Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Time for Sacramento to come up big, get arena deal done

Monday was for Sacramento to celebrate keeping the Kings for another year.

Today begins the work of keeping them forever, which depends on avoiding the dead ends of the past.

This effort isn't about the Kings owners or intrigue surrounding the financial status of the Maloofs.

On Monday, George Maloof told The Bee that his family isn't going into an arena effort with "a big checkbook."

An interesting statement, but it doesn't matter because the Maloof family is not running the show. Nor are they fully running their own franchise.

NBA Commissioner David Stern was very clear on Monday: The NBA is all but operating the Kings business now. The NBA wants the Kings in Sacramento.

He said NBA owners contribute to public/private partnerships for new arenas, and the league will have a person closely monitoring the arena process. The NBA is already helping the Kings with ticket sales, media relations and marketing.

It's as if the league were running the Kings without owning the franchise.

The Maloofs do give a whiff of being reluctant participants in a yearlong attempt at nailing an arena plan before March 1, 2012 – the next NBA deadline for franchise relocation.

But that doesn't matter because Stern sounds resolute, and he is the man who counts in the NBA.

It's up to Sacramento to get an arena deal done. All parties involved will be under a tight deadline that effectively puts the onus on everyone.

Mayor Kevin Johnson has the bully pulpit to craft a deal that makes sense with the support of key political leaders: state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, City Councilman Rob Fong, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

The NBA will be looking over its shoulder and presumably would be party to any agreement.

At that point, whatever the Maloofs can or cannot do is between them and Stern.

The Kings owners have walked out or stormed out of past arena deals and discussions with Sacramento, but they wouldn't dare walk out on Stern.

On Monday, Stern emphasized that the Maloofs remain owners in good standing. Time will tell if they remain so.

Other people have offered to buy the Kings, and interest would only increase if Sacramento got an arena.

The politics of that will be exceedingly difficult in a down economy, but this is about more than basketball.

Sacramento needs an arena as a community destination and potential catalyst for investment in downtown. Building one would be a triumph of shared interests in a region too often mired in special interests.

Sacramento is great at opposing things. This is about supporting something. Let's do it.