If you thought the Sacramento Kings arena deal was falling apart last week, you hadn’t seen falling apart. Starting on Friday morning:
- Kings co-owner George Maloof gave what one report called a “disjointed” hour-long press conference in New York in which he attacked Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, insisted “there was never a deal,” and even floated, “Why don’t we look at redoing Power Balance? It’s less money, less pressure on everybody. We already have the infrastructure, the parking. It’s all there, and the cost to the city would be a lot less.”
- Mayor Johnson, after meeting for two hours with the Maloofs, declared the arena deal “dead”, in particular because the team owners were refusing to put up any collateral on a renegotiation of the team’s existing loan from the city. (The current collateral is the Kings’ arena, which would be demolished under the new plan.) Asked about the possibility of renovations instead, Johnson said only, “When I sat down with the Maloofs…they very clearly told me they didn’t want to renovate Arco, now Power Balance Pavilion. They said they wanted a brand new facility. They wanted to be the toast of the town. … If they choose to renovate [Power Balance] on their own and use private dollars, that’s certainly their prerogative.”
- NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a carefully worded statement in which he defended both the city (“It’s not going to happen, but I can say the city has stepped up”) and the Maloofs, though the latter included a backhanded dig at the owners for putting him through years of negotiations before pulling the plug at the last minute: “It was always nonbinding. And I think it’s fair for the Maloofs to say they don’t want to do that. If they had done that a little simpler, a littler earlier, and a little more directly, it could have saved a lot of angst and trouble.” Asked about the possibility that the team will now move, Stern said, “I know we’re scheduling them into Power Balance Pavilion for next year. It just wouldn’t pay for me to talk anything beyond that.”
- On Saturday, George Maloof declared that he’d be willing to resume negotiations — but not with Johnson: “I don’t think I’d want to negotiate with the mayor. Maybe there’s someone else that I’d feel more comfortable with. We’re disappointed in comments made by the mayor that we feel were shots to us that were unfair and not truthful.”
- On Sunday, the leader of Johnson’s Think Big Sacramento arena task force, Chris Lehane, told USA Today that “dealing with the Maloofs is like dealing with the North Koreans — except they are less competent.” Lehane also told ESPN that the Maloofs were just “looking for ways to blow up the deal,” and added that it’s the Maloofs who need to go, not the mayor or the Kings: “In Maloof-world, facts are fiction; truths are half-truths; and promises are broken promises. The City of Sacramento deserves better.”
- Joe Maloof, not to be left out, told the Sacramento Bee yesterday that “we feel like criminals, and we didn’t do anything wrong,” and said the team would still be open to looking at new arena deals in Sacramento. “Everyone just needs to calm down. We all need to cool off,” he said.
In the wake of the Kingspocalypse, we’re likely to see tons of speculation about the team moving to Anaheim or Seattle, though each of those cities has the same problems that they did when they were proposed earlier (the need for big territorial rights payments to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, and an as-yet-unproven financing plan, respectively). And it’s not altogether clear whether Stern and the NBA are going to be quick to approve a move when the Maloofs had a deal on the table — albeit a deal held together with spit and baling wire — and then trashed it at the last minute.
The most truly remarkable thing from the whole weekend, though, just might be this snippet from Sacramento Bee columnist Ailene Voisin’s interview with Joe Maloof, discussing the possibility of relocation and the last-second proposal to renovate Power Balance Pavilion:
What about the need for a modern arena to provide the additional revenue streams that appeal to sponsors and partners? That’s all anyone has heard for more than a decade. Now none of that matters?
Things have changed. The new collective bargaining agreement has revenue sharing that helps out small markets like us, San Antonio, Portland, Utah. That’s huge, huge for us. We didn’t have that before.
So, wait, now the Kings don’t need the revenues from a new arena? Does this mean that we can just go back to having the Kings play in their old (actually only 24 years old, if you must count) arena, and all pretend that the last few years were just a dream?