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Kings arena fight turns personal as NBA owners meet Friday

NEW YORK -- This is a big day for the Kings and their quest for a new downtown arena in Sacramento. Another big day in a long succession of them. Will it finally result in a resolution? A compromise? Or scorched earth?

With the agreement on a funding scheme for the $400 million arena on the brink of falling apart, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is meeting with NBA owners Friday in the hopes of saving the several-times-doomed project yet again. We won't bore you with the particulars, but the Maloof family believes it shouldn't have to pay pre-development costs as a tenant of the arena. The city, which agreed to kick in $255 million toward the entire cost of the project, says it doesn't have any more to give.

The NBA floated a $200,000 loan recently to at least get some environmental impact studies rolling. The way this negotiation is going, perhaps the money would've been better spent if commissioner David Stern had given it to Clay Bennett, the chairman of the relocation committee, to conduct studies about where the Kings should move.

It's a messy, critical time for the Kings and their passionate fans, and something doesn't seem right that Johnson had to board a plane and swoop in to try and save something that everyone thought he'd already saved. Johnson expressed his dismay in a letter to Stern released to CBSSports.com and other media outlets overnight, stressing that the Maloofs must honor the handshake agreement reached just weeks ago on the arena funding plan.

"Your handshake is your handshake," Johnson wrote. "Your promise is your promise."

Handshakes and promises or great, but actions speak louder than all of that. Through this entire process, the Maloofs have acted as though they're being dragged kicking and screaming back to Sacramento from Anaheim, where they thought they'd been oh-so-close to moving the franchise. But Stern and many of his owners didn't want that, and so the Maloofs were stuck. That's my perspective, anyway. And the Maloofs haven't done anything to contradict such conclusions.

A couple of the brothers, in fact, sneaked out of the midtown Manhattan hotel in the middle of Thursday night's board meeting -- exiting the complex through a jewelry store instead of the front entrance, where several Sacramento news outlets had reporters stationed. The owners had a P.R. man sauntering around the hotel lobby, but he appeared to be focused mostly on not providing information or answering any questions. And also, going out to dinner.

I guess -- and this is my opinion -- if you're hoping the whole thing goes up in smoke so you can move the team somewhere else, the best thing to do is say nothing.
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