Am I the only one who thinks something is just off about this potential move to Anaheim? I don’t think it is a Blake Griffin style slam-dunk. I don’t think it is inevitability. I don’t think all hope has been vanquished.
With each new tidbit of news and commentary, including the latest ICON study delay, the collective mood seems to grow more somber, negative sentiment spreading like an epidemic, and resignation of departure near complete. To this I say, ‘Go tell Tyreke Evans it is over with 1.5 seconds and down by a point!’
Anything is possible. Serious discussions are just an exchange of hot air without a laugh track. I’ll take my news in the form of official press release, not a twitter feed. I am not sure the Maloofs have decided what to do yet, and if they have tentative plans, they may change their hearts and/or minds at the 11th hour, aka April 18th.
Until official word, I will try to put myself in the shoes of Joe and Gavin and ask myself ‘what would I do if I was them?" "How would I think and act if I was in the same position?" And knowing what I know about their decision-making process with significant moves in the past, I will try to answer the question "What is their likely course of action?" After some contemplation, these are the sticking points that stuck:
To make a move of this magnitude, it has to be a no-brainer. I would not want to leave a city, generate a tremendous level of animosity from a betrayed fan base, and live to regret the decision. I would not want that on my conscience for another 20 to 30 years if I knew in my heart that I might have acted negligently. There has to be overwhelming list of pros outweighing the cons to turn my back on a city so faithful and supportive, and bonded through shared experience of Kings seasons past.
As such, moving to Anaheim is not a no-brainer decision for the following Blobtastic (c) reasons:
(1) There is not a new building awaiting the Maloofs and the Kings. The Honda Center was built almost two decades ago. It is Arco with a facelift. Or since we are talking SoCal post March 1st, it is PBP with Botox injections.
Blobtastic Reason #1: Simply, an old arena is not ideal, and it is not overwhelming motivation to get up and depart.
If a brand spanking new, beautiful state of the art facility was vacant, open for business, and ready to be christened with a bottle of the $6000 bubbly from the Carls Jr. commercial, I could not blame them. No such allure waits.
The wealthy like shiny new toys. The Honda Center is not a shiny new toy. It is a Tonka truck dragged through the mud, and pissed upon by the family pet. Sure, it may have been rinsed off in the kitchen sink and presented as playable, but it is not an unopened X-Mas gift wrapped in a purple and black velvet bow.
(2) The Anaheim fans are not waiting with outstretched arms for NBA basketball. They are too busy texting on their Blackberries in stop-and-barely-go traffic while cupping $5 lattes to welcome the Maloofs with warm embrace. Further they have two NBA alternatives within reasonable commute.
If there were a sizeable and long-standing Anaheim coalition rallying to attract an NBA club, it would make the allure that much more tempting. Rabid fans eager to fill the arena on Opening Night and thereafter would undoubtedly woo the Maloofs, and provide added incentive. No such group exists. The Maloofs reception would be far from momentous.
Anaheim is not Seattle. Spurned Sonic fans would likely throw a downtown ticker tape parade, give the players the keys to the city, and shower them with affection upon Day One of their arrival. If the same displays of appreciation could be anticipated in Anaheim, tapping into the Maloofs fundamental desires to feel wanted and loved, then warm-up the moving vans.
Yet will excitement in Anaheim be at fever pitch over the arrival of a team with a five-year lottery run when two-time defending NBA champs are next-door neighbors? Heck no or hell no. Take your pick. A largely indifferent to mildly enthused fan base will greet the Maloofs and their team.
Blobtastic Reason #2: A lukewarm reception is not ideal, and it is not overwhelming motivation to get up and depart.
(3) Ownership of facility. Last time I checked, profit could be maximized when you can stake majority ownership in business property. And can proudly call it your own. Then you are the boss. You call the shots. You answer to no one, but the financial indebtedness to your creditors. You incur more risk as owner, but you reap more gain as profit potential expands and multiple revenue streams flow.
The Maloofs built the Palms casino. They added a couple of hotel towers at cost upward of 100 million dollars. Are these businessmen that want to rent and answer to a landlord? Is this secondary status consistent with their investment history? Do the Maloofs want to play tenant following a decade of runnin' the joint?
Renting has to be deemed as a step backwards for the Maloofs by several to all within their inner circle. And while a rent obligation will reduce their expenses relative to a mortgage, the loss of prestige, status and profit potential once the economy inevitably emerges from the recession will be further realized. Other revenue sources including the rumored sizeable TV deal, luxury suites, and corporate sponsors may more than compensate, and renting may be their best option if, in fact, their finances are as precarious as speculated.
Still, relinquishing ownership of your entertainment and playing facility is a small potatoes move to guys accustomed to lavish buffet spreads.
Blobtastic Reason #3: Renting vs. owning your facility is not ideal. It does not cater to the collective ego of the Maloofs. It does not fit their entrepreneurial vision. It is not overwhelming motivation to get up and depart.
