Ron Burkle might not be the point guard the Kings so desperately need. What do we know? Has he even played basketball?
But based on the shocking developments out of the NBA owners meetings in New York, the Los Angeles billionaire might be the answer to one or more of the following:
Sacramento's prayers. Sacramento's desire to retain or acquire an NBA franchise. Sacramento's agonizing, protracted and unsuccessful attempts to develop a funding mechanism for a new sports and entertainment complex.
Burkle just pulled the NBA in Sacramento out of its death spiral. At the least, Sacramento as an NBA region is still breathing, though for the moment, deep breaths are advised. Until the extent of the Burkle Group's investment is known, with or without a team (the league-owned New Orleans Hornets?), the same question dominates the local landscape.
The old barn is still an old barn.
Who pays for an arena?
Darius Anderson, the local lobbyist and developer who is partnering with Burkle, acknowledged that his group envisions a private/public partnership to finance a building that is expected to cost upward of $300 million, depending upon location.
This is the norm in professional sports, if not such a popular position in Sacramento. In Kansas City, for example, the wildly successful Sprint Center was financed by hotel and rental car taxes, along with a $40 million contribution from AEG, the company that operates several NBA facilities.
More immediate questions remain as well: What happens if the board of governors blocks the Maloofs' financial escape to Anaheim and the family attempts to revisit Sacramento? What if the Maloofs, fearing their reported indebtedness to the Honda Center's Henry Samueli would jeopardize their Kings ownership, suffer relocation remorse? Does the league which also has loaned substantial sums to the Maloofs pressure them to sell their franchise, thereby further reducing the number of NBA millionaires?
The league is an exclusive club for billionaires these days, and only the big boys can play. And even the big boys Indiana's Herb Simon, Minnesota's Glen Taylor, Memphis owner Michael Heisley are sweating the dollars and cents.
But this much can be said with certainty about the involvement of the Burkle Group: NBA Commissioner David Stern is doing backflips back in his Manhattan office. He needed this. He wanted this. He has been waiting years, decades even, for someone with the financial capital of a Ron Burkle to make an appearance in Sacramento.
For a variety of reasons, including the fact that relocations alienate his fan base (see the Seattle SuperSonics' move to Oklahoma City) and further the perception of instability, Stern has made keeping the Kings in Sacramento a priority. He has twice become intimately involved in potential arena deals. First, he quietly nudged the polarizing former Kings president John Thomas out of talks in 2004-05. More recently, he urged the Maloofs to hire consultant John Moag and then directed from afar.
Additionally, even after the Maloofs' intent to relocate became apparent two months ago, Stern encouraged Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and other civic and business leaders to persist in their attempts to retain or acquire another franchise.
Already immersed in collective bargaining talks and presiding over a league with several owners screaming about money woes, Stern suddenly is staring at a solution to Sacramento. At a big-money guy. At a team or two that needs a new owner and/or new home (Atlanta Hawks, Grizzlies, Hornets).
That crazy, emotion-soaked scene at Power Balance Pavilion on Wednesday night? Great night, great game. Also duly noted by league executives in New York. But any resolution here, even involving a Ron Burkle, comes down to business. And big bucks.