Tag: Anaheim Kings


Would lost season increase chances Kings move to Anaheim?


You want to know why NBA owners were willing to cut off the Maloof brothers at the knees, block a Kings move to Anaheim and give Sacramento one more shot to keep its only major league sports franchise?


The owners have understood from the start this was going to be a long and ugly NBA lockout. And even if this were a situation where the league and players had reached a deal this week, the ability of the Kings to win over fans in their new home was compromised. “Hey, we’d love you all to pay to come out and see us play, as soon as we are done arguing about how to split up your money.”

So Sacramento got one more chance — a real chance to get plans for a new arena moving forward enough to keep the team.

But can they pull that off in the wake of a lost season? Mayor Kevin Johnson worked hard to rally businesses and fans, to show the groundswell of support for the team. Now is that all being thrown out with the first months of the NBA season (at least)?

USC Sports Business Institute executive director David Carter told the Orange County Register things just got a lot tougher for Sacramento and look better for Anaheim.

“Missing a meaningful amount of the upcoming NBA season will certainly have an effect on Sacramento’s interest, willingness, and ability to keep the Kings,” Carter said. “Public sentiment about the lockout doesn’t help anyone, but it can really impact any franchises that are in flux.”

Sacramento’s chance to keep the Kings is real, but it already had a lot of challenges. Then this week Billy Hunter threw another big hurdle out there on the track. Like the whole lockout, it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s reality.

NBA doing the Maloofs’ talking for them

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
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The Maloofs’ relationship with Sacramento is decidedly love-hate. When the Kings were winning and Joe and Gavin were plastered on TV during games, Sacramentans were ready to propose.

But it’s funny how life works — the team started losing and (gulp) started asking the city of Sacramento for money, and everything has been downhill since. Their 2006 ill-fated measure to finance an arena was a PR disaster. Now the relationship they have with fans after a failed attempt to get out of Dodge in April is well, think Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods having dinner at Thanksgiving with their children.

It’s all about the Kings, so I won’t throw this turkey leg at your head.

In all fairness, the Maloofs have dealt with a city that has acted like NBA franchises grow on trees and that people will gladly pay property taxes absent the consideration of amenities.  But let’s not get into details, because who cares about those?  After all, more than half of the basketball public believes the players are ‘on strike’ because Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson ran away with all of the dollar bills to make it rain with.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t surprising in the least to read Rob McAllister’s latest report on KFBK.com about the big meeting in Dallas between arena-related parties. McAllister reports that yesterday the city of Sacramento, NBA representative Clay Bennett, AEG, and others met to lay out parameters, timelines, etc. You know, arena stuff.

But is he forgetting somebody? I’ll let McAllister take it from here:

The Maloof family was not at the meeting in Dallas and there is no time table that currently details when the Kings’ owners will join the negotiations. (Sac City Councilman Rob) Fong said he expects the “Maloofs to be a part of the talks,” even though the city has been dealing directly with the NBA.

If you recall, the NBA kindly told the Maloofs to give Sacramento one more year to get an arena, after Kevin Johnson came up with $10 million in corporate sponsorships and an eleventh hour plan – while simultaneously fans pulled a ‘hell no, we won’t go.’

Make no mistake, it’s not typically the NBA’s protocol to block a team from moving, particularly if the old city has balked at building a new arena. As long as the supply for NBA teams is restricted, and the demand for teams remains high, then the NBA will always have that leverage (see antitrust: reasons why the NBA wants never to speak of it).

So telling the Maloofs to get back in the negotiating seat would normally mean that they, ya know, sit at the table, right? Wrong.

This time Ron Burkle and prospective buyers lurk in the background behind Kevin Johnson’s promise that Sacramento can be an NBA city. The Maloofs, hit hard by the economy, have sold all but two percent of the Palms, and what had once been rumors was finally put into print when NBA insider Jonathan Abrams wrote at Grantland that they “would have likely been forced to sell had they relocated to Anaheim, which remains a distinct possibility.”

