My guess is Sacramento longs for the old days, when real-life drama extended only as far as Gov. Schwarzenegger and his housekeeper. Couldn't understand that either, but at least the plot line was familiar.
This business of savings the NBA Kings . . . well, there's been nothing quite like it in sports. Even the effort to save the Sonics in 2008 was pedestrian compared to this net-free, high-wire act.
The latest is that the Maloof family – the owner of the Kings with a deal to sell the team to Seattle investor Chris Hansen – emerged from its self-imposed sarcophagus Wednesday to put a figurative gun to the heads of Mayor Kevin Johnson and his investor pals (whomever they may be at the moment). "Give us proof your offer is legit by 5 p.m. Friday, or we kill you dead."
At last that was the essence of a Wednesday report by the Sacramento Bee, citing an unnamed tipster. Whether the threat is a) true b) enforceable c) another sly, Machiavellian manipulation by the NBA, or d) the final word on the competition, is not clear. Johnson, as is his habit, is acting as mall security cop, telling people staring at the broken display window that there's nothing to see here. Please move along.
And by the way, the Kings are 27-50 and riding a four-game losing streak and the most-overvalued entertainment value since Milli Vanilli. But that's another column.
Let's hit the refresh button:
After hearing presentations by both sides April 3, the NBA is scheduled to vote on competing offers for the team April 19 at an owners meeting in New York. After the first meeting though, a weary-looking NBA commissioner, David Stern, said the issue was unprecedented, weighty and complicated, and because of that, the vote might be delayed.
Three weeks earlier, Stern publicly scolded the Sacramento effort, saying a "substantial variance" existed and if the offer didn't improve, "it would not even be considered." The Sactown wealthies apparently responded because, in answer to a question April 3, Stern said that the difference in value was no longer an issue.
But that was before lead investor Ron Burkle backed out Monday. Burkle cited a conflict of interest with his investment in an entertainment company, Relativity Media, which is also the fourth-largest athlete agency in the the U.S., representing more than 50 NBA players. NBA by-laws say a team owner can have no affliliation with players' agents or financial interests.
With Burkle suddenly out of franchise ownership as well as arena planning (even though his involvement with Relativity was public record and frequently newsworthy), Johnson introduced a new investor Tuesday: Real estate developer Mark Friedman, whose family apparently leads Sactown in tycoonery. Johnson claimed that Friedman had been wanting to get into ownership all along, and Burkle's abrupt departure was coincidence.
Right. And Mariners rookie pitcher Brandon Maurer meant to give up six runs in two innings Tuesday to the Houston Astros.
That brings us to Wednesday, and the Maloofs' sudden extortion play. Here's my guess: The NBA, already groaning after threatening Sactown once, told the Maloofs that, if they wanted the bloated franchise price, they would have to go get it themselves. The Maloofs said, "Yeah, we'd like to pistol-whip KJ and his pals."
People in Sacramento, who have followed the Kings saga for years, say that the Maloofs have hated Burkle ever since 2011. That’s when he stepped in uninvited and made an offer to buy the Kings, which gave Stern the leverage to stop the Maloofs' sale of the Kings to a group that would have moved the franchise to Anaheim. There is a strong belief that the Maloofs would never sell the team to anyone associated with Burkle.
Now that he is out of the picture though, the Maloofs have insufficient personal animus to preclude a sale to Sacramento. Cash is now cash again.
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