The thought of the Kings leaving Sacramento for Anaheim gnaws at my insides and literally haunts me on a daily basis. Having been a keen observer of all the Kings relocation fodder spreading though the newswire these past few weeks, I’ve been drawn into the discussion like many other Kings fans.
Some people in Sacramento may believe the Maloofs’ planned relocation to Anaheim is already a slam dunk. Why wouldn’t the NBA Board of Governors vote to approve a move that would reduce fuel costs and other travel expenses for every team in the league? Why wouldn’t each NBA team love to spend a few extra days in sunny Anaheim, helping to reduce their players’ travel fatigue from an already grueling and overly long NBA schedule? Why wouldn’t the Maloofs and David Stern himself be working the phones right this minute, talking to each and every other NBA owner to secure the 16 precious “YES” votes needed to officially approve relocation later this summer? And why wouldn’t all the other owners seek to cash in on a new potential revenue sharing system that could most likely come out of the new collective bargaining agreement next year? With the additional money from another Los Angeles/Anaheim based franchise, all the league’s teams could financially benefit from the dollars available from the second-largest television market in the country.
Last by not least, no other NBA franchise relocation has ever been voted down, so why would the Kings’ relocation to Anaheim be any different? Each NBA owner must take some comfort knowing in the back of their minds that if it were their NBA team in financial distress, their fellow NBA owners in all likelihood would come to their rescue. The health of the league in general depends on the health of the individual franchises. So if one franchise can jumpstart their business with a relocation to a glitzier building, a richer TV contract, and a wealthier demographic all in one fell swoop, it’s a good thing for all the owners and the whole league in general and as the Maloofs have already famously argued, right? And really, does David Stern really let owners make these votes themselves of their own free will, or does he tell them how to vote when it is all said and done? Who can honestly say?
In truth, this relocation may in fact already be a done deal without any of us ever knowing the actual details behind the scenes. As far as we know, the only two things that could potentially still hijack the Kings’ relocation to Anaheim next season are:
- Money ($30 million relocation fee, additional compensation fees demanded by the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and maybe the Bulls, and repayment of the $77 million loan to the city of Sacramento)
- Vote by the NBA’s Board of Governors
Somehow I think the money will find its way into the equation no matter what. Henry Samueli, the owner of the Anaheim Ducks and operator of the Honda Center, could literally pay for any and all last-minute expenses if for a nanosecond he thought the relocation deal was on the verge of falling apart over money alone. This man seems absolutely determined to get the Kings to relocate to the Honda Center. He has tried too hard and failed with other NBA franchises in the past. He is finally within striking distance of bringing an NBA franchise to the Honda Center after all these years, and if all it takes is getting the Maloofs to agree to yet another sweetheart loan from his bottomless war chest, it will only make it that much easier for him to buy controlling interest of the team a few years from now. The man’s ego will NOT allow the deal to fall apart now over money alone.
So therein lies the last bastion of hope: the vote from the NBA Board of Governors. As stated above, some people may argue that this vote is a mere formality and that the relocation vote is already a done deal. There may only be a smattering of teams (Lakers, Clippers and Warriors come to mind) that will vote “NO” as a symbolic gesture that the league did not unanimously decide on this relocation approval a long time ago. Point taken.
But call it wishful thinking, call it blind hope, call it a die-hard Kings fan clinging to one last chance that small miracle can unfold here, but I believe the eventual vote for relocation may secretly be much closer than anyone realizes. I’m not on the NBA’s Board of Governors. I am not a billionaire and I don’t own an NBA franchise, so who am I to really know what in fact these NBA owners are actually thinking. I’m merely a fan of the game and a die-hard Kings fan since I was twelve years old. So if there is any possibility that these owners will seriously look at the logic behind this move and question it, maybe this move can still, somehow, miraculously be voted down.
By now, we all seem to be coming to the realization that the Maloofs will, with 99% certainty, file for relocation to Anaheim after the NBA Board of Governor’s meeting on April 18. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the move is official and inevitable. The NBA first needs to conduct an economic study of the relocation, and only after this report is presented to the owners at a subsequent Board of Governors meeting will the relocation officially be voted on.
If you take a look at each NBA franchise and analyze each owner’s specific circumstances, you can begin to see that there just might be fifteen other franchises out there willing to vote “NO” to the Maloofs’ proposed move to Anaheim. Again this is pure speculation on my part, who knows what actually is discussed and occurs under the authoritarian rule of David Stern. However, if you stay with me for a moment, I took a closer look at both the potential “YES” votes and “NO” votes and here’s what I came up with in my ideal voting scenario:
Teams that will definitely vote “NO”
Los Angeles Lakers – As has already been well documented, owner Jerry Buss has made it abundantly clear he intends to fight the proposed Anaheim relocation tooth and nail. The Lakers are perhaps one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet, so with the money rolling year-in and year-out, it would seem Jerry Buss could stomach the thought of one NBA leech owner siphoning off a portion of his lucrative TV contract money. But certainly not two leech owners! Which leads us to…..
