Posted by: Kingsguru21 | April 16, 2011

Thoughts on the recent relocation news

First, I’d like to thank those that still read this site. I realize it’s nothing more than a few clicks of a mouse, or a few keystrokes on the keyboard to bring up the site. Well that, and a chunk of time set aside to read whatever nonsense I’ve wrote today. Thanks anyhow.

Next, I’d like to comment on the recent news about the arena.

I think the biggest point that is that relocation has been postponed to May 2nd. It could mean the Maloof’s don’t have their ducks in a row, it could mean the NBA just wants to make sure Sacramento’s best offer isn’t the best deal the NBA can make in this situation, it could mean that Ron Burkle is attractive, it could mean the owners are not lukewarm towards a 3rd NBA team in SoCal and having it considered a small market.

I honestly don’t know what will happen, and, thus, I can’t tell you what I really think on what will happen with the relocation topic. I will tell what I know. I think the Kings should stay in Sacramento, and I believe they can work there for the short and long term. I’ll say that this move is going to be a referendum on the Maloof’s and their finances (it’s not swell), and a referendum on how the NBA perceives value of franchises both within the market and as a collective business (the NBA in otherwords).

I do think what will happen is the Board of Governors (BoG) will make a decision as what they see as the most net positive in terms of attitude of franchise within market (Sacramento vs Anaheim), and what will net the NBA as a league the most money. I’m certain that a move to Anaheim for the Maloof family will take them from a small market status to a big market status. I’m certain that revenue sharing is part of the new CBA that will happen after July 1 (whenever it’s agreed to naturally). Thus, this a very muddled, complicated move.

Now, in response to Jerry Buss being replaced by Clay Bennett as the head of the relocation committee, I ask, so what? Clay Bennett, other than having ulterior motives of wanting to bring the NBA to Oklahoma City, could have easily kept the Sonics in Seattle. If he got the arena he wanted. In fact, the NBA would have never approved the relocation if Seattle had approved a new arena.

I live in Seattle. I see how it’s effected Seattle. And, I don’t wish to be uncouth to Sonic fans who are hurting watching their team start a rebuild that has largely seen it favor Oklahoma City for the most part. The NBA, IMO, deserves more share of the blame for Bennett relocating the Sonics than anything else. David Stern and the NBA wanted to punish Seattle for thumbing their nose at them. That’s the reality. Had Bennett been allowed to purchase the Hornets when they were playing the majority of games in OKC after Katrina, the Sonics would be in Seattle. Whether they have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & co? That’s another matter.

Here’s the difference between Seattle to Oklahoma City and Sacramento to Anaheim. One, the economy and recent performance of the franchise in Sacramento has been poor (especially in relation to the fact that the economy isn’t swell anywhere else either yet other teams are making money). Two, the Kings have almost certainly made money by cutting expenses on players the last several years. It’s created the perception that the Kings aren’t being competitive to facilitate a move (I doubt it to be honest, and this is coming from someone who despises the Maloof’s as much as anyone). The reality is that to be competitive in the NBA you have to make intelligent financial decisions. The Maloof’s may be idiots when it comes to how they deal with their outside businesses, and in regard to how they utilize the Kings in the overall structure of whatever business structure exists for the Kings and the NBA, but that’s a very different distinction from saying they haven’t done anything to made the team competitive. There’s a reason they don’t want to sell, and the main reason is they believe that selling a winning team is going to be a lot easier than selling a team when it’s coming off a combined 29 wins over the previous 2 seasons. (One could make a logical assumption that the Kings will be markedly improved next year.) Even if they privately wanted to sell, they won’t say it publicly. That notice will come when a leak is made that someone (maybe Ron Burkle, maybe someone else) is attempting to purchase the team and possibly keep them in Sacramento. Until then whatever the Maloof’s say means little. Actions > words.

Here’s a greater difference between Seattle & Sacramento in this situation: Sacramento can still publicly subsidize a new arena where Seattle couldn’t after a referendum in 2006 banned funding new public structures for sports teams.

Here are teams that I consider to be a big market team: New York Knicks, New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, DC Wizards, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Golden State (San Francisco Bay Area) Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers & Lakers. That’s 14 teams. That’s nearly half the league. Big markets vs small markets is a huge issue here, and check out mid size markets.

Mid size markets: Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Minneapolis Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Detroit Pistons.

Small markets: Sacramento Kings, Portland TrailBlazers, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats.

The question here is would the small market teams want one less team for revenue sharing, would the mid size markets demand that they get better revenue sharing and everything along those lines. There are so many questions here I don’t even know where I began and the questions end. It’s that muddled and confusing. We’ll find out after the fact, but I think the single easiest thing the Kings can do is stay in Sacramento. Anything else is up to interpretation, and thus this is not a simple move to pull off. Many owners will have their opinions, and Jerry Buss (the Lakers owner) losing potentially 500 million off a new deal is going to hurt owners if they push hard for revenue sharing (they will).

This vote could come down to whether owners agree with Jerry Buss that revenue sharing is a good thing, but not if teams can poach his market any old time they wish to. This is a great way for owners to institute revenue sharing, and if big markets budge on revenue sharing, that could mean a no-no on a potential relocation bid.

That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

But I’ve learned that what I think I know and what will be likely to happen does not necessarily coincide. I thought the Sonics would be kept in Seattle after an argument that leaving the lease would not be a good thing. It turned out that whole trial was about money and nothing else.

The difference here is the Maloof’s are much closer to broke than Bennett’s ownership group was at the time of the move. (I doubt Bennett’s ownership group is all that broke now.)

