Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Sacramento needs frank talk about arena financing

A friendly-sounding man left me a voice mail Tuesday begging me to be nice to the Kings owners as a way of keeping the team in Sacramento.

Over the weekend, two guys who follow me on Twitter wrote that tough columns I once penned about Joe and Gavin Maloof contributed to a hostile climate that has led to their imminent departure.

To listen to the Kings radio station these days is to hear the daily drumbeat of callers raging at Sacramento to "get it done!" and keep the Kings.

These emotions, while fascinating, are ultimately reflective of a disconnect between hard-core sports fans and a broader public.

Whether Sacramento keeps the Kings or not, let's get real about how we got here.

Sacramento voters – and voters around the region – have not wanted to build a new arena in Sacramento with tax dollars. And for years, we have never come close to learning what the Maloofs really would be willing to contribute to one.

That's it. Nothing + nothing = nothing. Everything else is just noise.

On the one side, you have a cranky local electorate soured by double-digit unemployment. On the other are financially battered NBA owners who, if people close to them are to be believed, are sensitive, upset and poised to leave.

What's ironic is that this is happening when the mayor of Sacramento is Kevin Johnson – the greatest hoops star this town has ever produced.

Mayor KJ is on the right track in getting real experts to study an arena financed with some public money.

But the Maloofs may not stick around to wait for KJ to finish the job.

If you listened to him Tuesday, Johnson seemed to be preparing Sacramento for a Kings departure.

The only hope for keeping them is if the Anaheim deal goes sour.

I hope it does. The two sides here need time to wake up and realize they work best together.

Neither Johnson nor the Maloofs have ever been married, so they act like bachelors lacking the perspective of true loss.

A campaign of sweet- talking the Maloofs – or KJ press conferences – is not what we need.

What we do need is time to finally have an honest discussion about financing an arena. Sacramento has never had that talk.

Otherwise, Sacramento could lose a joyous civic amenity and the Kings could go from headliners to also-rans in the Los Angeles Lakers show.

The Sacramento media are afire with the team's potential departure. Los Angeles media are focused on Charlie Sheen. Local fans are sad, L.A. fans indifferent.

In time, this town could become educated on the value of an arena and the Kings and the right outcome could be reached for Sacramento and the Maloofs.

For what it's worth, I wish the Kings would stay.