Heightened dispute over Kings puts Seattle closer to NBA team
The stars are aligning in Seattle's favor. The Maloofs, owners of the Sacramento Kings, have become an embarrassment to the league.
Seattle Times staff columnist
The season ended in Sacramento the way it began. In the final seconds of the season's final game a huge crowd at Power Balance Pavilion stood and roared its thanks as the Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the opener and in the finale, the Sacramento fans celebrated wins over L.A. that must have felt like a new beginning for the franchise. They cheered as if they knew the Kings were theirs forever.
Those fans don't deserve all the anxiety that their ownership is bringing upon them, just as Seattle didn't deserve what happened to it when it lost the Sonics.
But there is a one big difference. The NBA has gone above and beyond to lobby politicians for a new downtown arena in Sacramento. It didn't break a sweat on its way out of Seattle.
Last week the Maloof brothers, owners of the Kings, embarrassed the league by backing out of the arena deal that the city and the NBA thought was done. The Maloofs acted like a family of ungrateful, spoiled brats who didn't get their way. They refused to pay their share of the deal.
And Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson declared that the arena deal was dead, that the differences were "irreconcilable."
That's where we are today. The Sacramento arena deal is stalemated. The Kings are in danger of moving after the 2012-13 season.
The Maloofs have become the new Frank Chopp. Just as Washington's Speaker of the House disrespected NBA commissioner David Stern when he came to Olympia to lobby the Washington State Legislature for a new sports palace, the Maloofs disrespected Stern by bailing on the new deal.
If we didn't learn anything else from the compelling documentary "Sonicsgate," we should have learned that it's deadly to disrespect Stern.
Now the Maloofs are in trouble with the league and in the commissioner's doghouse.
The Sacramento Bee has quoted sources as saying the Kings are $205 million in debt. The franchise has the lowest payroll in the league. It can't attract free agents. And the team is playing in an outdated building without a viable new arena solution.
The door is cracked ever-so-slightly open for Seattle, and I think the NBA should sprint up here and help get it done. Stern, who said he won't do this, should align with the other owners and force the Maloofs to sell.
Chris Hansen, the Bay Area investor who wants to build an arena in the Sodo District and bring the game back to Seattle, is exactly the kind of owner the league is seeking.
He is energetic, committed, smart and throughout the process of developing an arena proposal for Seattle he has taken the high road. He hasn't been loud and demanding. He's been quiet and diplomatic and practical. And — oh, yeah — he's rich and he has rich friends.
Recently, Hansen has been working with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County executive Dow Constantine on a Memorandum of Understanding that could be ready as early as next week.
After that, the city and county councils will vote on the arena proposal, probably around the middle of June.
Obviously nothing can happen for the Kings in Seattle until the proposal is approved, but I believe that approval is coming.
The stars are aligning in Seattle's favor.
The Maloofs have become an embarrassment to the league. Maybe they believe they are one lucky Ping-Pong ball away from watching all their troubles disappear. Win the lottery, draft Kentucky's Anthony Davis, get the arena built and they can start counting money.
But they don't deserve Davis. They don't deserve a team. They backed out on the NBA, backed out on Sacramento's hardworking mayor and turned their backs on the fans that have supported them through many hard times since 1985.
This story that has had plenty of crazy plot twists and probably will have more before a solution is reached.
But the Kings remain Seattle's best shot at reclaiming the NBA.
So get the Sodo arena deal done. Make the Maloofs an offer they reluctantly can't refuse. Hand the keys to the new Sonics to Hansen. Give back to Seattle the team it never should have lost.
Play at KeyArena in 2013-14. Then open the glittering new place for the 2014-15 season opener against Oklahoma City.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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