Los Angeles Clippers – The Maloofs are trying to emulate the same move Donald Sterling perfected nearly thirty years ago: Latching onto a more profitable team’s home base and sucking the revenue from that team for the benefit of his own team. No doubt Sterling will want to make sure no other team comes into the L.A. market to sap any more precious dollars he is already stealing from the Lakers.
Golden State Warriors – The new Lacob/Guber ownership group just forked over a cool $450 million dollars to purchase this franchise, the most expensive team acquisition in the history of the NBA. Having paid so much money to acquire an NBA team, the new ownership team naturally believes they have now secured the entire Bay Area NBA market. But with billionaire Larry Ellison just missing out on the purchase of the Warriors himself, there’s already rumors of his desire to purchase and relocate another NBA franchise to the lucrative Silicon Valley market, specifically to the city of San Jose. No way in hell the Warriors owners would allow such a move, which is why they most definitely do not want to allow the Maloofs to set a similar precedent in Anaheim.
Chicago Bulls – Jerry Krause has a firm vice-grip on the Chicago market and undoubtedly has no intention of ever sharing this market with another team attempting to tap into the loyalty of the Bulls brand. With the Memphis Grizzlies already hinting at just such a move, Reinsdorf will cast a solid “NO” vote to avoid precedent setting.
Total “NO” votes up this point: 4
Teams that could also vote “NO”
Portland Trail Blazers – Some might wonder how billionaire owner Paul Allen could possibly care less about the Maloofs relocating the Kings to Anaheim. Well I can give you one good reason. The Trail Blazers are getting lonelier as the only NBA franchise in the Pacific Northwest with this potential move. Having already seen both the Vancouver Grizzlies and Seattle Supersonics skip town, the Trail Blazers will not relish the idea of yet another NBA team departing their geographic region. This is adding even more travel miles for this team, making the argument that the Trail Blazers will be the most-traveled team in the NBA after the Kings relocate. I think a “NO” vote here is not outside the realm of possibilities.
Utah Jazz – I believe this franchise could very well be next in line for possible relocation as soon as the ownership changes. But as long as the Miller family is still in charge, they will make every effort to continue to remain in Salt Lake City. The very real threat of this team moving in the near future looms, however, so in a gesture to maintain the continuity of the small-market NBA model, I predict that Millers would vote “NO” on this relocation, again as long as they stay in charge of the Jazz.
Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban personifies the name of his team. He is a true maverick team owner and us such is prone to unpredictability. I predict he and Mavericks will vote “NO” to the relocation simply to not embolden the greater Los Angeles/Anaheim market any more than it already is. Mark Cuban seems to relish confrontation with the powers that be, so it might be an amusement to him at the very least to vote “NO”.
Charlotte Bobcats – This is a team that has already lived through and survived the pain of their team leaving them. They know full well what Sacramento must be going through right now. I think a vote of “NO” is quite possible here, simply as a sympathetic gesture back to their own fanbase, which is already somewhat distrusting of the NBA.
Toronto Raptors – This is one of the longest flights NBA teams have to make, so it is understandable the Raptors would much rather stay an extra day in the warm, sunny greater Los Angeles area than have to board yet another flight and visit Sacramento. But Toronto is now the only Canadian NBA franchise (after Vancouver relocated). The team is still smarting from the departure of Chris Bosh to Miami, and with a lousy team and disinterested fanbase already losing faith in the team, the ownership must be seriously contemplating a potential move back the U.S. market in the near future. However, I think this is where David Stern’s ego takes over. How could he possibly let both Canada-based NBA franchises relocate? This would squash his well-publicized desire to turn the NBA into a global brand that can survive beyond the U.S. border. I have a feeling that Toronto would therefore also be more likely to vote “NO” towards relocation, lest they incur the wrath of the commissioner for plotting their own eventual departure.
Orlando Magic – The Magic’s situation closely paralleled Sacramento’s up until this past year. Fortunately the ownership was committed to contributing towards the cost of a new arena, unlike the Maloofs. In addition to a $75 million contribution from the owners along with public taxes largely from tourist dollars rather than resident taxes, the new Amway Center opened this year, and now the Magic are set for the long-term in Orlando. If it weren’t for this effort, the Magic would most likely be in Anaheim now instead of the Kings. This is why I believe their team’s owner will ultimately cast a “NO” vote as a gesture to the Kings to find a way to make it work in Sacramento rather than relocate to Anaheim.
