Update 11:04 AM – Now we have the Maloofs’ proposal: Refurbish Power Balance Pavilion/ARCO Arena. Good idea or not? (I’ve been sitting on my post about ARCO, looks like it’ll go up tomorrow.) David Stern and the NBA Board of Governors have a press conference going on now.
As the Maloofs flew to New York to discuss the terms of the Sacramento ESC/Arena deal, civic interests rallied together to write a letter urging NBA commissioner David Stern to find new ownership. Clearly, whatever goodwill was captured a month ago has evaporated.
The Sacramento Bee followed up with an editorial also calling for the Maloofs to sell. The level of distrust between the two parties is extraordinary. For their part, the Maloofs contend that they remain committed to a new arena in Cowtown, whereas the City and its backers continually accuse the Maloofs of trying to derail every arena plan, going back several years.
My problem with the whole affair is this: Have the Maloofs ever come up with their own plan for an arena? Based on the Bee’s timeline of the Kings’ tenure in Sacramento, the answer is no. They piggybacked onto a railyards plan in 2002, and when it collapsed they blamed the City. In 2006, they famously backed away from arena measures shortly before elections. Now they’re balking at the ESC plan over money for pre-development work. They’ve also attacked the plan’s feasibility and had their lawyers make a huge, aggressive information request of the City over the plan.
KJ took the red-eye to New York to meet with the Maloofs and Stern on Friday. He’ll have the letter and support from the business community and the Bee, which is great. But this request of Stern is not going to change things. Sure, the NBA has leverage over the Maloofs because they’re tapping into the league’s credit line. It isn’t enough to break them. As cash poor as they are, neither they nor the team are in danger of bankruptcy. Kings payroll is the lowest in the league, and the only thing keeping it from dropping lower is the league’s salary floor ($44 million).
Knowing that the Maloofs are wary of Sacramento’s feasibility, Stern should force the Maloofs to do the one thing they haven’t done yet: come up with their own plan. Maybe that incorporates all or part of the ESC plan, maybe it’s something completely new. At least it would force the Maloofs to be engaged to a degree that they’ve never demonstrated. Then Stern can compare what the Maloofs have with ESC, take the best parts from both, and we’ll see who’s truly committed and what’s feasible. It would put ownership on the defensive and compel them to act instead of sitting on the sidelines as they’ve historically done. Stern can extend the artificial deadline another year, which won’t hurt things. If Sacramento can’t work out, they should know by next year, with Anaheim waiting in the wings. if the Maloofs are running into money problems, it’s possible that will be exposed in the next year, which could force Stern’s hand. That’s the only way I can see a sale happening not by the Maloofs’ choice. They’d have to run into a legal/financial crisis that de-prioritizes owning a team. In conjunction, Sacramento doesn’t need to do more than they’re doing now – figuring out the ESC plan feasibility. They’ve bent over backwards and spent a lot of money on this and the failed 2006 plan. And that is much more than I can say for Oakland.
Added: Pro Basketball Talk’s Aaron Bruski covers the Maloofs’ recent actions in great detail.