(4) The Kings are about to get good, finally. This team is ready to turn a corner: two young stars, a promising deadline trade, a pending high draft pick, and a ton of cap space.
The Kings are close, really close to winning. Once two more very good players are added to this roster, feasible this off-season, then the rebuild is virtually complete. The team will take off, not towards a championship at first, but to the playoffs, respectability and wide appeal.
The Maloofs have always been optimists, even when unjustified. With the accumulation of young and talented assets, the reason for optimism is real this time, confirmable from Joe and Gavin’s own courtside view, and credible appraisal from trusted GM Geoff Petrie.
So, if the Kings add a few more wins next year, say, even doubling their win total to near 40, would it even matter?
With a Vegas bettor’s mentality, the Maloofs could wager their last stack of chips that an improved product on the floor will translate into sold out games, new arena momentum, and a swaying of political and public sentiment to critical tipping point. The Maloofs possibly eek out a small profit next season with an eye towards the real prize: an approved arena deal.
A seemingly contrary strategy could win favor close to the 04/18 relocation deadline: Time to go all in. Jackpot or bust. Bull’s-eye or bye-bye. One last show of faith, creative compromise and attempt to cooperate with city of Sactown. Regardless of outcome, no regrets, no apologies, and no villain complex if the dice turn up snake eyes.
Until the on-court product speaks for itself, the current win/loss record (15W-45L) speaks louder, especially at the negotiating table. Just as trading a player away when he is posting career low stats does not represent ideal time to strike a deal, relocating your team when your team stinks does likely not result in fantastical string of zeros and bountiful dollar signs in the plus column of your relocation terms. While the deal granted to the Maloofs may be advantageous to current circumstances in Sactown, they would pale in comparison to an offer towards a team with a proven record of success.
Would the Boston Celtics garner a hypothetically sweeter deal from Anaheim to migrate out West than our Kings to head down South? I think Samueli could find a few more coins between his sofa cushions to persuade a Leprechaun than to lure a lion (Slamson).
It is not inconceivable the Maloofs could postpone an intent to finalize a deal until the team starts to win next season, and alternate cities emerge as legitimate suitors. Over the course of the next 6 to 9 months, an improved product will improve the terms of a relocation bid(s), all the while allowing Sactown to realize what they got before it is gone.
Blobtastic Reason #4: When your product is temporarily defective, that is your team is not very good, counterparties look to fairly exploit this fact towards own financial end and advantaegous terms.
Yet an improved product is in the pipeline. Upon its release, the Maloofs will claim superior negotiating leverage. Until then, there is not overwhelming motivation to get up and depart.
This list of Blobtastic reasons is not intended to forecast that the Kings will stay in Sactown, or to suggest that the Maloofs do not already have a deal locked and loaded, and the only formality is the good-bye press conference and flipping off of the not-Arco lights. They may be gone. They may stay. No one knows absolutely until official word comes.
For every pro-stay item listed above, I am certain that a cynical fan, a Kings pessimist, an NBA realist, or someone more informed than myself can offer a reasonable counterpoint, citing or speculating upon numerous factors, not limited to the new pending CBA, the guaranteed revenue in Anaheim independent of ticket gate, the sense of owner entitlement and lack of owner liquidity as serious stumbling blocks, the potential lure of a big city to pending free agents, and the myopic mentality of public officials, and to conclude upon that basis that departure is imminent. In most cases I would decline to disagree.
What I am convinced of is that the Maloofs have to have genuinely struggled with a decision of this magnitude, and be internally conflicted as individuals and as a family how to best proceed. Their decision is not cut and dry. It’s not all about dollars and cents. Yes, it is primary consideration, but there is more at stake. The Maloofs want to be heroes. They want to beloved. They want to make people happy. They want to do the right thing. They want to sleep soundly at night. To portray the Maloofs as Greedy Betrayers of a City is unfair, and no less inaccurate than it would be to coldly label Tyreke Evans as a selfish ball-hog or DeMarcus Cousins as an immature brat without acknowledging their tremendous basketball ability and potential for stardom.
Blobtastic Reason #5: In just 10 years, the Maloofs have donated and distributed more than $17,000,000 to a variety of charitable causes through cash donations and in-kind gifts. The Maloofs are good people, striving to make a better life for themselves and others.
Kings fans are good people too, and passionate basketball fans. The Maloofs share this passion and appreciate our years of support. This relationship is not an overwhelming motivation to get up and depart.
Win, lose, stay or leave, I intend to keep hope alive, and invite you to do the same: for a better team, for a new arena, for a championship banner, and for a brighter future.
God Bless the Maloofs, the SACRAMENTO Kings, and dedicated Kings fans everywhere!!!
* UPDATE 03/07 * The ICON feasibility study is on.