Arena Armageddon: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson discusses his Las Vegas meeting with Kings co-owner George Maloof

For those of you who prefer to analyze a situation via the printed word as opposed to video, the transcript of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s midcourt media session from Friday night at Power Balance Pavilion is below (with the video even farther below).

It’s obviously a good sign for the locals that the two sides are talking again, especially considering the way the city’s success story of saving the team had devolved into the nastiest of smear campaigns on both sides (though Johnson’s camp took it much, much farther after the Maloofs backed out of the handshake deal). Next week will bring a whole new set of storylines in this drawn-out drama, but it’s safe to say the arena talks aren’t dead just yet.

On his meeting with Kings co-owner George Maloof in Las Vegas on Friday…

“I think the first thing to say is that we had a very productive meeting. I reached out; George and I had a meeting in Las Vegas today that was productive. I thought and we thought it was very important to keep the lines of communication open in the spirit of Sacramento. If anything productive is going to happen, you have to be able to communicate and we did that today. And we agreed to have a follow-up conversation early next week.”

On George Maloof’s concerns and whether they were addressed…

“I thought it was really important to kind of have an honest and frank discussion, and I thought we were able to do that and re-establish communication. We didn’t get into the core principles of the deal. That wasn’t what it was about today. It was really us just sitting down face to face and talking about the possibilities, and I felt very good. I felt, again, that we had a very productive meeting. It was a solid step forward, enough that we’re going to continue to have a conversation early next week.”

On whether he’s more optimistic about a solution now…

“I feel, I feel like we’re communicating and I feel like there’s nothing new at this point; meaning I felt like our position has always been very clear. I felt like their position over time became something I didn’t realize, but today – in sitting down – I understood a little bit different what his perspective was. Not that I fully agreed with it, but it was important to understand his perspective – which I did. And then, I think, it’s just the stuff I’ve heard over the last week or two that I did not know before. So again, with that said, we felt it was important to take a step forward and continue to talk. In terms of your question (to a different reporter) about re-opening negotiations, what we said we were going to do was have a follow-up conversation early next week and then determine where we go from there.”

Reacting to a second attempt from NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper to gauge his level of optimism…

“You know me, I’m one of those people. I’m a fighter and I’m hopeful and I want to try to create an opportunity that’s good for Sacramento. And when you’re not talking, that’s very difficult to determine whether you can get there or not.”

On whether he agreed to bring an end to the public attacks on the Maloofs…

“Um, I think when we sat down it was important for us to establish that – at least from my standpoint – it’s not about he-said/she-said. That’s not productive. And I can’t look at the Maloofs and their family as part of a problem. They have to be viewed as part of a solution, and that was really what my mindset was today. And again, I think we both walked away feeling really good about the meeting we had today.”

On whether there was negotiating at all…

“I don’t feel that’s what today was about. Again, the core principles of the deal, we didn’t really get into. It was really about having a dialogue, discussing where we are, and potentially where we could go. I think the air was cleared. I think we felt very good. I had a very good relationship with George, Joe and Gavin, the whole way through, and I think we were able to get back on track from that standpoint and to have a conversation next week. And that right there is something that’s an outcome I was hoping to have and I think we achieved that.”

On what he meant when he said he understood the Maloof’s perspective better…

“It’s all the things you guys have been writing about the last couple weeks. We’ve always felt we had a deal. They felt they had a different scenario. They felt the numbers were aggressive for AEG and NBA. Those were all things (that) he told them today to my face. I responded. But again, that wasn’t what it was about today. It was about, ’Look, you’ve been committed to this community for many years. Sacramento loves you. Sacramento loves you. And if there’s a way to make this darn thing happen, then if it makes sense for us to keep talking, let’s do that.’ And that was it. It wasn’t substantive in any sense.

On what his Plan B is at the moment…

“Plan A is, ‘Can we make this deal work?’ Plan B is, ‘If they decide not to be here, or don’t want to go forward, then we’ve got to do Plan B, which is (to) look at and explore building the facility with or without them.’ But today wasn’t really about Plan A or Plan B. Today was about, ’Does it make sense for us to keep talking?’ And we both agreed it did. And that was it. All the other scenarios weren’t really important today. We’ll have to explore all those if we can’t make something happen in our Plan A, which is a downtown facility – which is very important.”

On whether he thinks the Maloofs want to be in Sacramento…

“Again, I’ve said this time and time again. I’ve got to take them at face value. And George communicated today, something that he’s said publicly in the last week or two, is that he preferred to be in Sacramento. And that was the premise that we continued to have a conversation on, and that was the premise that led us to saying, ’You know what, let’s have a follow-up conversation early next week.”

On who initiated the conversation (which he doesn’t answer, but I later noticed he said “I reached out” early in the interview)…

“Is that the last question?”

On the Maloof message in the meeting…

“They have a couple options. They could file for relocation. They could say they don’t want to be here. That’s not what they said. I don’t feel like I, or we, can do anything productive if we’re not having a conversation at this point. And at some point in the very near future, which is what we said all along, we’re not going to be able to make the 2015 season (for an arena opening) if we don’t resolve this arena issue very, very soon. That’s just the reality. The clock is ticking. Right now, it’s already going to be difficult. So Monday, or Tuesday, when we talk, we’ve got to make a determination. Do we want to try to make Plan A happen? And I don’t know what the answer is going to be yet, but we said we were going to have that conversation early next week.”

On what the deadline is to make 2015?

“I don’t know what the hard deadline is. I can’t imagine us going longer than another week or two. I just can’t imagine that scenario. And quite honestly, I don’t even know if we can even make it today. That’s what we want to find out. When is the drop-dead deadline to have everything in place to be able to make 2015? I don’t know that answer. That’s what the next couple of weeks are really about for all of us.”

On whether it was just him and George in the meeting…

“I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of who initiated the meeting, and I’m not going to get into who was into the meeting. I’ll just say today (that) it was a very productive meeting that I felt very good about in terms of moving forward.”

***

Those of you visual types, meanwhile, can simply watch it here.

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2 responses to “Arena Armageddon: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson discusses his Las Vegas meeting with Kings co-owner George Maloof

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