HANG TIME WEST – In the latest twist that wasn’t, the Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday that the Maloof family, owners of the Kings, has given Sacramento leaders until 5 p.m. Friday to submit a written backup offer to buy the team in the event the NBA turns down Seattle. What the Bee does not report is what happens if mayor Kevin Johnson and potential owners Mark Mastrov, Vivek Ranadive et al miss the deadline.
Love the chess move by the Maloofs, presumably in coordination, or at least in consultation, with the Seattle group. Put another item on Sacramento’s plate to deal with while playing catch up, sometimes awkwardly, in the final days before a possible vote by the Board of Governors. It is also the latest clear sign the Maloofs are digging in and willing to show their teeth. But there’s no there there.
The people of Sacramento have a lot to worry about in keeping the Kings, but this so-called deadline is not one of them. Johnson probably knows it, too.
All the scenario does is underline what was reported here before: The city and the current owners may again have to deal with each other. Anyone who thinks the league can force an immediate sale to a Sacramento group if the Seattle deal is voted down, the popular perception in some circles, is living a lie.
If the Board of Governors denies Seattle – if – the Kings stay in Sacramento, no matter who is owner. The vote on Seattle relocation is essentially a vote on whether the league believes in a future in the California capital. The Maloofs can keep the team, the Maloofs can sell to someone who isn’t plotting a midnight run out of town, but Johnson gets the result he wanted. It might not be with the owners he wants, but Sacramento still has the NBA under that scenario, and that is the bottom-line monster victory.
The deadline itself, though, is a negotiating tactic. If it is missed, it will not signify a permanent end to negotiations. It might not even signify an end for the month if the governors turn down Seattle. (If Seattle is approved, of course, everything else becomes moot.)
It is no shock that the Maloofs are re-asserting control of the ownership situation in the event the team stays. My previous reports stand: If Seattle is voted down, they remain the owners. The league cannot dictate a sale to the group currently in place and waiting for a chance. The Maloofs could easily wait a month or so to see what other billionaire wants to offer up, and then decide on a sale. They could go into next season, as uncomfortable as that would be with 3,000 people in the stands. The latter is unlikely, but far from impossible.
The unavoidable truth is that the Maloofs and Sacramento will still need each if Seattle is denied. If the Maloofs want to get the prorated equivalent of the biggest sale in NBA history for their shares, deadlines have to be dropped or negotations have to be started with new parties. If Sacramento wants someone else to own the team, they have to go through the Maloofs. As always.
It is no coincidence that Johnson has become much more complimentary toward the Maloofs over time. KJ told me he is simply trying to give the family due credit for the many positives they brought to the city, a reminder that was long overdue but unpopular to note in town, but it looks an awful lot like a schmooze job. The Maloofs are emotional, which has been one of their best attributes and also a problem area, and making nice could go a long way.
Johnson had a telling response when asked about the story about the deadline, about why the Maloofs would give such an ultimatum. He could have belittled the strategy or laughed at how little it means, and he might have in the past. This time, the mayor wisely took a pass.
“You would have to ask them,” he said.
It is worth noting some family members have also said nice things about how Johnson has led the comeback. The sides will be able to at least talk if it comes to that, whether about moving forward together or finalizing a sale to new owners. Just as importantly, they will be able to talk even if no offer is submitted by Friday at 5 p.m.