler, if you want to keep the Kings in Sacramento for reasons you don't ordinarily care about, then do so wisely. Consider expansion. You'll never have a situation again in which two groups are bidding this much for one of your middle-of-the-road franchises.

Rhapsodize about staying true to Sacramento. Capitalize on the Seattle group's desire and deep pockets, too. If you can have both, why choose one? But if expansion is too tricky to figure out at this moment, then make the coldhearted business decision now (Seattle) and hook up Sacramento later, when its arena plan is complete.

There are hundreds of quotes about staying true to yourself. Pick one for inspiration, please. Don't change now, not when keeping it real is so good for business.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JerryBrewer

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