I'll say it again: like Marcos Breton, Bee columnist Ailene Voisin has been doing superb work on the Sacramento Kings arena issue. Both have been doing reported columns, Breton from the city side and Voisin working league and team contacts. The result has been a robust insight into what folks are thinking as the drama continues.
As we're all well aware, NBA owners will meet this week. Part of their discussions will focus on Sacramento; there's no indication that city officials will be present, but the Maloofs sure will be. NBA commissioner David Stern has pointed to this meeting as something important to the future of Sacramento in the NBA ... but it hasn't been clear why. This Stern quote that Voisin got sheds some light.
"My hope is to come out of the board of governors meeting with a confirmation that this is back on track," Stern told The Bee late last week. "Everyone involved deserves that."
Now who does that sound sympathetic to?
We all know who took it off track: the Maloofs, by balking at a term that appeared in the handshake deal five weeks ago, by taking it to the press (the Los Angeles press, in fact) and delivering a robust public records request. There's no question that it was the Maloofs that took it off track. When Stern talks about putting it back on track, he could in theory mean that he hopes that the city caves on pre-development fees. But I doubt it.
There's also little question among those of us who have suffered the uncertainty for a decade that this is the best deal for all parties that we've ever seen, and that the Maloofs are trying to back out of it and hightail out. There's little room to argue otherwise, right? I mean, the copper-topped sycophant himself has taken to serving his masters not by denying that they are ready to bolt, but that the deal itself is bad ... a determination made five weeks after George Maloof himself said it was a good deal that would allow the family to turn a profit. (That's been one of the underrated storylines of this depressing story: there's no chance the Maloofs have shared any inside info with the aforementioned sycophant, so he has to spin his own puppet strings. Only he's awful at it, so it's all a ridiculous tangle that makes him look both like the Maloofs' waterboy and a fool.)
What I read in that Stern quote -- and forgive me for being optimistic -- is that the commissioner wants the Maloofs' spastic refusal to pay these fees dealt with. Given the likelihood that additional issues will crop up, it makes for terrible precedent for anyone but the Maloofs to cover that share of pre-dev fees. I maintain that Stern is going to put an end to this wishy-washy nonsense.
The next question is: how? That's where Voisin's coda sings:
One NBA owner recently informed me that Ron Burkle isn't the only billionaire intrigued by the prospect of landing a plum in the politically rich Sacramento environment.
Woop woop, y'all.