David Stern’s press conference Friday afternoon sounded a whole lot like a eulogy for the Kings in Sacramento.
Stern said Friday afternoon following the two-day NBA Board of Governor’s meeting that a handshake deal reached All-Star Weekend to get a new arena built in Sacramento was basically dead. While he would not use that exact word Stern sounded like a guy resigned to seeing a team move. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and the Maloof family that owns the Kings are reportedly meeting Friday but that is a Hail Mary at this point – George Maloof said there is no deal and Johnson said the city was done negotiating.
“We had an agreement in principle, a framework, a deal. Call whatever you want,” Stern said at the press conference broadcast on NBATV. “In my view, it was subject to any party who said didn’t want to do it. It was always non-binding… I think it’s fair for Maloofs to say ‘I don’t want to do it.’
“If they did it a little earlier, a little simpler and a little more directly, it could have saved some angst.”
Stern’s body language and tone suggested he felt bad for Mayor Johnson and the fans of Sacramento, who had stepped up. Stern said several times that the city had done all that could be asked of it.
“I am extremely disappointed, on behalf of Maloofs and city of Sacramento, but I think that there’s nothing further to be done,” Stern said. “This is a situation that the Maloofs will make judgments on and city will have to make judgments on. I think we’ve done as much as we can do.”
While the team has not yet filed for relocation — to Anaheim most likely, although there are other options — it would be surprising if that does not come soon. The Maloof family has said they wanted to stay in Sacramento but their actions said otherwise.
Stern said the league is scheduling the Kings games next season into the Power Balance Arena in Sacramento, but he could not speak to anything beyond that. But the way co-owner George Maloof burned bridges in Sacramento with his Friday press conference in New York it’s just hard to see them staying.
And, as owners, that is their right.
The NBA treats its owners like feudal Lords who can pretty much do what they want in their fiefdoms. David Stern works for and at the pleasure of the other owners. While he took a couple shots at the Maloofs press conference, Stern said repeatedly the Maloofs were within their rights to make the moves they did. As owners paying into an arena project, they had the right to raise concerns and back out.
The other owners, who might want to use that same “we might leave town” leverage down the line on their cities, are not about to tie the hands of the Maloofs.
And so a good NBA fan base in Sacramento is about to lose its team.