David Stern expressed disappointment in the Maloof family's decision to go back on a handshake agreement between the league, the city and the Maloofs to finance a new arena that would keep the Kings in Sacramento. Stern will not force them to abide by the deal, though, saying it was always "non-binding."
"We had an agreement in principle, a framework, a deal. Call whatever you want," Stern said in a press conference following the Board of Governors meeting. "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 they didn't want to do it," Stern said, adding that "If they did it a little earlier, a little simpler and a little more directly, it could have saved some angst."
The three sides reached an agreement in principle in early March to finance a new arena that would open in 2015, but the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, has expressed concern about a number of factors, including a call to provide $3.2 million in pre-development fees. George Maloof, the brother of co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, discussed the family's objections in a tense press conference on Friday morning. The press conference followed a stern letter by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson telling the family that it would not re-negotiate the deal.
Stern said that while he is disappointed in the outcome, the league will not alter the money they are contributing from the handshake agreement. He revealed that the league was going to contribute $67 million up front and another $7 million in addition later on in the process.
"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."
Stern said the Kings would remain in Sacramento through next season, but did not want to commit beyond that. Besides admonishing the Maloofs' economist for his "ill grace" in opining about the Maloofs' financial burden in the deal, Stern did not attack the family's strategy. When asked about George Maloof's tense press conference, Stern said he was "entitled to do it."
However, Stern did try to explain why the three sides were rushing to make a deal, a reality George Maloof said the family now doesn't like.
"We were moving quickly because the Maloofs, us and city wanted this arena to be opened as soon as possible and the construction costs to be kept as low as possible to take advantage of the current conditions," Stern said. "Letting this drag would have been a problem."
As for relocation, Stern would only say that he takes the Maloofs' public commitment to Sacramento at face value.
"I take them at their word. I always have"
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