What Are The Maloofs Trying To Prove?

That's a legit question, not a rhetorical device to question the Maloofs' motives with the latest arena drama. From Thursday's Sacramento Bee:

In further evidence that any tenuous trust has been broken, team attorneys filed a voluminous request two weeks ago with the city to view all memos, emails, letters and other documents exchanged between the city and the NBA in the last year, as well as communications between the city, AEG, the city's arena consultants, other local governments and officials regarding the arena.

What do the Maloofs think they will find in there? What are they looking for? What are they trying to prove? That the deal was crafted to force the Maloofs to sell the Kings? That city officials got AEG on board by implying that they'd be able to buy into the team because the family would have to sell? That the city has doubts on the plan, too?

This is unnerving stuff. This is basically the discovery phase of a court proceeding without a lawsuit, and lawyers will tell you that all of the action happens in discovery. Perhaps the Maloofs are preparing to take this to court and getting their case built early, before swords are drawn. (It's hard to argue that swords haven't been drawn, of course.) Perhaps the Maloofs' lawyers are genuinely curious as to what the city has told AEG, and what the NBA has promised the city and AEG.

But that's where this news, for me, turns a bit reassuring: the Maloofs needed to make a request to the city to get all communications that it has had with the NBA. The NBA took over the arena issue on behalf of the Maloofs a few years ago because the Maloofs' relationship with city leaders had become so toxic. (That was before Kevin Johnson was elected.) All along, the Maloofs have deferred to the NBA ... until it came time to cut the check. And that's fair. February was the right time for the Maloofs to get involved.

What happened to the Maloofs' trust of the NBA? The family can't possibly think that the city indicated its desire to replace the Maloofs in communication with the league ... can it? The family can't possibly think that the league is in on some plot to turn the team over ... can it? That request -- filed two weeks ago, before this thing blew up in public -- shows a damning level of Maloof mistrust in not just the city or AEG, but the league. David Stern. That's some kind of amazing.

After that, Stern OK'd $200,000 to keep the project alive until the Board of Governors can talk it out. This news about the records request puts that save by Stern in new perspective. The Maloofs requesting those records looks something like a challenge to the status quo, which had been the NBA working with the city and AEG to get a deal that the Maloofs could accept. By giving that money, Stern maintained the status quo, which is that the deal reached in Orlando should move forward.

All that said, Stern has never overstated the likelihood of the deal -- he's repeatedly emphasized that there's a lot of work left to do, and that the deal reached in Orlando was a non-binding term sheet. It's a difficult situation to crack. There are reasons to be hopeful, and reasons to be terrified, and a whole lot of gray area in between.

Next week can't come soon enough.

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