As the Kings battle comes to its end, the Maloofs return to the stage


For three months, it's been all about Seattle's bid to take the Kings, and Sacramento's effort to block that. But now the Maloofs, who still own the team, are coming back into view. And man, that promises some fireworks. Preferably lit ones shoved down a Maloof's britches.

Sacramento has gotten a good deal of good news over the past week when it comes to the city's effort to retain the Kings. But no news was more inspiring than a report from Monday that the Maloofs -- Gavin, Joe and George -- will attend the NBA's Kings confab on Wednesday. And that horrible sound you hear is thousands of Seattle SuperSonics fans screaming in terror.

Or, it should be. Seattle hasn't been frequently exposed to the Tao of Maloof, which can be loosely defined as:

1. Make as much money as possible at all times, because it's important to

2. Spend as much money as possible at all times, preferably on cheeseburgers, Bordeaux and Ambien, and NOT on a basketball team, because screw the customers, those chumps.

3. Belligerence is a virtue; no one talks back to a man waving a sword and wearing his stonewashed jeans around his ankles.

4. There is nothing that is not flammable given a sensible quantity of Aquanet or lighter fluid.

5. Threats, no matter how impotent, are always worth it.

6. Everyone who is not you is beneath you.

That's just a rough outline, but you get the gist. Basically, the Maloofs are the worst. They want to sell the Kings to a group of Seattle investors, and it's terrible news for Seattle that they will actually try to make this case. The last time the Maloofs spoke to their fellow owners in a formal setting, David Stern walked away basically shaking his head. Last April, George Maloof brought in an economist to rip the arena deal Stern, Stern's team and the City of Sacramento had negotiated. He also hired a lawyer with an anti-trust background ... which is totally the path right into Stern's heart on Bizarro Earth, where things are the opposite of what they are on Earth. In the end, we got perhaps the most seething David Stern press conference in a decade, which is saying something.

There's no telling what the Maloofs will say on Wednesday when 12 NBA owners, Stern, the mayors of Seattle and Sacramento and the two investor groups vying for the team get together at the St. Regis. They'll probably say something about Sacramento never coming to the table with an offer, something like what SB Nation's new Seattle blog Sonics Rising wrote on Monday:

I would contend that the Sonics were lost because city leaders failed to take action during a critical period between a February announcement that the team was available for sale and [a] July announcement [that the team] had been sold to Clay Bennett. As the article states, "During the 6 months between that press conference and the sale announcement our city and our fans did nothing, absolutely nothing. We never really realized that the game had begun. As a result all of our rallies, all of our clamoring, and all of our efforts occurred after the deal was done. We were too late."

If Sacramento's efforts to save the Kings are unsuccessful it will be a result of similar inaction during a critical period prior to public knowledge or activity. Johnson failed to bring forward a prospective buyer willing to find the Maloofs' asking price during a window that began with their first relocation attempt and was destined to end with either sale to a local owner or on the inevitable day when an outsider emerged to beat them to the punch.

In the Sonics' situation, Howard Schultz tried to find local buyers for the team before eventually pawning it off on Clay Bennett. Seattle didn't come up with anyone. The Maloofs actively avoided holding any talks with anyone representing Sacramento. Within weeks of the Maloofs pawning the Kings off on Chris Hansen, Sacramento came up with someone willing to put in a fair and competitive offer. Robinson basically writes as much: Seattle's city leaders -- not the fans, the leaders -- failed to take action while the team was openly for sale and Schultz was looking for a local buyer. Sacramento's city leaders took action the second it became publicly known that despite all of their public and private statements to the contrary the Maloofs were selling the Kings.

Seattle's city leaders and prospective owners -- including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, who is the "whale" behind Hansen's bid now -- didn't step up in a very real and public period of opportunity. And somehow that's the same as Kevin Johnson not being able to snake into the Maloofs' minds and figure out when they are being serious and when they are not? This is just baldly absurd.

