There were some real airwaves let out into the atmosphere when David Stern broke the league's hermetic seal on its role in Sacramento arena negotations and the Kings' future. NBA.com's excellent David Aldridge interviewed the commissioner on Tuesday, and the Bee's Tony Bizjak transcripted a seriously important quote:
"The team has agreed to a substantial contribution, both directly from itself, but also by catalyzing AEG to be interested. In effect, whatever money AEG puts in is because of give-backs by the team ... so we see that as a team contribution," Stern said.
This is a negotiating point. "We see that as a team contribution" doesn't come straight out and say that "the city does not see that as a team contribution" ... but it's a far cry from "we and the city agree that AEG's contribution constitutes a team contribution." I suspect that this is one of the area's where the city and league are still negotiating; in my estimation, the city needs an upfront contribution from AEG in exchange for the rights to run the facility, and an upfront contribution from the Kings to ensure they have a suitable place to play in Sacramento within a couple of years.
I see Stern's point, and I note to myself that if the Maloofs don't pony up in advance, their annual lease payment could go toward ensuring that the $9 million in parking revenue is covered for the next 30 years. That said, Stern's position doesn't appear to be tenable. Kansas City provides an example of AEG investing in the construction of a facility without team or league involvement. Given the work that Kevin Johnson and Sacramento have done to get AEG involved from the outset, I don't understand how that can be counted toward the Maloofs' responsibility to get this built.
As with all things arena, stay tuned.