Editorial: A team effort keeps the Kings in Sacramento

May 15, 2013 

The Kings are staying in Sacramento. The decisive vote Wednesday by NBA owners is a hard-earned, comeback win that should make the entire city proud.

Many deserve credit for stepping up – and not giving up – including loyal fans, local business leaders and state and local elected officials. Special kudos go to Mayor Kevin Johnson, who tirelessly led the charge and recruited an impressive group of prospective new owners.

Sacramento did everything the league wanted and more, as NBA Commissioner David Stern made clear. "The big winner here was Sacramento," he said.

The same kind of teamwork is absolutely necessary for the Kings to flourish – and that will be far more likely with new owners. It is very encouraging that Stern said he will try to "facilitate" a sale of the franchise this week from the Maloofs to the group committed to Sacramento, which is led by Silicon Valley software executive Vivek Ranadive.

"It is my expectation that we will be able to make a deal," said Stern, who also championed Sacramento's cause. Ranadive also told reporters that he's optimistic.

The 22-8 vote blocking the Kings from moving to Seattle killed the agreement the Maloofs had to sell the team to a group led by hedge fund billionaire Chris Hansen and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer. The offer of $406 million for the Maloofs' controlling share valued the team at a record $625 million.

So far, the Maloofs have been cool to the Ranadive offer, which is lower – $341 million – yet still puts a record value on the team. Stern said he believes, however, that the Maloofs will do what's best for the franchise and sell. We sincerely hope he's right.

Seattle fans will be disappointed, of course. Yet, as Stern also made clear, Seattle put together a very strong bid and deserves to get a team, perhaps through expansion.

While other NBA owners left substantial money on the table by rejecting the Seattle move, the Ranadive group dangled a sweetener. It pledged that, once a new arena opened, it would forgo annual payments of $15 million or more that normally go to small-market, financially struggling teams.

The future of the franchise hinges largely on a new arena – and that deal will only work with the new ownership group. That's who signed the term sheet approved by the City Council in March that calls for a $448 million downtown arena to open in 2016.

It comes with a taxpayer subsidy of at least $258 million, but holds the promise of being a huge boost to the city. "It's bigger than basketball," Johnson repeated Wednesday.

The Maloofs have demonstrated they're not committed partners, scuttling an arena deal last year that was very favorable to them.

As it is, there are many, many details to be worked out on the arena to make sure the public investment is sound. There's also the hurdle of a lawsuit filed Tuesday by opponents who say the city is lowballing the cost to taxpayers and is illegally trying to give away public funds.

All that debate, however, can wait for another day.

Now is a moment to celebrate that the Kings' 28-year run in Sacramento isn't over, not by a long shot. If all goes right, the team's best days are still ahead.

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