Further, Seattle city leaders or prospective owners didn't step up in the period between Schultz's announcement of a sale to Bennett and the NBA's approval of the deal. Where was Ballmer then? That's the period Sacramento is in right now, and Sacramento city leaders have stepped up. And you're going to say, "Welp, not soon enough! Tough noogies!" Give me a break. Ballmer showed up after Bennett had already been approved by the Board of Governors as the new owner and had produced an "attempt" to get an arena built. Ballmer then offered to buy the team and renovate Key. But Bennett owned the team and was halfway to OKC.

Schultz tried to sell the Sonics to a Seattle buyer, and the Seattle buyers didn't show up. The Maloofs have tried desperately to get payback on Sacramento's arena proponents -- specifically KJ and Ron Burkle -- for blocking the Anaheim move. Why? The Maloofs, particularly George Maloof, still think that deal would have allowed them to regain the fortune George lost when debt consumed The Palms. (Debt consumed The Palms because of George's incredibly bad development decision.) Anaheim was the golden ticket for the Maloof family. KJ pulled the rug out from under it, with Burkle's help.

While we're talking about Anaheim and Burkle, let me remind you that Burkle offered to buy the team from the Maloofs back in 2011. From a statement offered up in April 2011 as KJ made Sacramento's case to NBA owners:

"The Maloofs have been strong owners and a positive part of the Sacramento community for years, but it is important that Kings fans and residents of the Sacramento region know that the Burkle Group is ready to commit the resources and expertise necessary to keep the NBA in Sacramento. Our group believes Sacramento is an important NBA market that can thrive with new ideas, new resources and an absolute commitment to delivering the best on and off-court experiences for fans.

"This group, led by Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle, is prepared to assist the Mayor by bringing significant resources and the best possible expertise in professional sports, facilities development and financing to bear in the effort to keep Sacramento as an NBA city.

You know how the Maloofs responded to that statement? They told the anyone who would listen repeatedly and without wavering that they would not sell. They literally ran from TV news cameras in New York City after KJ dropped Burkle's name. (It would be the first and last time a Maloof avoided a camera.) They kept on saying it all the way up to December 2012, four months ago: we're not selling. Here's CBS Sports' Ken Berger talking to KJ about how the Maloofs responded to inquiries from the mayor himself on selling the team to investors who would build an arena in Sacramento.

"Were they willing to sell?" Johnson said. "And if they were, what would be their price?"

Johnson finally got both answers on Jan. 9, when terms of an agreement to sell 65 percent of the team to the Seattle group for $340 million -- based on a $525 million valuation -- became public.

"We instantly went into an offensive mode to identify an ownership group and got an arena plan done," Johnson said. "And were able to make both of those happen in record time."

Robinson asks where KJ and the investors were in December. They were busy getting stonewalled by the Maloofs. Ever try arguing with a wall? The wall always wins. KJ had no mechanism to make the Maloofs negotiate with Sacramento, and every piece of evidence available showed that the Maloofs had zero intention of negotiating with Sacramento. So KJ kept his weapons at the ready. When the Maloofs showed themselves to be liars, KJ leaped into action. And here we are. And now you're suggesting KJ didn't do everything he could? Again, I am in need of a break, and I would like you to give it to me.

Some in Seattle seem not to quite understand how the Maloofs work. The Maloofs are not normal businessmen. They do not make deals in normal ways. There is no such thing as negotiating in good faith with them. I mean, come on. Hansen had to fork over a $30 million "nonrefundable" deposit to ensure they wouldn't go Maloof something up! The way Schultz handled the Sonics was despicable. There's no avoiding that. But at least he's a relatively sane businessman who wouldn't have turned down a fair offer from Ballmer, who would actually have worked to keep the Sonics in Seattle, unlike Bennett, who sandbagged the city. If it were the Maloofs instead of Schultz in Seattle, they would have made repeated public and private statements that they would sooner die than sell the Sonics ... and then they would have sold the team to some guy in Norfolk or something. This is how the Maloofs work: you cannot actually treat them like normal humans, because they are not normal. They are Maloofs.

And they're back, for a day or a couple weeks. This should be a farewell tour we'll never ever forget.

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