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Sacramento Kings owners’ past raises doubts about dealings for Seattle NBA team

Sacramento Kings owners Joe Maloof, left, and Gavin Maloof, right, with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at center court during a timeout in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Now that the giddiness of Wednesday’s premature reports a deal was done to sell the NBA’s Sacramento Kings to a Seattle group has worn off, we’re left with a much starker reality: the guys that own the team are completely undependable and unpredictable.

News 10 in Sacramento reported Wednesday afternoon on Twitter Kings co-owner George Maloof has told the station “a deal to sell the Kings to Seattle group is not close.”

And The Seattle Times now reports a close source says the family wants to maintain a say in running the team if they sell to the investment group led by Chris Hansen, which could scuttle any deal. Hansen has said repeatedly he’s not interested in such an agreement.

We shouldn’t be surprised by anything when it comes to the Maloofs. George and his brothers Joe and Gavin have a history of breaking deals and breaking hearts for more than a decade.

Listen: 710 ESPN’s Brock Huard warns Seattle getting played by Maloofs

They’ve threatened to move the team a number of times since taking majority ownership in 1999, including to Las Vegas, after failing in several efforts to get taxpayers to fund a new arena for the team.

They tried to move the team to Anaheim, Calif. in 2011, even getting that city to approve bond measures to help pay for a relocation. The NBA stopped it because the Maloofs owed millions to Sacramento, giving the city a year to reach a deal for a new arena. That left plenty of bad blood in both cities.

The relationship with Sacramento seemed to be patched and there was plenty of love for the Maloofs when they announced a deal with the NBA and the city earlier this year for a new $391 million arena. Brothers Joe and Gavin even stood tearfully hand in hand with mayor Kevin Johnson at center court of the NBA All-Star game to laud the deal. Then just days later, they backed out.

Since then, they’ve continued to insist they have no interest in selling the team and want to keep it in Sacramento. But George met with the governor of Virginia in December amidst numerous reports he was negotiating to get the state and city of Virginia Beach to build him a new arena and move the team there. Then, just days ago talks fell apart.

“At this point, we should all know better than to believe a word that comes out of the Maloofs’ mouth,” said NBA insider Aaron Bruski of NBC Sports.

“I know that they are looking. I know that they’ve had meetings with Virginia Beach. I know they were the only ones in Virginia Beach and now the mayor in Virginia Beach knows why that didn’t work out,” Mark Demsky, a reporter with Fox 40 in Sacramento, told The Luke Burbank Show. “I think everyone here is just tired of it. People are just fed up,” Demsky said.

Further complicating matters is the Maloofs money woes. Their multi-billion dollar empire has crumbled as their failed bets on the Palms in Las Vegas and other bad investments forced them to sell the family’s cash cow, a billion-dollar beer distributorship, along with much of their Vegas holdings.

KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don, who’ve followed the Maloofs for years, say the Maloofs clearly won’t sell without a fight. And even if they do, they aren’t going to make it clean or easy.

“The Maloof brothers want to continue to be a majority owner,” says Don. “So now you have these brothers that have sold the distributorship, they own two percent of the Palms which is nothing, and then on top of that they will have a small minority ownership possibly in the Kings/Sonics if they come here.”

“I think what they’re doing right now is fishing for a local owner and they’re using Chris Hansen and the city of Seattle as bait,” Ron Upshaw speculates. “These are guys that want to be where the action is they want to mix it up something like just owning a profitable beer distributorship wasn’t enough.”

Demsky says the Maloofs might not have a choice but to sell. “The Maloofs don’t have any money,” he said. And he speculates the family is using Hansen to start a bidding war. “And that’s exactly what they got.”

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