One of the best pieces of news to come out of All-Star weekend was Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's announcement that the city, Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, and the NBA had agreed to the framework of a deal that would fund the construction of a sports and entertainment complex in downtown Sacramento that would include a new arena for the Kings. The tentative agreement would allow the franchise to remain in its home of 27 years, representing the biggest step thus far toward a resolution of the "will they stay or will they go?" saga that has surrounded the team for far too long. (And, hopefully, ensuring that we don't see any more scenes like these for a long, long time.)
Reaction to the news (as you might expect) has been largely positive, especially (as you'd definitely expect) in Sacramento, where fans turned out in droves at Sacramento International Airport late Monday night to greet and fete Johnson upon his return from Orlando. Jonathan Santiago of stalwart Kings blog Cowbell Kingdom was there, video camera in hand, when KJ touched down; the clip is worth three minutes of your time.
It's important to remember, as Kings shaman Tom Ziller wrote at Sactown Royalty, that the agreement "was a crucial step ... but [still] just a step." The Sacramento City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed deal at its March 6 meeting, and local politicians are just beginning to dig into what Sacramento Bee reporters Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak called Wednesday the "complicated ... financing arrangement" on which the deal hinges.
In their breakdown of the plan's details, Kasler and Bizjak reported that council members are focusing on the "still-evolving plan to pull $200 million-plus in up-front cash from the city's parking operations," as well as the still-being-written specifics governing the development of the new arena. Slated to be released to the public Thursday, the "term sheet" detailing those development specifics is non-binding, but stands as a crucial element in the process, according to Kasler and Bizjak.
So, yes: Still a long race to be run before all i's are dotted, t's crossed and ground broken. But the Kings, their fans and the city of Sacramento did just pass a pretty significant mile marker, and as the Bee's Matt Kawahara wrote, the mood inside Power Balance Pavilion as the team took the floor against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night was celebratory:
As he made his way into Power Balance an hour before tip-off, Juan Vargas wore an orange construction vest over his white Chris Webber jersey.
Written on the back of the vest were the words, "Sac Town, Ready to Build." [...]
Vargas and Leticia Arredondo, 26, of Sacramento, settled into seats a few rows from where Barbara Rust, 63, of Folsom had assembled her own line of signs. The signs included, "Home Sweet Home Sacramento," and, "If we build it, they will stay."
"I absolutely thought it would happen," said Rust, a longtime Kings fan known as the "Sign Lady" by many. "It's like a dream come true."
During the first timeout of Tuesday night's game, the Maloof brothers — whose casino failures, piling debts and apparent interest in bolting for greener pastures inflamed the Kings relocation saga — took the floor to address the fans. But it wasn't a night for rancor; the Sacramento faithful stood and applauded the owners' efforts to keep the Kings at home.
"There's going to be a beacon of light, shining bright, in 2015 — a brand new arena," Gavin Maloof said after thanking Kings fans, Johnson, NBA Commissioner David Stern and arena operator AEG.
(The Foo Fighters song is a bit much for me, but hey, again: Not a night for rancor.)
The celebration continued when Johnson made his appearance in the second quarter, as Kawahara wrote:
With 9:34 left in the first half, Johnson entered the arena through a players' tunnel, and also received a standing ovation. [...] When he reached Gavin and Joe Maloof, he hugged them and then led them back toward the center of the court, where he held the brothers' hands up in a gesture of triumph.
"Sacramento, I'm so proud of you as a community," Johnson said. "We did it. You're going to see basketball here for many years."
Putting a bow on the evening, DeMarcus Cousins beasted for 22 points and 18 boards (including eight on the offensive glass), Marcus Thornton added 21 and rookie Isaiah Thomas continued to impress at the lead guard spot (18 points and eight assists, albeit with five turnovers) as the Kings scored a 103-96 win over the Jazz. It was the perfect end to what was, for many Kings fans, a perfect night.