There's an argument that Kevin Johnson was the MVP of the Sacramento Kings' 2011-12 season. First of all, there likely wouldn't have been a Sacramento Kings 2011-12 season without his work in April 2011 to convince the NBA to give the city a chance and his work to convince the NBA he could come up with a workable solution in 10 months. Without his work to actually deliver a workable solution within 10 months, half of the 2011-12 season that was would have been marred with almost certain relocation reality. We could only enjoy DeMarcus Cousins' growth, Isaiah Thomas' breakout and J.J. Hickson's silky smooth bricked turnaround 20-footers because KJ did work.
As noted, that work continued into 2011-12 ... all the way up to the final days of the season, when he offered to talk to George Maloof and see what could be salvaged of the deal that the owner had set on fire. From December through April, KJ was a hot topic on Sactown Royalty and surrounding the Kings.
That might change this season.
KJ handily won re-election. But his role -- really, the city's role -- has been markedly reduced by the Maloofs' decision to renege on their commitment to a new downtown arena. As KJ himself as admitted, the city can't do much until the Maloofs sell, come crawling back or move. A new arena without Maloof involvement is not tenable, in part because of no-compete clauses regarding ARCO Arena.
So until the Maloofs make a move, there's nothing for the city to do. And with nothing for the city to do, there's not much for KJ to say. There's not much reason for him to offer aid or comfort to the fans. That's a bit disappointing, because I for one love hearing from him.
This doesn't mean he'll be out of the news -- this week's manufactured controversy about Think Big Sacramento's funding is proof of that. I really enjoy the work of both Ryan Lillis and the Sacramento Bee editorial board on nearly all occasions, but I can't really figure out where they are headed with the idea that Think Big getting money from Kings sponsors that the mayor and Think Big itself solicited looks anything but reasonable. Remember: these were not companies planning on giving the Maloofs a collective $10 million for the 2011-12 season. Think Big and KJ, in a brilliant attempt to convince the NBA to make the Kings stay in Sacramento, went out and raised those funds. Taking a small portion of those funds to preserve the organization's ability to function without relying on taxpayer dollars is entirely reasonable. Think Big nor the mayor had to ask the Kings to bankroll them. Think Big and the mayor essentially brought $10 million in new business to the Maloofs and said that the new sponsors had agreed to divert some of those funds to Think Big, whose sole focus at the time was developed an arena plan for downtown, a common goal for all involved. In a time where local governments need to be creative to spur economic growth, you can't be much more reasonable and innovative than that.
And if Think Big were taking money from the Maloofs, which it was not, the optical problem would be something like the two sides being in cahoots, the Maloofs "buying off" the mayor for a favorable deal. To which I say: are you kidding me? This is a joke, yes? The leader of Think Big compared Maloof Sports and Entertainment to North Korea. You must be kidding me with this. The notion that KJ might be bought by the Maloofs acting as an intermediary for 3.8 percent of $10 million in new business brought to MS&E by KJ's non-profit ... it's astounding, frankly. That the editorial didn't address this basic disconnect with reality is frankly shocking, given how careful the crew over there has been.
Anyway, that was a diversion. I fear KJ will be relatively unseen in Kings circles this year, and I fear that's not great for those of us who know we cannot rest.