San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs embody the best of the small-market NBA potential. But if this team hadn’t one several championships over the past decade, they too could have relocated and missed out on building the luxurious AT&T Center they now call home. Basically, they built their new arena while times were good, and they now seem set for many more years of success in San Antonio. But like Sacramento, the Spurs are the only professional sports option in town. I have a gut feeling that their owner may cast a sympathetic vote of “NO” our way, knowing full well it could have been their franchise going through the relocation nightmare instead of Sacramento’s.
Total “NO” votes up this point: 11
Small Market Teams on the Fence and could vote either way:
Indiana Pacers – I don’t know for sure about these guys. The Pacers know the economic difficulties operating in a small market brings. Even with their fairly new Conseco Fieldhouse arena, the team is still struggling to attract fans and turn a profit. However I can’t imagine the current ownership would be in favor of abandoning the Hoosier state where the fans live and breathe basketball. A “NO” vote would carry favor with Pacer fans who must always be worried about how attractive the Chicago market must look to the Pacers’ owners.
Milwaukee Bucks – As long as Senator Herb Kohl still owns and operates the Bucks, they will remain in Milwaukee. As a small market franchise, I imagine the Bucks are monitoring this situation very closely. If the Kings do leave Sacramento, the Bradley Center will then become the oldest arena in the league hosting an NBA team. A “NO” vote could help sooth their own fanbase about possible relocation and the need to eventually replace the Bradley Center as well.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Fresh off “The Decision” fiasco, this is a team and a fanbase that knows how it feels to have your heart ripped out of you. The absolute destruction wreaked on this team by LeBron James’ departure has left this team a shell of its former self. But at least they get to keep their team! Sacramento may not even be able to do that. So as a gesture to their own fans, I imagine a “NO” vote is not outside the realm of possibilities from the Cavs either.
Total “NO” votes up this point: 14 (need just one more to tie and defeat relocation!)
Before I identify that one last wild card team that could cast the deciding vote, let’s first look at the “YES” votes I think are most likely to be cast.
Definitely will vote “YES”:
Sacramento Kings: Obviously.
Memphis Grizzlies: Owner Michael Heisley has already pulled off the franchise relocation stunt once before (from Vancouver to Memphis). And with below average attendance still haunting this franchise at FedEx Forum, rumors are already flying that the franchise might seriously look into relocating to the into the South Chicago market. The Grizzlies need to keep all their options open right now. If a precedent is established to allow a smaller NBA franchise to relocate into a much larger, more lucrative market like the Maloofs are proposing to do in Anaheim, you can bet Memphis may very well be the next franchise in line to do the exact same thing a few years from now in Chicago.
Oklahoma City Thunder: It would be downright hypocritical for owner Clay Bennett to move the former Seattle Sonics franchise to Oklahoma City in one instance only to vote down the Maloofs proposed relocation to Anaheim in another. So you can pretty much lock the Thunder into a “YES” vote here as well.
New Orleans Hornets: The team is currently owned by the NBA, and thus its deciding vote is cast by the commissioner himself, David T. Stern. This franchise itself is in the process of finding new ownership, but we know full well that Stern is making a concerted effort to find a new owner interested in keeping the team in New Orleans. With this logic, you might think that Stern would be more sympathetic to Sacramento’s plight. However, the Kings are not for sale like the Hornets were before the NBA purchased them, so in reality, Stern has no vested interest in where the Kings operate so long as financially solvent owners are still operating the team. While the solvency of the Maloofs is debatable, the circumstances are clearly different for New Orleans than they are for Sacramento. New Orleans is facing a true economic disaster wrought upon the city by Hurricane Katrina and will literally take decades to recover. It would be a true public relations nightmare for Stern and the NBA if the Hornets were to leave New Orleans for greener pastures. Sacramento’s economy is also in utter shambles, however the potential for Sacramento to recover faster than New Orleans would suggest that the Kings leaving Sacramento would not be nearly as embarrassing for the league. Thus, in the immediate interest of facilitating and ensuring one of their current owner’s financial stability (the Maloofs), the Hornets (and thus vicariously David Stern himself) will undoubtedly vote “YES” to the relocation.
East Coast and Central Teams most likely to vote “YES”
I believe a large number of NBA teams are so far removed from the discussion that they honestly don’t care about the Kings relocation to Anaheim all that much. These other NBA markets are big enough to be economically viable for one NBA team, but not so big that the threat of another NBA team moving into their sphere of influence is a real possibility. As long as their travel schedule is reduced and more money can be collectively shared with other teams under a potential new collective bargaining agreement, they will undoubtedly vote “YES” to relocation. Here are those teams:
Boston Celtics: Boston is the polar opposite of Sacramento. Big market vs. small market. Championship history vs. cellar-dweller history. East Coast vs. West Coast. They are so far removed from caring about Sacramento that I cannot imagine they would not vote “YES” on relocation to Anaheim, simply to save them one more flight to the far reaches Sacramento from their East Coast hub.
