If the Maloof family truly cares about Sacramento and the Kings, it ought to graciously step aside. It's time to end the uncertainty and give the team and its city a fresh start.
With a key group of fellow NBA owners voting unanimously Monday to block the team's move to Seattle, it appears likely that the Maloofs' $357 million deal with a Seattle group is dead.
They have to recognize that their best move now is to sell to a strong ownership group that would keep the team in Sacramento and work with the city to build a new arena downtown. The Maloofs would still cash in. While the Sacramento group's offer is said to be $15 million less than Seattle's, it would still put a record value on the franchise.
The Maloofs are refusing to comment on their next step. That's their M.O., but it's a disappointing way to do business, one reason why they have worn out their welcome.
Since buying a controlling interest in the Kings in 1999, they have made noteworthy contributions to the community. In the early years, the team thrilled fans with playoff runs. But recently, as the Maloofs' personal finances took a hit, it became all too clear that they lack the wherewithal to put a competitive team on the court, or to be a full partner with the city on a new arena.
Mayor Kevin Johnson said Tuesday that he hopes that the Maloofs and the Sacramento group led by Vivek Ranadive can reach agreement before May 15, when all the NBA owners are to vote on the Kings' fate. Even after that, there's still the matter of working out the details for a new $448 million downtown arena that would include a public subsidy of at least $258 million.
So Johnson isn't declaring victory quite yet. Still, the mayor deserves credit for apparently pulling off a remarkable save, with a crucial assist from NBA Commissioner David Stern.
All the hard work will amount to little, however, if the Maloofs insist on hanging on. The path is clear: It's best for the Kings, for the city and for them if they sell. The absolute last thing anyone should want is to repeat this wearisome drama yet again next year.