The supremely distressing Sacramento Kings saga could end, or at least be sent careening toward resolution, on Wednesday. NBA owners are assembled in Dallas to hear from contingents representing Sacramento and Seattle and each other before voting on whether to allow the team to move to Washington state.
A smaller group of owners has already recommended against that request; if the broader Board of Governors agrees, what happens next is anyone's guess. It appears the owners will vote on an insane plan hatched by the Kings' owners, the Maloofs, and the prospective Seattle buyer, Chris Hansen, to transfer a smaller portion of the franchise to the latter and all work together on a Sacramento arena.
There is no way Sacramento officials are going back into business with the Maloofs, not after the disastrous end to 2012 negotiations on an arena deal. One assumes league staff, led by David Stern, who has been closely involved at every stage for the last three years, would advise owners that asking Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson to negotiate with the Maloofs and Hansen on an arena the Maloofs and Hansen surely don't want is foolish. But who knows?
If the owners decline all of Hansen's ideas, there's a chance the Maloofs could quickly decide to deal with a proposed Sacramento ownership group led by Vivek Ranadivé. But it's unlikely a vote on that purchase would be held on Wednesday given the fact that there is no agreement in place. (The NBA has reviewed the Ranadivé offer and appears to believe it's comparable to the initial Hansen offer the Maloofs signed. But one assumes the Maloofs need to agree on that, too.)
There's a chance -- maybe a significant one -- that at the end of the day, Hansen's $625 million valuation is rejected, leaving Ranadivé's $525 million valuation for the Maloofs to take. (Hansen and the Maloofs initially agreed to a $525 million valuation; once things stopped going smoothly, Hansen twice raised it. The NBA hasn't acknowledged those increases.) If that happens, the Maloofs would be looking at $341 million for their 65 percent controlling stake instead of $405 million.
If that happens, or if they otherwise don't get exactly what they want on Wednesday, don't cry for them. This is all their own damn fault.
They turned the Kings' fate over to Stern in 2010, tired of dealing with aborted plans in Sacramento. (The Maloofs themselves killed a number of those plans, sometimes for no good apparent reason. An example would be Measures Q and R in 2006, which the Maloofs sandbagged weeks before the election. The plan would have raised a quarter-cent sales tax to fund an arena; the Maloofs were upset they would not receive all of the parking revenue from the deal.) Stern found common ground with Johnson and other Sacramento negotiators, and they brought AEG into the fold. They put together a solid deal that involved a significant public contribution and minimal financial burden for the Maloofs. (The league agreed to gift the Maloofs $7 million toward the project and loan them the other $60 million.) The Maloofs agreed to the deal in late February; they famously celebrated at midcourt at a subsequent Kings game. Then they killed the tentative deal over a litany of absurd items, including being asked to pay $3 million in pre-development fees every other NBA team pays in these arrangements, and agreeing to a 25-year lease.
The way the Maloofs blew up the deal was another scandal entirely. They hired a lawyer with a background in anti-trust litigation, a crisis communicator and an economist who has made a cottage industry of ripping arena deals. George Maloof included this guys in his presentation to the Board of Governors in April 2012; he gave an encore performance for Sacramento media in an NYC conference room the next morning. The basic point was that the deal would send Sacramento into bankruptcy and that city officials and NBA staff conspired to prevent the Maloofs' interests to be fully considered. So unglued was Maloof's performance in the presser that Stern angrily responded later in the day, snidely crushing the owner's thought process. The Maloofs proceeded to almost immediately speak to Virginia Beach and Las Vegas about relocation while never lifting a finger on a new Sacramento deal.
And now the Maloofs want Stern to advocate on their behalf? It'd be funny if it weren't so sad.
It's a well-worn statement: Stern works for the owners. But he works for all of the owners. And it's been clear for the past year that the Maloofs are not long for the league, nor do they have any sort of substantial backing by their peers. They are the black sheep of the league, and frankly, it's in the other 29 owners' interest that the damage caused by the Maloofs on their way out by limited as much as possible.
You cross Stern and threaten to damage his league at your own peril. The man can do his job. The Maloofs are learning that lesson right now. And they had the lesson coming.