Arena: NBA, Maloofs and Sacramento to continue negotiations Monday

ORLANDO – The Maloofs and mayor Kevin Johnson’s team return to the bargaining table Monday morning in Orlando after a deal wasn’t struck between the two sides in the push for a new Sacramento arena.

“We are not there yet,” Gavin Maloof told me as the three brothers walked alone once the meetings were called for the night.

Despite the talks going for more than seven hours Sunday, the Maloofs appeared a bit relieved. Even George cracked a smile when I asked them if they were on a “brothers’ walk.”

Mayor Johnson believed forward progress had been made inside the conference rooms at the Waldorf Astoria.

“I am excited where we are,” he said. “It is a very productive day for Sacramento. We have taken one step closer.”

Johnson said the city and the Maloofs are in problem-solving mode, but declined to further expand on what continues to prevent a deal from being struck.

“We do not want to get in that. It would not be healthy for any of us to negotiate in the public.”

The mayor did admit there was still a gap, but added the differences were not “insurmountable.”

The hurdle early had been trying to convince George Maloof to get on board with Joe and Gavin. NBA Commissioner David Stern refuted those claims and believes the family is united.

“I have a sense they are,” Stern told reporters after returning from the All-Star Game via helicopter. “(The Maloofs) just want a deal that treats the family fairly, treats the city fairly.”

A person close to the talks still contends George is the brother the city needs to convince.

While money is at the center of discussions, another source involved in the negotiations told me the city has also been selling the Kings’ owners on the intangibles that Sacramento offers.

Advantages the Maloofs will not get in Anaheim.

These include the benefits of being the city’s only professional sports team, as well as a passionate and dedicated fanbase. The latter has resulted in more tangible effects such as the spike in ticket sales and corporate sponsorships this past summer.  The Kings were No. 1 in overall ticket revenue in the offseason and are No. 2 in the NBA in group sales. Attendance is up 7.4 percent over last season.

The Maloofs, NBA representatives, relocation committee members, mayor Johnson and Sacramento city representatives will sit down again Monday morning.

Johnson remains hopeful a deal is struck before heading back to Sacramento, “I think we have a chance to resolve all of the issues.”

March 1 still remains the date both sides hope to have a financial term sheet in place so that city council can take up a vote the following Tuesday.

Weekly contributor/columnist Rob McAllister is in Orlando following the arena negotiations. Follow him on Twitter for constant updates from the Sunshine State.

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