Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has done everything the NBA has asked. The city found a way to fund a new downtown arena without placing an undue burden on the public (a 7-2 vote at the Sacramento City Council is a miracle on par with the Clippers suddenly becoming the best team in California). The city is formulating a serious ownership group that could provide stability and resources to make the team competitive. The city has produced actual sponsorship money for the Kings -- $10 million worth before the 2011-12 season to show Sacramento's support for pro basketball. And the fans and local businesses have certainly done their part, as well; there's no question that Clay Bennett, the Thunder owner and highly ironic (if not offensive) head of the relocation committee, was impressed during his spring 2011 scouting trip to Sacramento.
In a procedural sense, the biggest difference between the Hornets in '10 and the Kings in '13 is that Stern got to Shinn before he signed an agreement to sell the team. The Maloofs have been so sneaky and backhanded that they had a deal in place with a buyer, Chris Hansen of Seattle, before anyone knew the Kings were for sale. (The Maloofs have spent the past six years yelling -- literally yelling -- at anyone who suggested they might sell the team.) So a straight Hornet-style gambit won't work here. But there are creative ways for the league to broker a deal to keep the Kings in Sacramento. The Hook has been a strong advocate for expansion to 31 teams. Barring that, based on the league's very recent history in New Orleans, shouldn't Stern push for the Board of Governors -- his bosses, mind you, but folks who take his recommendations very seriously -- to direct the Maloofs to offer owners who would sign on to KJ's arena plan an opportunity to match the Seattle deal being brought to the table? In the spirit of NOLA, shouldn't Stern always work to protect this small, dedicated market?