NBA Commissioner David Stern said Friday a new arena in Sacramento is "not going to happen," amid major concerns from the Sacramento Kings' owners about the financing and political obstacles confronting the project before their desire to have the facility open before the 2015 season.
A basketball official close to the situation but unauthorized to speak publicly said afterward the Kings' owners' "focus is still on Anaheim," and a future relocation to the Honda Center perhaps as soon as the 2013-14 season.
Friday's development is significant to Anaheim's cause because Stern has previously strongly pushed to keep the owners in Sacramento.
Yet, the Honda Center is currently in the process of multimillion-dollar upgrades to increase its standing as an NBA-ready facility after Kings owners last year expressed interest in the move south.
At a news conference at the NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York, Stern made no promise about the Kings remaining in Sacramento beyond the 2012-13 season.
"It just wouldn't pay for me to talk about anything beyond that," Stern said before thanking Sacramento fans, business leaders, Mayor Kevin Johnson and season-ticket holders.
Kings owners George, Joe and Gavin Maloof on Thursday made a presentation to the NBA's relocation committee alerting committee members to the array of concerns that the owners first stated publicly in a Times story about who will cover pre-development costs, how political opposition to the public spending ($260 million) of a new arena would be met, and the consequences of missed construction deadlines.
In a PowerPoint presentation as part of a news conference earlier Friday, the Maloof brothers noted the city "refuses to publicly disclose material facts" about the arena's planned progress. It included a note from an NBA executive telling the Maloofs, "Several of the points you make are agreeable to the city, but they say they cannot put the provisions you want into the document at this time for political reasons."
A spokesman for the Maloofs has previously said arena builder AEG similarly had left the owners exposed to taking on expenses they were uncomfortable accepting.
"The mayor has accused me of backtracking, there's no evidence of us backtracking," George Maloof said Friday. "We were operating under assumptions.... We were working to get a deal done, not to kill the deal. How do we negotiate when we don't hear back from the city?"
This followed a nonbinding agreement in principle the sides struck in February to pursue arena construction. Stern said the celebration then "was justified ... but there was always more to be done."
"It was always nonbinding, and it's fair to say the Maloofs don't want to do it," Stern said Friday. "If they had [said that] sooner, earlier, it could have saved some angst."
Stern praised Mayor Johnson for exercising "extraordinary dedication" to the cause after the league asked the Maloofs to hold off a year before moving to Anaheim so Sacramento could explore an effort to keep the team.
Johnson and the Maloofs were scheduled to meet in New York later Friday.
In Anaheim, arena operator and Ducks owner Henry Samueli has previously agreed to loan the Maloofs up to $50 million for the move south, and a Southern California television deal -- Fox Sports West will have an opening with the Lakers moving to Time-Warner Cable -- will be far richer than Sacramento's.
"I'm protective of the Kings' rights to do what they can" Stern said. "[The deal] made the owners of the Kings incredibly uncomfortable ... it came with a cost that further burdened the team, and this was not a transaction they wanted to go forward with. That's their right."
Stern said he was "hopeful but not optimistic" about the Maloofs-Johnson meeting.
"I saw the mayor [Friday] and wished him well," Stern said.
And maybe goodbye?
Stern said any future request by the Maloofs regarding a move from Sacramento would be left to the NBA's relocation committee.