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Will The Kings Commit To 2012-13 Without A Finalized Funding Plan?

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KFBK's Rob McAllister has an interesting column at Cowbell Kingdom considering the optimism over the city's budding financing plan for a new arena in downtown Sacramento, and a sense that because of progress but an impossibly tough timeline, the NBA and Kings will elect to commit to Sacramento for the 2012-13 season and wait for the funding plan to be finalized this spring.

[T]he Maloofs have stated that the March 1st date is "flexible" and it seems NBA Commissioner David Stern is willing to give Sacramento a longer leash after seeing what Johnson and his Think Big Sacramento team have accomplished in just ten months. The mayor has likely earned the city until March of next year before a move is discussed again. ...

Even with the extra time, Johnson will not go public stating the March 1st deadline is workable. He does not want to give opponents a chance to delay or hinder progress on the project.

Expect financing to fall in place sometime in May. The city will have a firm figure on the parking sale, hotels will make up their minds on how much they'll fork over, Anschutz Entertainment Group will negotiate a price to operate the arena, and the NBA/Kings will come to the table to discuss their contribution. All these pieces need to add up to $406-million or more.

My perspective is a little less optimistic.

I do think the mayor is on the right track and will be able to put together a package that will keep the NBA from approving a move. But I don't think the Maloofs ready to forfeit their second one-way ticket out of town. I think that the league and Maloofs will make a good-faith effort to the city by extending the relocation deadline to the end of April or first week of May ... which is where it ended up last year anyway. That would give Kevin Johnson two extra months -- a full year overall -- to have the funding plan in place. If there are critical City Council votes scheduled for March and April, I don't think the Maloofs will be willing to agree to stay for 2012-13 without knowing there's any chance of a new arena in downtown in the forseeable future. Imagine if the Maloofs agreed to stay in Sacramento for 2012-13 in the last weeks of February, then the Council (Heavens forbid) rejected the parking plan in March. There's no way the Maloofs let that happen, right?

The mayor and the Maloofs are in opposite positions compared to last year. In 2011, KJ needed to keep the window to save the team open as long as possible. Every day without a relocation application was another day to rally local support. In 2012, the Maloofs need to keep that window open. Every day in which relocation for '12-13 can still be achieved is another day for the whole shebang to fall apart.

It's cynical, and for that I apologize. But I believe that sometime in February, the league will announce that they have given Sacramento an extension, through the end of the regular season. If there's nothing finalized by the Board of Governors meetings at the end of April, the Maloofs will be able to file for relocation, which would still be subject to a majority vote (and all the associated interference from the L.A. teams).

But KJ can't bet on that extension, so he needs to get this stuff done fast fast fast.