Right now, Twitter is going bananas with the news that a Seattle-based investment group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer have an agreement in place to purchase the Sacramento Kings from the much-maligned Maloof brothers. Effectively, this means that there will once again be an NBA team in Seattle in the very near future.
Back in the preseason, I had started writing a column about such a thing occurring after Hansen got the city of Seattle to agree to the building of a new arena. It seemed appropriate to address the issue since the Grizzlies’ own ownership issues were far from resolved and there was much hand-wringing about what might happen. I abandoned it (for the same unknown reasons that cause me to give up on many articles), but today’s news made me give it another look.
It was titled “A Place to Call Home” and centered on the potential moves by teams like the Hornets, Kings, Grizzlies, and Bucks. You see, teams move — it’s just the nature of the beast. The Hornets? Used to be in Charlotte. The Grizzlies? Once called Vancouver home. The Kings? Formerly of Kansas City…and Rochester before that, when they were known as the Royals. Even the Lakers aren’t natives of Los Angeles, having been plucked from Minneapolis back in the day. Teams move. Period.
Most of these moves have to do with money, whether in the form of lagging fan support (which usually coincides with a poor win-loss record and roster mismanagement) or the always popular need for a new/upgraded arena. Both played a part in Seattle losing their team to begin with, after all. Key Arena was antiquated and the Sonics weren’t good. So, Clay Bennett swooped in, bought the team and then *surprise surprise* moved them to Oklahoma City, where his business was based. He lied to the team’s fans to achieve that, but everyone saw the writing on the wall.
Now, with the Kings having been in danger of being moved for (seemingly) the last 10 years, whether it was the Maloofs moving them to Las Vegas or selling them to an out-of-town owner, we might be seeing the end of one franchise and the re-birth of another.
It’s an exciting time for Seattle and the fans that were left behind there. The Emerald City will once again have professional basketball to enjoy. They finally agreed to spend the money in conjunction with Chris Hansen’s group to erect a new arena that meets the standards required by the NBA, so they will get to see the return of the Sonics. Good for them.
But what of Sacramento? Its fans have clamored for the Kings to remain in California’s state capital and have seen the deals fall apart that would have ensured that being the case. Former NBA legend and current Sacto mayor, Kevin Johnson, has lobbied hard to keep the Kings, only to see the Maloofs back away time and again.
You see…that’s where the problem came in. The Maloofs, once the gregarious, fun-loving guys everyone loved to see out in front at Kings’ games when the team was a title contender, had morphed into owners that (a) no longer had the money to continue sinking into one of the smaller markets in the league and (b) no longer wanted to remain in that small market, period. That’s when the rumors of a move to Vegas began. Eventually, it simply became an issue of them wanting out of ownership altogether, which is why we’re looking at this current situation. So, feel free to blame the Maloofs.
…..and blame the NBA. Because the fact of the matter is, if the powers-that-be had kept a closer watch on what is going on with the owners of these franchises, we wouldn’t be seeing teams sold on a seemingly continuous basis. Owners who don’t have legitimately deep pockets like former Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley, a bona fide billionaire, need to be evaluated constantly and consistently. Otherwise, a franchise in a small market like the Hornets (George Shinn) or the Kings (the Maloofs) could find themselves up an unpleasantly named creek without a proverbial paddle. That’s where the NBA has to keep better tabs on things moving forward. Otherwise, the Bucks, the Magic, and even the Grizzlies could see themselves hitting up the relocation circuit sooner, rather than later.
So, go ahead and celebrate Seattle fans — but don’t forget that your brethren in Sacramento are feeling exactly like you did not too long ago. And those fans cared about their Kings just as much as you did about your Sonics. Their heart is about to get ripped out — and they don’t have the NFL or MLB to fall back on either. Keep that in mind, would you?