Saturday, April 23, 2011

High Stakes in Sac Town

Three weeks ago I wrote about the impending departure of the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim.  A startling turn of events in the last week makes it look like the NBA is ready to say, not so fast.  Mayor Kevin Johnson pulled together an impressive financial package along with an a promise to build a new arena and that got the league's attention.

The NBA even sent a "fact-finding team" to Sacramento for a two day survey of what the city and the region as a hold is offering to keep the Maloof family from moving the Kings to Southern California.  But none of this matters until and unless work begins on a new arena, period.

Even if the Maloofs file for relocation by May 2nd I'm not so sure the NBA says no.  All signs point to the Kings staying in Sacramento for at least one more year while the league sorts this mess out.  The mess is two-fold, Sacramento's stumbling efforts at building an arena and the financial straits that face the Maloofs.

Mayor Johnson is playing a high stakes game.  If he fails to break ground on a new arena in the next 12 months, the NBA won't hesitate to move the team.  And as Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick pointed out in his latest column, Anaheim may not be the Kings new home.  Laker's owner Jerry Buss and Clipper's owner Donald Stirling don't want the company.  Anyway you slice it a third NBA team in the Los Angeles area will hurt their bottom line.

Amick points out that Kansas City could stand to benefit.  Could it be even remotely possible that the Kings could return to Kansas City?  It makes sense.  The Maloofs are in a financial squeeze.  I'm convinced even if they could move to Anaheim where more money awaits they'll be forced to sell the team inside of three years anyway.  Then there's the Burkle factor.  I don't think Ron Burkle cares if the team stays in Sacramento, I think he just wants a piece of the action and if that means owning a piece of the Kansas City Kings then he could live with that.

Nothing else makes sense to me because I don't see anyone in Kansas City stepping up to buy a team and bring it to the Sprint Center.  If this was going to happen the Hornets would already be on their way to KC.  And let's face it, financially the NBA is in a mess.  The league has to get its financial house in order.  Contraction awaits unless the U.S. economy comes back with a roar and unless the league's owners and players reign in their greed.

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