Kevin Johnson, Maloofs Lacking Communication Over Kings Relocation
Johnson, the former NBA player who is so uniquely positioned in this attempt to retain the Capital City's basketball team, was reacting to an announcement from the NBA that Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof had requested an extension on the March 1 deadline to file for relocation. Johnson, who said he learned of the news through a Google alert in his e-mail account, wasted no time in responding.
"Today's news is very disappointing in my opinion for the city of Sacramento," Johnson said early in his news conference that lasted nearly 20 minutes and much of which can be seen here. "As you know, the Kings have asked the NBA for an extension of March 1 in terms of relocation, that deadline. I don't think you can mince words. It means one thing: they're looking for a deal elsewhere, and they're going to take the next few weeks or so to see if they can pull off something in another city, and I just think, in my opinion, Sacramento deserves better than this."
The extension must be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors in the coming days, and the league announced that the Kings would discuss their options with their fellow owners at the already-scheduled meetings on April 14-15. As Johnson pointed out, the irony is that the meetings don't take place until after what could be the Kings' final game in Sacramento on April 13.
Johnson's frustration is rooted in the lack of communication or cooperation on the part of the Maloofs. On Feb. 8, the Sacramento City Council unanimously voted to move forward on a feasibility plan for a downtown Sacramento arena with the group headed by developer David Taylor and venue group ICON.
Yet as was the case when it was first reported by FanHouse on Monday, the Maloofs have yet to provide key documents relating to previous arena studies that were supposed to assist with the plans and help the group meet their imposed 90-day deadline. Johnson said on Tuesday that he expected to see those documents by Friday, a stance that he reiterated strongly two days later.
"This Friday, tomorrow, we're hoping that they provide the financial documents to the ICON/(developer) Taylor group, so that they can do a financial analysis and put forth the feasibility study as they promised," Johnson said. "If that doesn't take place, then I think actions will speak louder than words."
On Tuesday, according to Johnson, he is scheduled to meet with the Maloofs, who refused comment when reached by FanHouse. The meeting is, he made clear, the sort of interaction he expected to be granted much sooner following the Feb. 8 City Council vote.
"There's no longer an ability or an opportunity for the Maloofs to just not participate (in the discussions about a Sacramento arena)," he said. "They're either going to be in Sacramento and participate, or they're not going to be in Sacramento and (they'll) play in some other city. That would be devastating for our city."
The Maloofs' discussions with Anaheim officials that have been ongoing for more than a year intensified in recent months and continued this week, with the team's owners growing more and more intrigued with the overtures of Ducks owner Henry Samueli. Yet amid reports of financial strife - from the laying off of a dozen Kings employees in May of 2009 to the sale of their New Mexico beer distributorship seven months later to a recent Bloomberg report claiming they are at risk of losing their Palms Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas - sources close to the Maloofs insist that the Kings finances are unaffected by their other ventures and that any possible relocation isn't being made out of financial desperation but because of Sacramento's lack of a new arena and a desire to be in a more-viable market.
While it has been reported that the move might come by way of a $100 million loan from Samueli, that notion has been refuted strongly from the sources who say a loan is not expected to be part of any potential agreement. Similarly, the sources refute the Forbes report which claimed the Kings lost $9.8 million last season, instead claiming the team's league-low payroll allowed them to be one of "five or six" teams that made a profit.
There are money matters that will unquestionably matter to the Maloofs, though, and they involve a recent media transaction that might have made a move to Southern California even more attractive than before.
Time Warner Cable recently struck a 20-year deal with the Lakers to create two regional sports channels on which they would cover the two-time defending champions starting in the 2012-13 season. The move was deemed a "massive blow" to one of the currents rights holders, Fox Sports West, by the Los Angeles Times, but it could create a rare opportunity in the region for the Maloofs if they made the move and became a new partner.
Television deals are often the financial lifeblood of large market professional teams, with no better recent example than that of the Texas Rangers. Their 20-year deal that was reached in September was reportedly worth between $75-80 million annually.
The Lakers, according to the LA Times report, are receiving approximately $30 million a year in rights fees under their current agreement with Fox Sports West. After losing the Lakers rights, Fox Sports West issued a statement claiming their unsuccessful offer "would have paid (the Lakers) one of the highest local TV rights fees in professional sports." As the Maloofs continue to debate the merits of moving to Anaheim, the television rights component is among the most important being considered.
Whether in Sacramento or Anaheim, there is no shortage of enthusiasm among the owners about the future because of their salary cap situation, as it relates to a new collective bargaining agreement. They have a league-low $28 million payroll for the 2011-12 campaign, with Denver second at approximately $30 million, the Clippers third at approximately $35 million and the Lakers, by comparison, at a league-high $89 million in salary for that season. With the current agreement set to expire on June 30 and owners pushing for a hard salary cap in the neighborhood of $45-47 million that would surely take an extended lockout to achieve, the Maloofs are anticipating a day in the not-so-distant future when the league's landscape is forever changed in their favor.
Meanwhile, Kings fans are hoping to inspire the Maloofs to stay through a number of efforts. A local advertising group, Glass Agency, launched a campaign called 'SacDeflated.com' that included not only the website but billboards in the downtown area that read, 'Game Over...If the Kings Leave, We All Lose.' A 'Here We Stay' campaign has also been started in an attempt to sell out the Kings next home game on Feb. 28 against the Clippers as a sign of support.
"We're not going to let that door close," Johnson said of the Maloofs staying in Sacramento. "We're going to fight like crazy to keep the door open and let (the Maloofs) know that we're serious about making this happen. This is not some Pollyanna goal or illusion that we have."
E-mail Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @sam_amick and Facebook. His website, NBAConfidential.com, is tentatively set to launch on March 1.