Ryan Yamamoto of News10 reports that on Tuesday, the NBA will meet with the major sponsors behind Kevin Johnson's $10 million in new sponsorship money and formally ask for deposits. These businesses -- Thunder Valley Casino and Western Health, among them -- have said, "We're willing to advertise with the Kings to keep them in Sacramento." The NBA is saying, "OK, ante up."
That's understandable and a bit terrifying, but well within the NBA's rights as they consider whether to, in its authority, keep the Kings in Sacramento for next season.
Well, it'd be well within the NBA's right if the NBA ran the Sacramento Kings. Which begs the question: is the NBA running the Sacramento Kings?
Note the continued absence of the Maloof family in all of this. These sponsorships were pledged to the Sacramento Kings, owned and operated by the Maloofs, a member of the NBA. These businesses pledged this money because KJ told them that otherwise, the Kings would be gone. The NBA has the power to tell the Maloofs they must keep the Kings here in Sacramento, and to wield that power wants to ensure that KJ isn't selling wolf tickets. Again: it's a reasonable quest.
But collecting local sponsor money is usually a task left for the team. In fact, I cannot think of any instance in which the NBA would collect local sponsor money for a team that doesn't deal with an NBA takeover of a team (hello, New Orleans) and a situation where the local owners have become so poisonous that the NBA would rather take the time and bear the expense to basically do the owners' job for them.
Think about that. It ain't free to have Harvey Benjamin and the NBA's other staff out in Sacramento for a third day. The league kinda has big things going on now, what with the playoffs, a pending labor situation and all. But the NBA, to its credit, is devoting real resources to do the Maloofs' job this week. That's no small matter. It's, in fact, quite a large matter!
It tells me the NBA knows full well how much the city, community and fans of Sacramento distrusts and, frankly, dislikes the Maloofs right now. It tells me the NBA knows that if Sacramento The Market is fixed, the community's relationship with the Maloofs will be a whole 'nother matter to deal with. It tells me that the league understands that to make this work for the long-term, it may not be in the best interest of the NBA to have the Maloofs running the Sacramento franchise at all.
I'm not sure that's a perfectly fair leap; maybe the NBA will relinquish control as soon as the relocation application deadline passes. But at the absolutely least, the NBA is again cognizant -- just as they were in the aftermath of Q&R in 2006 -- of how toxic the Maloofs have made themselves in Sacramento. For those of us concerned about the Maloofs' loyalty to Sacramento, that's a good thing.