There’s no reason to fear a great white, when its stuffed, mounted and hung with a nail.
Put all of the NBA movers, shakers and deal makers in one room, and George Maloof is as relevant as gaudy ornamentation on the wall. He is unpolished decor collecting dust, positioned away from the big boys table.
Through his own integrity-challenged undoing, his voice has been muted. His influence negated. Only his waistline and bravado seem to expand, unlike his capacity for commitment or creative ideas.
Like a big, dumb lifeless mammal on a plaque, George has been exposed. His teeth may be showing, but there’s no bite left.
That’s a good thing for a man seemingly intent on running roughshod over his reputation, his once family fortune and a city that deserves better.
I am not interested in George, however. He’s a brat and a liar. Likening him to a shark is an insult to Jaws 1, 2 and 3. There’s not much more to say about his character traits without the use of expletives, but others are better at that than I.
I gave George the benefit of the doubt, until he exhausted his supply. Now, I am interested only in how his buffoonery may impact the future locale of the team, for better or worse.
How may the events toward the end of last season, and leading into a new season, with possible relocation bid pending, effect the owners’ brighter pasture delusions?
How might George’s chronic missteps create a back alley route out of town with Kings in tow?
Or is he stuck with nowhere to run or hide?
First, let's distinguish between his desires, which about we should give a rat’s booty, and his ability to carry out said desires, within a landscape of proponents (David Stern) poachers (Henry Samueli) and pests (Chris Hansen), which should be our primary focus.
For those too nauseous to recollect the disarray, let’s recap:
The Maloofs, misled by George, burned bridges and exhausted goodwill with NBA executives, including Commissioner Stern, through their duplicitous and disingenuous dealings with the city of Sacramento, backing out of a handshake deal.
George squandered trust and faith with the NBA and the city through a series of incredulous sticking points, including an unwillingness to collateralize the new loan (standard practice), front predevelopment costs (standard practice), pay game day expenses (standard practice), or commit to a 30 year lease for a (mostly) publicly financed arena (standard practice).
George subsequently distorted, babbled, waffled, backtracked and lizard bellied his away opposite of any real attempt at negotiation, replete with an economist-for-hire, a half-baked renovation idea, and passive-aggressive displays of stupidity.
He never wanted to make a deal. He wanted a handout.
He never tried to negotiate terms. He tried to negotiate a free ride.
He never wanted to play ball. He wanted his balls licked. (ahem, figuratively.)
Mayor Johnson bent over backwards for months to make a deal happen, but he wasn’t going that far.
Except for a miscalculated, 11th hour blunder in the form of public letter to the Maloofs to inform them that the time for negotiations had passed, and they had best honor their word (the letter had merits, sending it to the Bee was unnecessary), Kevin Johnson was brilliant.
He secured $10 million dollars in one month from local business in form of ticket sales and sponsorship, while the Maloofs were busy picking their collective noses (Look, Gavin, I mined a ripe one!), uncovering untapped revenue sources and revealing the economic viability of the region.
More significantly, Mayor Johnson helped to manifest a fair and feasible plan to finance a beautiful, new downtown arena while bypassing the need for a public vote. He brokered an almost-deal between the city ($255 million – 65% of cost), AEG ($59 million – 15% of cost), the Maloofs ($67 million – 17% of cost) and the NBA ($7 million gift – 2% of cost) at a time when hope and resources were conspicuously slim.
His leadership, intelligence and vision swayed the local city council, once myopic and reluctant with regards to the growth of the city, to an attitude of cautious optimism and forward-thinking action.
It was a heroic feat. Kudos to you, Kevin.
Mayor KJ sold the new arena as more than a home to the Kings. The state of the art facility was to be an entertainment and sports complex to revitalize a region, stimulate the local economy, and be a symbol of pride and satisfaction for generations to come.
It was a win-win-win-win situation. (city, NBA, fans, owners).
Only one person failed to notice.
(I am not absolving Joe and Gavin of their culpable role in this ongoing saga, but George holds authority among the brothers when it comes to business not related to marketing and sales. George is the perpetrator. Joe and Gavin are willing or passive accomplices.)
So…where are we now, if not up shit creak without a paddle, and a
Arco, Power Balance name to call home?
If we step back and remove emotion and animosity from the analysis, which although challenging, is possible with time and acceptance that George did act within his right, we still come to one significant realization:
None of what happened will do anything to help the Maloofs to leave Sacramento with the team. Nothing that the city did or that George did will garner support for a move to Seattle, Anaheim, Virginia Beach or Fairbanks, Alaska.
The ability of Sacramento to rally and make something tangible happen, like Isaiah with 3 seconds left on the shot clock, reinforces our viability as an NBA city.
A misconception exists that the biggest threat to pro hoops in Sacramento is the desire of the Maloofs to leave. In reality, the biggest threat was a city council living in 1985. They awoke from their slumber and archaic mentality. They saw the possibility. They bought into the vision.
We are still without a legitimate arena, but the legitimate threat to departure has been eliminated. We will build.
Moreover, the events of last Spring will serve to inflate a potential relocation fee from prohibitive to insurmountable. The involvement of the highly regarded AEG and $255 million in dollars from Sacramento will sway owners on the fence from a reluctant 'yay' to resounding 'nay'. Owners can no longer justify a consenting vote by conceding that George was left with no other choice.
League-wide support to relocate was insufficient before. Its nonexistent now. The math makes this even more apparent.
A relocation fee (a conservative $100 million, more likely $150 to $200 million), a sunk cost with no intrinsic value, is likely equal or in excess of the Maloofs equity in the team (approximately $150 million), and twice to three times the amount that the Maloofs were being asked to pony up to build a downtown arena ($67 million), a figure that stretched their financial resources to the tilt.
