|Once again, this is the Maloofs celebrating what they ended up calling an 'unfair arena deal.' (Getty Images)|
The NBA has had plenty of embarrassing situations during its 67-year run (if you count the BAA years), but the growing concern around arena deals in today's age might be the most embarrassing of all.
After many shenanigans led to the Seattle SuperSonics moving to Oklahoma City (a city clearly worthy of an NBA team, though it probably should have received one in a different manner), David Stern has seemingly reflected on that period of time and has quite a bit of remorse. How else can you explain him being so intent on getting a team back to the great city of Seattle before his tenure as NBA commissioner is over?
He also seems almost sheepish about the ongoing situation in Sacramento. The Maloofs and the city of Sacramento agreed to a deal for a new Kings arena early this year and celebrated it with Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson before a game on Feb. 28. The long struggle of trying to find public funds and a deal that worked for both parties was resolved and the threat of relocating the team away from a fan base that fought so hard to keep it was dead.
Then, in what seems to be an act of financial desperation, seldom-seen George Maloof stepped in front of brothers Joe and Gavin to say the deal was unfair and that the family couldn't move forward with a deal the Maloofs previously deemed as fair and celebration-worthy. Via Aaron Bruski of Pro Basketball Talk:
Brothers Joe and Gavin, the ones that cried after an arena deal was reached in Orlando during last year's NBA All-Star game, the same guys that raised mayor Kevin Johnson's arms at the next home game and told an adoring crowd that it was “all about” Sacramento -- they can't stop brother George now.
He holds all the cards, not by some virtue of leadership or respect from his siblings, but because the family is hemorrhaging money and they can't afford to be NBA owners without making a last second full-court shot.
They need Sacramento or another city to give them a lopsided deal or they're out, sooner rather than later. If they do nothing, they will run out of money in a Sacramento market they torched themselves, and if that doesn't happen first then Sleep Train Arena eventually won't meet NBA code and the game will be over.
Meanwhile, they're stuck in a classic Catch-22. The family can't afford to make the improvements to basketball operations that would in turn bring increased revenues from TV and at the gate.
Aaron Bruski has a great take of the situation in the article linked above and it's well worth your time to learn everything you'd want to know about how the Maloofs appear to be weaseling their way out of Sacramento. He compares the arena debacle to the movie Major League, and how the owner in that movie tried to make everything look bad so she could move the Cleveland Indians to Florida.
The NBA is at a crossroads here because it believes in not completely interfering with how a team does business and yet, the way the Maloofs are doing business is completely unacceptable. The city has done everything reasonable that it possibly can to reach a deal with the Maloofs, and the frustrating part is they once did reach a deal on this matter. The NBA can't step in and force the Maloofs to sell the team, but the family cutting their losses would be the best for everybody involved.
The ending of this movie is probably the Maloofs getting what they want and the NBA having to apologize to the people of Sacramento. It looks like it's a losing battle, but it's still a battle worth fighting.