Another difference between a move from Seattle to OKC and Sac to Anaheim is that there was no question of a TV deal. There was no question about what would happen with a new arena. Those were questions that were answered. Do you think Fox Sports Oklahoma has a problem televising OKC games? The question of such in Anaheim is a muddled question. Like everything else in deal.

I’ve maintained that a move to Anaheim is as much about the Maloof’s proving to the world, in their eyes, that they can own a team if there is consistent revenue streams. In big market’s, like small market’s, revenue streams change and vary from year to year. One has to be innovative and consistently on the lookout how to tap these streams. The Maloof’s were either too stupid or lazy to figure out how the Sacramento market really worked, and part of it is because I think they always thought they could just move to Anaheim when it suited them.

If a move falls apart, it will be interesting to see how the Family reacts then. Until then, it’s just more of a waiting game, which means I get to do other things in the meantime.

My honest reaction is that I think Anaheim is favored by David Stern and some owners, but not all of them. I think that an Anaheim move is more likely than not, but if Anaheim gets blocked, it probably means that Kevin Johnson will have convinced the NBA and owners (including Bennett—I doubt he really cares where the franchise ends up with the exception of how it affects his bottom line) that Sacramento hasn’t been as bad as some claim.

If this happens, Burklemania will continue, and all bets are off then. The only question is can Ron Burkle purchase the team from the Maloof’s by the end of the calender year. If they continue to maintain they won’t sell the team, well, who knows?

This is a very problematic situation for the NBA all around. There’s going to be some interesting precedents set from a number of perspectives, and it won’t just be on big markets vs small markets. Some of the precedent will include can the NBA force an ownership group that they feel is detrimental to the overall league?

So many questions. Few answers. To be honest, I’m expecting a move to Anaheim is more likely than not at this point. I think Sacramento has a punchers chance, and stranger things have happened. But, at the end of the day, money rules these deals, and I think the prospect of tapping Orange County as a primary revenue source instead of as part of the overall Southern California market is what the issue is here.

However, the NBA often struggles for support within their market and in the overall schematic. Having an energetic passionate fanbase that has corporate support is also a need the NBA has. Ever watch an Atlanta Hawks game? What about a Clippers or Lakers game? A Bulls game? A Heat game?

Ever watch those teams when a non-marquee opponent is in the arena? Those fans are bored. Sacramento fans get loud for everyone, and that’s PR the NBA absolutely needs and has to have to be successful as a league.

Assuming the NBA does allow the moves, I will always wonder about the motives of the move. I had no such inclination with the Seattle move though. I had no belief that OKC would ever be a better market monetarily than Seattle, but you could make the argument OKC can support their team. Most of my disagreement with it then, and now, is based mostly on emotion and my feelings that the NBA is making a long term mistake by eschewing Seattle to promote the “pay for a new arena when we want it” approach. Seattle has been both a profitable and passionate market with all criteria met that the NBA has for housing a team. Seattle does have 2 OTHER professional teams, and 2 others in minor leagues–WNBA & MLS–that are both among the most successful–in all respects–in their respective leagues. The University of Washington, the biggest university in the Northwest, also has it’s main campus and sport teams playing in Seattle.

Needless to say, there is competition in Seattle. The Sonics, with all of this, and the other diversions Seattle can offer, would have been supported well if they were still here. Seattle just had some down years, and difficulties within their market from ownership and fan perspectives. Blaming the market for some hiccups was in retrospect a rather silly proposition. In a way, though, it may spare Sacramento in the process. 6 in one, half dozen in the other perhaps? There is a legitimate question on whether Orange County can house a NBA team, and there have been plenty of cities that have wanted teams (New Orleans and Memphis come to mind) while in reality having little support from several vantages. A relocation doesn’t guarantee a quality market, and it often comes in conjunction with owners trying to hold on their teams in some degree of desperation.

Wrapping this up, it’s clear, and I’ve sort of illustrated it in this writeup, that nothing seems very clear other than a few points.

* The Maloof’s want badly to be in Anaheim.

* Kevin Johnson wants the Kings to stay

* Jerry Buss will do everything in his power to block a move

Beyond that, I don’t know much and it’s all speculation. It’s worth keeping in mind when you build an argument based off such speculation. This is one reason I’ve had so little to say. I’ve made so many incorrect speculations in this realm that I’ve stopped attempting to do so. (For the most part.) A classic example? I thought that among the Maloof family, there might have been a few family members (George Maloof and his mother, Coleen Maloof) against the move. It turns out, according to Tom Ziller, that it was probably Philip Maloof who was against the move.

Again, you may think you know something, but facts and opinions are two very separate and distinct things. Keeping track of what’s what in this whole thing is going to be a big league challenge.

As far as EC is concerned, I’m going to be working on basketball related stuff from here on out and hope to have a review of the players, organization and coaching staff by tomorrow up.


  1. Excellent writeup as always, pookey.

    I’m starting to have faith that the Kings are going to stay in Sacramento. A couple of weeks ago I thought the move was a sure thing, but the emergence of Ron Burkle, combined with the deadline extension makes me feel confident Sacramento will still have its Kings.

    • I don’t really have faith on the Kings staying. The problem is that it’s up to the NBA BoG and frankly, I think they aren’t convinced in Anaheim as much as they feel Sacramento is a good place to stay.

      It’s both things, and that means Sacramento is in a perilous state until they are not. Attack or be attacked I think would be a reasonable analogy as irritating as I find it to be used in this circumstance.

      I hope there is a solution, but I’m still not optimistic until it’s officially announced that a relocation isn’t possible. Regardless of the Kings staying, and of course I want that, the greatest hurdle of all will be how to pay for a new arena. And, that, is the devil with a potentially useful, or not, detail that will make or break this deal at some point.

      Thanks Davis.

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