In a story with many chapters, it’s fitting that the book on the Maloofs’ future in the NBA will be written on April 12-13 at the league’s Board of Governors meetings. After all, it’s where the tide turned for Kings fans last year, as Kevin Johnson came out of nowhere with both the will and the way to buy Sacramento time to get an arena deal done.
And it’s also fitting because a jury of one’s peers can be the most damning of all. It’s at those meetings that we’ll learn if David Stern and the other owners are going to allow their league and its fans to be subjected to reports like the one out of the L.A. Times last Thursday.
In that report, the writer was conveniently given access to letters from the Maloofs’ attorneys and pre-prepared comments from the family’s newly hired “crisis consultant” Eric Rose. Those letters disputed the Maloofs’ responsibility to pay pre-development costs of $3.26 million on the $391 million Entertainment and Sports Complex, or roughly one-fourth of the salary of free agent acquisition/albatross Travis Outlaw.
This, after the city agreed to fork over $256 million and AEG agreed to put in nearly $60 million to build a world-class arena with the Kings’ specific needs at the top of the list.
The most recent letter from Maloof attorney Scott Zolke doubles as a how-to manual on fighting the arena project, writing that the Maloofs are concerned about the project being completed on time while they simultaneously cause a delay by refusing to pay for pre-development costs they had already agreed to conceptually. The Maloofs backed it all up by sending pro-Anaheim brother George on a media blitz telling the world that Kevin Johnson, AEG, David Stern, and everybody that had been diligently working on a deal had it wrong – that nobody had talked about the cost structure of the agreement before barreling out of an Orlando hotel room with tears of joy.
Never mind that George Maloof said himself that the term sheet had been presented to them on February 17, a full 10 days before the handshake agreement took place, and never mind that the Maloofs still want to pay the full $73.5 million they agreed to pay. Never mind that every single source I’ve asked involved with negotiations has said unequivocally that the Maloofs agreed conceptually to the deal.
The reason the Maloofs’ move doesn’t make sense is that it doesn’t make sense. It’s like explaining JaVale McGee – it just is.
However you slice it, these are not the actions of an ownership group that wants to stay in Sacramento, and whether their motives are to get a concession now or down the road, or to jam up the deal so they can force a move down south – it’s time for the NBA to step up and mirror Sacramento’s efforts to clean up its own house.
The good news for Kings fans is that we’re already seeing indications of that happening. When news of the Maloofs backing out of their commitments hit last week, Stern immediately moved in to front $200,000 on the family’s behalf for pre-development costs. That was designed to keep the project moving until the BOG meetings when the matter will be discussed. And if Stern thought at all that the city should be held liable for those funds, he would have never showed a valued owner up over such a nominal dollar amount. Especially for guys who are viewed as having no money, paying $200,000 on their behalf just screams Natty Light (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
The other good news is that nobody in the city’s camp appears to be overly worried about the Maloofs’ most recent power play. The city council voted 7-2 to continue forward with the project, with the understanding that no city funds would be used until the matter is resolved at the BOG meetings. K.J. went on the offensive on Tuesday, calling the Maloofs’ recent actions “disingenuous,” adding:
We’re not going to be a city that sits on its hands. And we’ve gotten this far because we stood up and we’ve taken a stand on what we believe in. So do we need to look at contingency plans? Absolutely. What those are at this point, I’m not ready to share. But as I said, we don’t want to get caught flat footed. We need to make sure we’re protecting our community in all ways and we need to look at all of our options.
You can’t make public statements that say one thing and then privately be doing another. I don’t think that’s in the spirit of what we all thought and where we thought we’d be at this point.
He said much more than that, too, and none of what he said were the words of a man intimidated by the most recent developments. They were the words of a man that knows he has Keyser Soze in his back pocket. And whether Ron Burkle exists or not, the mere mention of his name and the fact that Johnson has an arena deal all-but done has stripped the Maloofs of nearly all the leverage that they once had.
They cannot complain that Sacramento hasn’t done their part, as the city has delivered on all of the promises it made to David Stern last year. According to Johnson, Stern admitted as much in a conversation they had:
In terms of that deadline, I was very clear. I talked to (the) commissioner a couple times this week and I told him that the New York meetings are critical for Sacramento. Because we can’t be in limbo – we can’t keep having the finish line moved on us. We all expected that we had an agreement, we thought we’d all be pushing in the same direction and there’s been countless tactics and antics that are just not becoming (of a) true partnership in my opinion. With that said, the commissioner said to me and insured me that the NBA governing board, the commissioner of the NBA, the relocation committee, the advisory financial committee – they all know what the facts are.
So it sounds like a couple days of reckoning are in the cards. I’ve got Aces Burkle over King Georges.