Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will meet with Kings Owners the Maloofs and NBA officials Friday for what "appears to be an attempt at peacemaking following weeks of rancor that threaten to kill a tentative plan for a new downtown arena," according to a front-page piece by Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson's trip was announced Thursday afternoon minutes after the Maloof family "finished briefing fellow NBA owners behind closed doors on the reasons they are refusing to sign on to a proposed Sacramento arena financing plan." Johnson "declined to comment about the trip," but his staff "released an open letter from the mayor to the Maloof family late Thursday night laying out Johnson's parameters" for Friday's meeting. In the letter, Johnson "reiterated the city's stance that the Maloofs had agreed to a deal more than a month ago and said 'under no circumstances will the city make material adjustments to the current terms of the deal.'" Maloof family spokesperson Harvey Englander said, "These are very successful, savvy business and political leaders, and they know how to sit down and meet." NBA Commissioner David Stern "stepped in two weeks ago with" $200,000 in NBA funds to "avoid a stalemate and to get pre-development work launched." City officials said that those funds will "run out next week." They said that if there is "no resolution by then ... arena planning will probably shut down." After a group of Sacramento businessmen said at a news conference Thursday that they were "faxing a letter to Stern calling for a change of ownership for the Kings," the Maloofs "fired back with an open letter." It stated that the family was "saddened and disappointed" by criticism from people "not fully informed on the true details of the complex dealings in this arena process" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/13). NBCSPORTS.com's Aaron Bruski wrote hanging in the balance of these negotiations is a fan base that is "roundly cited as one of the best in sports," as well as a city beset by 12% unemployment. The city is "banking on leading economists’ predictions that a downtown arena can raise property values by hundreds of millions of dollars and kick-start a broken economy." The Maloofs "called the non-binding deal fair when it was struck over All Star weekend, and since that weekend nothing about the deal has changed." The only thing that has changed has been the Maloofs’ public position "regarding the deal, which has been duplicitous in its approach" (NBCSPORTS.com, 4/12).
TIME TO GO: A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states the time has come for the Maloof family to "sell all or part of their ownership" stake in the Kings. For the "good of the league -- and the good of a city and region that have been devoted supporters of professional basketball ever since the Kings first arrived -- NBA owners must use their leverage to make this happen." The Maloofs "lack the means and the will -- or both -- to pay for their share of a new sports and entertainment complex in Sacramento." Their financial status "makes it difficult for them to field a competitive team." The Maloofs "haven't been reliable, even when the city has done everything in its power -- with considerable risks to elected leaders -- to keep an NBA team in town." The editorial: "This three-legged stool has a creaky leg. It is the Maloofs, and only the NBA can repair it" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/13).