HANG TIME WEST – The Maloof family, disliked beyond measure in Sacramento for the way they have run the Kings on and off the court and ultimately for putting the city on the brink of losing the team to Seattle, have received support from the most unlikely of sources: mayor Kevin Johnson.
Johnson has recently gone out of his way to be complementary toward the Maloofs, notably at his State of the City address and most recently at Tuesday’s city council meeting that included approving the non-binding agreement with private investors to build a downtown arena. It was impossible to miss because Johnson could have easily avoided mentioning the Kings’ owners both times without coming off as unusual. It was especially impossible to miss because the Maloofs’ disgust for Johnson is a major reason, and perhaps the No. 1 reason, they never told Sacramento officials the team was for sale.
But, Johnson told NBA.com, he has remained in contact with the family, there are no hard feelings, and Kumbaya. Group hugs all around.
Oh, and the Maloofs want the Kings to stay in Sacramento.
(You just can’t make this stuff up.)
The recent obvious change of tone toward the Maloofs – including announcing Ron Burkle, likewise not on the family’s Christmas card list, as heading the arena project rather than part of the proposed ownership group – smacks of Johnson trying to mend fences, just in case. The Board of Governors will vote on the sale and relocation to Seattle as part of the April 18-19 meeting in New York, Sacramento has put together a strong counter-offer and wants to be in position if the BOG turns down Seattle in favor of the California capital.
If Sacramento beats Seattle, all the Sacramento group has done is stopped the move. It still has to buy the team and the Maloofs can turn the screws and inflate the price tag. The Maloofs can even keep the team. There is essentially no chance that happens, but consider the number of developments that have already occurred no one saw coming. At the very least, the Maloofs could drag negotiations into summer and still get out Monopoly-money rich before having to hide out another season.
Sacramento may still need to make nice with the family. There is the recent evidence that Johnson has, after the mayor and his top aides wrongly let earlier arena negotiations get personal when they should have understood the Maloofs are very emotional. But the mayor said that is not the case.
“No,” Johnson told NBA.com. “We’re just talking about the facts, and the facts are this: They have been a huge part of this community, they gave a significant amount of philanthropy back to this community, they kept the team here for 10-plus years, which is great. It didn’t end the ideal way. I’ve talked to and communicated with them since then. There are no hard feelings. We wish them the best. They wish us the best as a community.
“We think at the end of the day, if the price that they were going to get is similar to Sacramento, they would probably prefer to have the team in Sacramento. They certainly can’t say that. But I know they have an affinity for Sacramento and I believe very strongly that this is the way the story is supposed to end at the end of the day. They’ve been good to our community. We’re just thankful for that.”
No hard feelings? Seriously?
“They didn’t have to put in their deal that they can accept the backup offer,” Johnson said. “If there was no backup offer, we wouldn’t be able to do anything. There’s a backup offer because ultimately the NBA approves or disapproves a deal. By them being able to accept a backup offer, it keeps a community like Sacramento in play. If not, I have no idea what we’d be able to do. A silver lining in everything.”
Johnson is right to note the Maloofs’ positive impact around the region, a fact now quickly overlooked. No matter how much heat the family has taken, and will forever take, they poured big bucks into the market as well.
But to suggest the Maloofs want the Kings to end up in Sacramento, not Seattle, is the purest sign of all that KJ is schmoozing. If the Maloofs really wanted that, they could have made it happen. At the very least, they could have alerted Sacramento that the team was for sale, allowing a clean start rather than forcing the city to play catch-up to an excellent bid. The Maloofs did not do that because they wanted to jab a finger in the chests of Johnson and top aides who crossed the line by dealing with the family like dealing with North Korea. The mayor is trying to do something about that mistake now.