It figures that this is how it likely ends for the NBA in Sacramento: Co-owner (and now de facto leader of the doofus trio) George Maloof parading around a list of "concerns" about the current handshake agreement deal they already made with the mayor Kevin Johnson; the mayor issuing his statement that the plan they agreed to with the Maloofs is pretty much dead; and NBA commissioner David Stern washing his hands of the whole matter.
It's an ugly wrap on what figures to be a long, dead path for the Kings to exit Sacramento.
If the Maloofs plan to hold onto the team (and all indications are they aren't selling), the team figures to march lifelessly to the 2014 deadline Stern has put in place in front of empty to semi-hostile crowds, at which point they will file for relocation. In other words, the organization would be copycatting the exact strategy Clay Bennett and his organization used to justify their move of the Sonics. Poison the atmosphere with your actions, ensure all the fans die, and there's another justification for moving.
Will they be granted it? Who knows, but given the toxic environment, they'll be in the perfect spot to bargain their way out of the state capital. Where they end up--their Anaheim "paradiso," the potential Seattle development, back to Kansas City--remains to be seen, but as long as the Maloofs are in charge, there's no way the Kings can stay where they are. They won't be wanted there, and the league knows it. The NBA is backed into a corner, and they know that the end result will not spare Sacramento.
The Maloofs are in debt to the NBA, but they're meeting their payments, and their minimum payroll ensures them the money necessary to pay off those debts. Even though the team is making no conscious effort to put together a winning product--like hiring a new coach or trading for a big star or making important free-agent pickups--they are satisfying the bare minimum for the league, ensuring they hold on to their trophy-wife team.
It's easy to say the Maloofs are really the evil characters in this. Well, because they are. But they're far from Machiavellian in their machinations. They've bumbled and stumbled their way through this whole process like spoiled trust-fund brats because they are spoiled trust-fund brats. They've failed in almost every business endeavor they've ventured into, have squandered much of their inheritance, and really have only the Kings left to ride on. Why is it surprising they're running the Kings into the ground and out of Sacramento the same way they've run everything else into the ground?
The Maloofs tried to leave Sacramento last year and were strong-armed back into negotiating with the city by the NBA. Once Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Maloofs ironed out a deal in Orlando during the All-Star Break, it looked like there was finally going to be an agreement in place.
But in typical Magoof fashion, they decided to double up on their buffoonery. They went along with the original celebration and seemed ready to build a new arena with Mayor Johnson. They made a public display of it at Kings games and seemed ready to exult in the celebration. Then they went ahead and reneged on the deal the moment they had to start fronting cash, even when the NBA was willing to step in and pay for it all.
Leading an entire city on only to betray them the moment came to put up? This type of behavior is typical of sociopaths or idiots. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to what type of people Joe, Gavin, George and Adrienne are.
It'd be safe to end it there, but there is a more systemic problem to address. The Maloofs are the byproduct of an NBA diseased by the same problem that has ridden many sports franchises--if you can cut the check, nothing else matters.
Too many teams, instead of viewing the league as a competitive sport, where winner takes all, go in the other direction and view the bottom line as the final verdict on how successful they are in running a team. You only have to look at how Donald Sterling and Chris Cohan conducted their affairs to get a feel for the type of owners the league is willing to tolerate if it fills their coffers.
The Maloofs probably at one point did want to win in Sacramento. But like every other investment they've put together, they eventually fouled it up (with admittedly some bad luck along the way). Now in cost-cutting mode, they've provided the same dysfunction that plagues many a franchise. They're been too many bad deals for players who didn't fit the overall picture, too many poor trades to save cap space, too many traded draft picks and mismanagement of cap space, too many coaching changes bringing in retreads and unprovens, and now lately too much frugality to piece together a title contender.
The owners run the league, and they know that forcing the Maloofs into agreeing with this deal with the city of Sacramento would be a bad precedent to set for their own maneuvering and conniving. Many of these owners want freedom of movement, and they sure don't want to be put in the position where they have to start footing the bills for new and fancy arenas for their franchises. Even if the Maloofs are acting from weakness, there is no way they're willing to restrict their freedom because it could end up being a decision that restricts their own freedom as well.
The Maloofs are playing their twisted game in their stupid, stupid way. But the game is rigged, man, and even their dumb hides can win here.
The NBA is now facing a disastrous situation, with (barring a Maloof sale or bankruptcy) one of two hideous options to deal with. When relocation comes, they could force the Maloofs to stay in Sacramento in one of the oldest, most decrepit arenas in all of sport with an angry fanbase that openly despises them, likely facing declining attendance numbers and minimal TV revenue. Not too rosy a future without a new arena plan in place. Not to mention the wrath the league would face from many of their owners, and the possibility of a costly, painful antitrust lawsuit.
Or the league could relocate the Kings after the city showed good faith and put together a deal that would keep the team where they were, most likely placing them in a market where they'd be the Fredo team to Michael and Sonny. It'd be a terrible public relations nightmare for the league and a bad precedent for other struggling small-market teams. It's also something owners couldn't care too much about because bottom line, baby. The NBA gets a torn ACL from this whole laborious process, but it's amazing how science and time can just patch those things up these days.
And of course, Kings fans are left with nothing. There will always be hope for Sacramento to get back another team, but they could be waiting awhile. Seattle wants their team, and with the Maloofs set on Anaheim they're not likely to get (or want) their incompetent ownership. By the time the Kings are up for a team, will there be anyone willing to pony up and plant a squad here?
The answers, like the future of the Kings, are shrouded in darkness.