It bears mention too that the Lakers signed a 20 year, $4 billion dollar deal with Time Warner Cable for TV rights. If the Kings tried to invade upon their territory, and succeeded, the value of that contract is reduced by 10%. That’s $400 million, a portion of which will be used prospectively to fund the revenue sharing to small markets (like Sacramento) as part of the new CBA. This not-so-insignificant detail would be factored into any relocation fee and vote.
What are we worried about again, guys?
George is not going anywhere with our team.
Still, I can hear the doomsayers. The sky-is-falling, worry warts that have resigned themselves to the Kings in Tallahassee or Mississippi in 2012-13, anywhere but here, will say something as follows:
"The Maloofs and their team of lawyers can cite anti-trust law if they are denied in their request to take their business elsewhere. The Maloofs will say they tried for more than a decade, gave it their best shot, but it didn't work out, so with heavy hearts and empty pocketbooks, ‘ciao, baby’".
(George likes to say ‘ciao, baby’ to the ladies of Las Vegas because it makes him sound extra suave and debonair. Of course, he spells it 'c-h-o-w’, and considers his use of the word an invitation to the Palms overpriced buffet.)
As the Debbie Downers would have it, the Maloofs will contend overly optimistic new arena projections by the NBA, a trend in loss of sponsors, available Fortune 500 companies, suitable luxury boxes, dwindling attendance revenue, capped TV money, an inadequate practice facility, and….yada, yada, yada.
A prolonged legal battle would be enough to make me watch Jason Thompson clips on You Tube.
No worries, though. I’d manage. Any career highlights package of JT couldn’t last more than 3.5 seconds, right? :P
Regardless, the NBA would more than reasonably counter by declaring that:
(1) The new CBA, designed to help small market teams succeed on (wins) and off (profit) the court, includes a revenue sharing agreement, which is free money, amounting to $15 to $20 million annually, to help qualified teams compete and help to realize a reasonable ROI. The NBA has not neglected or colluded against small markets, especially in light of new terms.
(2) A $7 million contribution (read: gift) was offered to the Maloofs to make the new arena deal go. They said ‘no’. A $67 million dollar loan was made available on top of the existing money owed to NBA, upwards of $100 million. Who else was going to give them that type of loan? Any accusation by the Maloofs that the NBA conspired to prevent the Maloofs from succeeding as owners will be unsubstantiated and disproven.
(3) Historically, former NBA owners profit most at time of sale, realizing increase in value from purchase price to sales price. It is not uncommon to take a year-to-year loss as cost of doing business as the equity value rises over time. Nothing prevents the Maloofs from realizing this profit whenever they see fit. (The Maloofs paid $156 million for the team in 1998. The current estimate value is $300 million.)
(4) Allowing a team to move to a new city disrupts continuity of the league, the logistics of the schedule, and budding or established rivalry between teams. There was a negative fallout the last time a team relocated (Seattle). Its not good for the NBA as a whole to allow teams to exit viable markets. It sends the wrong message to fans who support their team in aging arenas.
The point is that an anti-trust lawsuit by the Maloofs would be dismissed or lost. It would turn into a length and costly ordeal that the Maloofs could neither afford nor win. Even the most litigious of lawyers would have to admit it would be an uphill battle against a Goliath. David Stern is not one to back down from a fight, as last year’s labor dispute exemplified. He doesn’t forget, either. He spent considerable time, effort and league resources to remedy the arena troubles in Sacramento, only to witness George flee from the altar.
You want to take this court, George? Bring it on.
Stern earns his name. Wielding his authority to satisfy his will is what he does best. Acting as temporary owner of the New Orleans Hornets, he rejected a trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers, deciding better assets were required, undermining Hornets GM Dell Demps. His realm is not evaluation of player personnel, but he intervened anyway.
Dictating where his teams play, by contrast, is child’s play.
Stern and the NBA purchased the Hornets in 2010 from George Shinn when it appeared he might sell to a group intent on relocation. Stern prefers stability, even when the team ranked 24th out of 30 in attendance. Accordingly, he rebuffed overtures to sell the team to a California-based investor in favor of local Saints owner Tom Henson, who told Stern, "I'm the only guy you can count on who's really going to stay here."
Stern has Sacramento’s back.
His role would differ, of course, in the unlikely event the Maloofs put the team up for sale, but his ability to influence would not. An investor with sights set to move the Kings would have to factor a relocation fee into his cost of acquisition, a premium effectively imposed by Stern. A conceivable $200 million dollars tacked onto the purchase price would dissuade even the most deep-pocketed billionaire. Any team sale is further subject to approval by the NBA board of governors, also heavily influenced by Stern.
Not so fast, Chris Hansen.
Ultimately, Stern will reward the success of Sacramento to deliver upon feasible funding plan for a new arena with the same show of loyalty that fans have shown their team. If necessary, he can orchestrate the sale of the team to an investor committed to keep the team in Sacramento, and intent upon reviving the arena deal.
You may not like Stern, but you can count on this. His actions will be guided by irrefutable evidence. Sacramento has proven itself as a legitimate NBA city. The owners have proven themselves as frauds. Neither revelation portends the team’s departure.
If and when George files for relocation in early 2013, claiming he tried his best, and his best wasn’t enough, his assertions will be met with ridicule and laughter, not consent. If he cites Sacramento as a non-viable market, he will be met with jeers and facts, not agreement.
I was as disappointed as anyone that the construction on a new downtown arena was suspended indefinitely. It was a somber and stunning turn of events. The consolation, for now, is this:
The impotency of a stooge yields no power. A Viagra pill won’t cure the depth of his ails.