New York Knicks: As with the Celtics, the Knicks are so distant in comparison with Sacramento that this potential move barely registers on their radar. They too would love an extra couple of days in sunny L.A. rather than one more flight. They aren’t even raising that much of a fuss right now with the New Jersey Nets already approved move to Brooklyn in 2012, so why would this matter to them? Unless of course a team were serious about trying to move to Manhatten Island itself, I think the New York Knicks are far too wrapped up in their own business to care all that much about the Kings’ relocation.
New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets: For the same reasons as the Kings, the Nets will move into a fancier building and a more lucrative television market in 2012 in order to stay economically viable and at least somewhat competitive with their cross town New York Knick rivals. There is no way New Jersey votes “NO” on the relocation, having just accomplished the exact same feat themselves.
Philadelphia 76ers: See reasons stated above.
Washington Wizards: See reasons stated above.
Miami Heat: See reasons stated above.
Atlanta Hawks: See reasons stated above.
Denver Nuggets: See reasons stated above.
Houston Rockets: See reasons stated above.
Phoenix Suns: See reasons stated above.
Minnesota Timberwolves: See reasons stated above.
Total “YES” votes up to this point: 15 (just need one more to approve relocation!)
So which NBA franchise is the deciding factor? Which NBA team will cast their vote to decide the future of the Kings existence, either in Sacramento or in Anaheim? If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll know that team is the…..Detroit Pistons.
Detroit Pistons: I honestly believe Detroit’s situation is fascinating, one that could actually turn the tide in Sacramento’s favor. Lest we all forget, the Detroit Pistons team is only seven years removed from winning the NBA Championship over the glamorous, poster child L.A. Lakers franchise. This team is also steeped in the history of the “Bad Boys” championships of the late 1980’s over those same L.A. Lakers. What these Detroit Pistons team accomplished truly inspired the entire city, a city which is now unequivocally dying a slow death economically. Detroit may be the closest NBA city facing something similar to what New Orleans is already facing. The city lives and breathes with their professional sports teams. New ownership is most likely being sought for this team now also. But can you imagine the Pistons ever leaving the Motor City after their illustrious history? Can you imagine if similar circumstances required the Pistons to leave their beloved fans behind for greener pastures elsewhere? I certainly can’t, although I suppose anything is possible with modern economic realities faced by NBA cities, where the economy is in the absolute dumps. But what I can imagine is the owners, whether the current ones or the eventual new ones, seeing something similar in their plight with the situation Sacramento is now facing. Why would the Pistons, already in an economically challenged market, vote “YES” to allow a different NBA team (the Kings) to jump to Anaheim and completely reverse their economic fortunes overnight? Seems almost unfair doesn’t it? Detroit could argue that the owners in Sacramento should find a way, any way, to make it work in the city they are already entrenched in. For the fans, for the economic stability of the region, and most importantly to not devalue the Detroit Pistons franchise anymore than it may already be devalued! Any such devaluing could jeopardize the sale of the Pistons, making the team seem far less worthy of the steep asking price the current owners are bound to ask for. Remember the $450 million cost of the Warriors acquisition! Can you honestly argue that the Warriors are a more valuable team than the Detroit Pistons? I doubt the current owners will want to take any kind of haircut in the current perceived value of the franchise. And what better way to keep the value of their franchise as high as possible by NOT allowing the Kings to relocate and increase the value of their own franchise! Therefore, miraculously, I predict the Detroit Pistons will indeed vote “NO” to the relocation of the Kings to Anaheim. This gives the city of Sacramento the 16 necessary votes needed to defeat relocation, at least for the next year!
I know the NBA business is a cold-blooded, cut-throat, take no prisoners kind of business. It seems clear these owners will do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means attempting to relocate their franchise to another city. But on the other end of the spectrum, it could also clandestinely mean sabotaging the relocation of one team to keep the value of another team inflated before the sale takes place. Yes, call my argument a pipedream if you want. I’d like to think the other owners truly do have some sympathy for the city of Sacramento’s plight, but reality always seems to bring me back down to Earth with that argument. Instead, I’d like to believe that the other owners truly are looking at this deal with their own best interests in mind, and if that is indeed the case, I think we still have some hope the relocation proposed by the Maloofs could still be defeated after all.
Long live the Kings! Long live the Sacramento Kings!