... and, by the way, it looks like the Maloof won't sell outright to Ron Burkle, Great Champion. I don't blame them, really. They have an asset they find very valuable, and they don't want to give it up. Whatever, It's yours. But the NBA has an interest here ... a real interest. Ron Burkle is not only a billionaire, but beyond even that he is a Very Important Person. He raised a million bucks for Hillary Clinton. He saved the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team and location he didn't have any apparent ties to. He rubs elbows with people who matter, because he is a person who matters. The NBA would embrace him like a two-year-old embraces a teddy bear. "Burkly!"
So the NBA has an interest here, and some power. I pitched this on Twitter, but let's throw it out in digital ink that's a bit more permanent.
- The Maloofs own an NBA franchise, and want to continue to own an NBA franchise. That franchise exists in a town obviously passionate for basketball and with some strong market features (exclusivity from other sport options, good media market, good population, beautiful weather). But there's no concrete new arena, and the team can't survive in the current gym. So the Maloofs want to move to a sunnier clime.
- The NBA owns a franchise, the Hornets. The previous owner was getting crushed and threatened to sell to an out-of-towner. NBA commissioner David Stern stepped in to save the New Orleans market. The league bought it for $300 million, and expects a small profit. They'd like to keep the franchise in N.O. permanently, but are pretty openly using the threat of relocation to get a better lease from the state of Louisiana.
- Ron Burkle, Great Champion And Very Important Person, wants to help a Sacramento group buy the Kings and build a gym in Sacramento, just like he did with the Penguins. The Maloofs won't sell, so Burkle talks about keeping "the NBA" in Sacramento, which alludes to relocation of another franchise.
- The NBA could let the Maloofs, cash-poor and with basketball debt amounting to roughly half the value of the Kings franchise, move to Anaheim, and later move the Hornets, Grizzlies or Bobcats to Sacramento, if Burkle moves forward with his arena plan.
- Or the NBA could execute a franchise swap, selling the Hornets to the Maloofs for a price slightly more than $300 million, facilitating a sale of the Kings to Burkle for something in excess of the Hornets' purchase price, and either having the Maloofs' outstanding Sacramento loan restructured (hi, C-Webb) or assumed by new ownership.
Results: New Orleans has a franchise whose future depends on whether a good lease can be worked out. Sacramento has a gym and a franchise. Anaheim remains a back-up for the next NBA franchise on the move.
The sticky wicket here remains the Maloofs, who obviously are fond of the L.A. market. Would they give N.O. a fair shake? Could Stern force them to give N.O. a fair shake? But can N.O. and Louisiana even come up with a lease good enough to keep Stern's attention? Wouldn't N.O.'s playoff status -- Chris Paul, y'all -- help the Maloofs with the cashflow? Isn't a quick profit and debt removal a pretty damned good incentive?
Right now, two NBA markets -- Sacramento and New Orleans -- are in terrible danger. With a deal like this, you can save one certainly, and potentially both. The devil is dryhumping the details, I know. It's incredibly tricky. But it's something that is at least worth pursuing, right?