It seems very strange that the best (offensive) NBA team in the early 2000’s is almost certainly moving to freaking Anaheim in the next few months. Really, Anaheim? Yep, that’s what L.A. needs: a second NBA team to marginalize, and 2-3 more home games for the Lakers every year.
The thing is, the Maloof brothers are desperate, their tacky casino/hotel is hemorrhaging money (we stayed there once when my wife won a trip in a work raffle, and I kept thinking we were going to see Bret Michaels or Vince Neil behind every Wheel of Fortune slot machine), and since Sacramento won’t have an arena ready in time for the Maloofs by they time they need it (yesterday), the Kings to Disneyland seems to be a done deal. Even though, as Tom Ziller pointed out in an incredibly strong bit of reasoning, there are 19 reasons why the NBA would be foolish to allow this move to happen.
But the Maloofs are headed where their fix (TV money) is, so you’d think the Warriors would be thrilled. Not that the Warriors are suffering in the attendance department, but there’s something to be said for buying a team and then having the only other team within 400 miles up and split. Maybe that’s why Joe Lacob and Peter Guber spent more than what the team’s reportedly worth with the understanding that they’d probably have to privately finance their dream arena next to AT&T Park.
I’m nowhere near connected enough to do anything more than speculate here, but let’s see if we can put some things together and come up with a cogent hypothesis, shall we?
1. If the Kings leave town, the Warriors would be the only NBA team in between Los Angeles and Portland.
2. The Bay Area has shown that no matter how poor the product, they’ll support it.
4. Ellison was blindsided by Chris Cohan’s deal with LaGuber, coming away without the Warriors after submitting a higher bid that was reportedly too late in the process.
5. As Ziller pointed out, a new arena in Sacramento is hardly an impossibility:
Sacramento finally has a mayor who understands how important the Kings and the NBA are to the city. Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former All-NBA point guard who grew up in Sacramento, is in the process of developing the first proposal for a new arena plan he’s been allowed to since taking office. When Johnson came into office, the NBA was pursuing a lofty and, many felt, completely bat guano insane plan that needed the approval of a state board. It didn’t work, and the NBA abandoned the efforts. Johnson took over, and for the first time in the last decade Sacramento has a leader with the connections and foresight to get something done.
Lacob was very clear that he felt they paid a “full but fair price” for the opportunity to own the only team in “Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco, the Bay Area,” in response to rumors in January that Ellison would buy the New Orleans Hornets and move them to San Jose (before the NBA gave Ellison the Dikembe-finger and bought the team). But if the Kings leave, and franchises in the south keep suffering (hard to imagine the Hornets, Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies will all be in their current locations five years from now), the NBA is going to want another team in this market. And that’s the Northern California market, whether it’s Sacramento or the Bay Area.
If K.J. is successful in building a new arena, Sacramento State may not be the only Hornets in town. Ziller said that moving a team away and then putting a team back in the area doesn’t work (he uses Charlotte as an example), but if Ellison came in and brought an immediate rivalry with the Warriors that would dwarf the one that already exists, fans would come back. If Ellison’s as competitive as people say, it’s hard to imagine he’ll let LaGuber have the final word on basketball in the top half of this state. The Kings leaving might be the opening he needs.