Even at city council meetings, where opponents of the arena initiative would normally rail against giving money to rich people, they’re now talking about the various uses of public funds rather than making it about the Maloofs. And arena proponents barely even talk about the Kings these days. Instead, they talk about the A-list acts that will go to the Bay Area if an ‘Entertainment and Sports Complex’ isn’t built, and the millions being lost in Sacramento property tax revenue that a new ‘Entertainment and Sports Complex’ would address according to top economists.

The Maloofs have made just a handful of public comments regarding the process since it was decided that they would stay, and nothing that would make the 10 o’clock news.

For a family that doesn’t exactly lay low, it’s almost like they’re not there, complicit with the idea that their presence could somehow derail things in Sacramento.

It’s a pretty simple decision to hide the Maloofs, given their past history with arena initiatives, the threat of moving, and the like, but as Abrams alluded to there is more at play here.

As much as you would like to hide the Maloofs if you’re Sacramento and the NBA, any owner would be expected to be involved in a process like this, and their representatives would certainly be at meetings of this type. In this case, Bennett is there instead to keep things on track.

The NBA has invested a ton of time in getting an arena deal in Sacramento, and frankly, had they wanted to be in Anaheim they would have simply let the Kings go. But there were too many reasons not to go at the time.

Henry Samueli rolled out the red carpet for the Kings and really, really, really wants to take over for the Maloofs if they can’t afford to play with the other billionaires, but he has an image problem. Convicted of lying to regulators in a stock option scandal years ago, he was suspended as an owner in the NHL. He has a history of philanthropy and Donald Sterling is obviously tolerated, but still, it’s a blemish.

Compared to David Stern’s drooling over Ron Burkle, it’s quite clear who the NBA would prefer to pick up wherever the Maloofs leave off, assuming of course Burkle or the other suitors are still interested.

And then there’s the small issue of the lockout. Back in April the NBA was preparing to ask the Jerry Busses of the world to dish out some pie in the form of revenue sharing – not exactly the right time to plunk a team in his back yard. In fact, there may be no right time to do that if the NBA quadruples revenue sharing – at least not for a while. Don’t tell that to Sacramento, though, since Anaheim is still being dangled over their head (not like a carrot, like a guillotine).

Besides, can the NBA really uproot another franchise — after a lockout — when Sacramento has so publicly been supported by just about everybody in the NBA?  And financially, do they really want to abandon the 20th largest market in the United States, just to overlap what they already have in L.A.?

No. Not now. Not under these circumstances. Not if Kevin Johnson can deliver an arena.

So Clay Bennett will show up and lay out the parameters that have likely already been communicated to Kevin Johnson, AEG, and the rest of the team. Johnson and Sacramento city councilman Rob Fong will be there to discuss what they believe can and cannot pass in the council, which ultimately controls Sacramento’s checkbook. The NBA will negotiate on behalf of the Maloofs, but as long as a reasonable plan gets presented by Sacramento, they’ll turn to the Maloofs and say, ‘here it is.’

And they will take it.  Whatever they choose to do with it from there is anybody’s guess.

Anaheim may never get an NBA team thanks to Lakers

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Not to deflate the mood on what should be a day of celebration in Sacramento, but it is quite possible that a year from now Kings fans will lose their battle to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

If efforts to get a new arena built fall short — and if public money is required it likely will — then the other NBA owners are not going to stand in the way of the Maloof brothers moving their team.

But don’t bet on it being to Anaheim.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss led an drive to block that move, and while he got a big boost from Mayor Kevin Johnson’s effort in Sacramento, the organized opposition from him (and Clippers owner Donald Sterling) mattered. Ray Ratto at CSN Bay Area explains.

Seattle lost the SuperSonics because Clay Bennett didn’t have enough opposition to his plan to move to Oklahoma City, come hell or high water. Oh, there was Mark Cuban, but who listens to him? Certainly not his partners.

There was, however, plenty of resistance to the Maloof Brothers’ plan to find their bliss in Disneyland, and it began with Jerry Buss, who simply didn’t want the television audience for his LakerTV network to be splintered further by the addition of a third Southern California team….

