Sorry Phil Jackson, but the Maloofs did not work hard to get a new arena in Sacramento

Kevork Djansezian

Phil Jackson sat down for an interview with Sam Amick, and among other things, his role in the Sacramento-Seattle saga as well as his opinion of the Maloofs came up.

This morning, I checked my e-mail and saw the latest "Good Morning, it's Basketball" from Tom, in which he linked to an interview that Sam Amick did with Phil Jackson.  The interview covers a multitude of topics, and I highly recommend reading it in its entirety, but one part stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

From USA Today (bold emphasis mine):

Q: But was there a point when you thought it was leaning (towards the team moving to Seattle)?

A: Yes, when Chris was able to purchase the Maloofs' interests. I was (convinced it would happen) until I was told there was that opening in the buyout where somebody else could come in and purchase it from a local group. And being a guy who likes (Sacramento Mayor and former NBA All-Star) Kevin Johnson - even though we had a lot of run-ups against Kevin when he was playing - I highly respect what he tried to do and how he was able to save that for the community. Whether that's a good deal or not is still to be determined.

Q: A good deal in what sense?

A: Can they sustain a team? Will it be a sustainable thing? They're charged with getting an arena. The NBA has (said), have them get a plan, get an arena. And they provided a plan. But we know how hard the Maloofs had to work to try and get one and couldn't get it done.

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As Samuel L. Jackson once said, "Well, allow me to retort".

The Maloofs owned the Sacramento Kings for nearly 16 years.  When they bought the team in 1998, the arena was already considered out-of-date despite being just 10 years old.  It was not an arena that had been built to last, but instead one to pass the time until a new downtown arena could be had.  That responsibility fell on the Maloofs, a responsibility that they never wanted.

Three times, an arena deal was seemingly ready to be approved, with most of the groundwork being done by people other than the Maloofs.  All three times it was the Maloofs who killed the deal.

The first came in 2006, with Measures Q and R introduced to start a quarter-cent sales tax for Sacramento county that would be used for a new arena at the Railyards.  The Maloofs were supposedly on board with the deal from the start, and were all set to give a rousing speech in support at the press conference.

From Cowbell Kingdom earlier this year:

A big press conference was called and the night before, local politicians spent the evening going over every detail of what was to be said the next day with the Maloofs.  The stars were aligned for Sacramento to finally get a dream arena with both the owners and city on board.

According to sources with intimate knowledge of the situation, everything was perfect until moments before Joe Maloof took the stage.  Instead of following the talking points from the city's press agent, he shunned them away in favor of a new script from his attorney.  At that point, Sacramento knew the fix was in.

Joe stumbled through a speech and tanked the deal in catastrophic fashion.  He questioned the viability of the site. He questioned the parking situation and in effect, he threw away months, if not years of work by city officials.  The infamous Carl's Jr. commercial followed, almost mocking the voters of Sacramento with the brothers Maloof sharing a $6,000 bottle of wine to go with their $6 burgers.

To nobody's surprise, support for that measure (and the team) dropped considerably after that debacle.  The measures failed so spectacularly that all though of a new arena was put on hold for a lengthy period of time.  It wasn't until Mayor Johnson was elected that progress started anew.

Johnson's first attempt at the arena deal came in 2010 with a land-swap idea that involved Cal Expo, but Cal Expo pulled out of the plan, paving the way for the Maloofs to attempt a relocation to Anaheim.  When that relocation fell through, mainly because of Johnson's work convincing the NBA that Sacramento could get something done and the Maloofs' own ineptness (the lack of a real television deal in Anaheim and drawing the ire of the Clippers and Lakers doomed that potential move), work begun on a new plan.  This one was seemingly approved by the Maloofs and David Stern at the 2012 All-Star game in Orlando, with Gavin Maloof even giving a rousing speech at the next game talking about how we would have a brand new arena in 2015.

That deal lasted about a month before George Maloof pulled the plug, asking for more and even laughably asking why a renovation of the current arena couldn't work, despite the Maloofs putting the kibosh on any such talk for the last decade.

Now it's March 3rd, 2014 and Sacramento has an arena, not just an arena deal, that is coming to fruition at last.  It's a deal that's better for the city than any of the last few plans, and it's cleared most hurdles in it's way.  There's one big reason for this plan's success after so many failures, and it's because of the Maloofs' lack of involvement.  So when I hear someone like Phil Jackson saying the Maloofs worked hard to get a new arena, I can't help but take offense.  There are a number of people who have worked incredibly hard on this, for years and years and years.

The Maloofs are not among them.

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