But when Gavin Maloof was asked if there was any unhappiness with the Lakers’ role in foiling their escape plan, he didn’t answer for a good 10 seconds before saying he wanted to focus instead on Sacramento and its fans.

That opposition isn’t going away.

In fact, it runs deeper and into bigger pockets than just the already respected Buss family. If you want to go down the conspiracy rabbit hole with me, connect the dots in the next paragraph.

Sports business powerhouse AEG owns a minority share of the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the Staples Center (and a bunch of other arenas around the world). They are someone David Stern wants to stay on the good side of and they are interested in the Lakers continuing to turn a nice profit. Coincidentally, AEG is tied to ICON Venue Group, which is planning the new building in Sacramento. Also AEG owns the brand new, NBA ready Sprint Center in Kansas City (designed by ICON), a market that does not have an NBA team in it.

Draw any lines there you want.

Anaheim comes with one big advantage — its own billionaire. Broadcom founder Henry Samueli has the money to lure a team to the Honda Center in Anaheim, which he runs. He has the money to make the changes to the building the NBA would demand. He has the money to give large loans to any potential teams moving in who may have debt problems.

If Sacramento can’t get its building together, Anaheim may again be the preferred choice by the Maloofs for a move. But don’t bet on that being the landing spot. The opposition to bringing a third team into the Southern California market is strong.

Owners confirm Kings staying in Sacramento

George Maloof, Gavin Maloof, Joe Maloof
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UPDATE #2, 1:04 pm: Here is what George Maloof told the Associated Press.

“The mayor of Sacramento has told the NBA relocation committee that he will have a plan for a new arena within a year,” Maloof said Monday. “If not, the team will be relocated to another city….

“I think it’s the fair thing to do,” Maloof said. “We’ve always said we think Sacramento has the best NBA fans in the world. Their overwhelming show of support was incredible. But now they realize that we’re giving them another opportunity and we’re anxious to play basketball.”

Another whole issue in this whether the Maloofs can get anything done in Sacramento, if their efforts would help a new arena get built. They are now pariahs in the city where their team is located. The team’s fans hate them. They hold no power or sway to speak of, and there are a lot of Kings fans who will soon be pushing for them to step aside. Which they will not do willingly.

This is still a messy situation with a long way to go.

UPDATE 11:57 am: Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated got confirmation from the decision makers — Kings staying put. He tweeted:

Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof just confirmed to me by phone that the family has decided not to file for relocation.

Later today there will be press releases by the NBA and Maloof brothers echoing these reports.

Great news for Sacramento, which should spend the day celebrating. Then they better get to work if they want to keep the team.

11:36 am: We told you last night this was coming, now the news is starting to become official.

People with the Honda Center in Anaheim were told this morning of the decision of the Maloof brothers (the owners of the Kings) to remain in Sacramento for another season, according to Randy Youngman at the Orange County Register.

Officials from Anaheim Arena Management, which had been in relocation negotiations with the Maloofs since September, were told of the family’s decision early Monday morning.

The NBA is expected to issue a statement Monday morning announcing that the franchise will remain in Sacramento and not submit an application to move by Monday’s twice-delayed relocation deadline. A statement from the Kings is expected to follow.

The writing was on the wall for this in recent weeks, and the Maloofs may have been the last to recognize it. Other NBA owners had questions about adding a third team to the Southern California market and they had questions about the Maloof family finances and what was the motivation for the move. The move always reeked of desperation — do you really want to move into a new market with a looming lockout that will piss off fans being your first action?

Sacramento is not out of the woods — if they don’t make significant progress on a new arena by a year from now the Kings will move somewhere and the NBA will not get in the way.

But whether that move would be to Anaheim is another question entirely. There would continue to be opposition from real heavy hitters to move into that market. Anaheim may end up being what Los Angeles is to the NFL — a threat to dangle so that better deals get made elsewhere.

Sacramento gets to keep Kings for now, but new building key

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Champaign corks should be popping. Horns should be honking in downtown as people in cars shout “here we stay.” There should be spontaneous parties in the street. Bloggers should hug mainstream newspaper writers.

The Kings are staying in Sacramento. That is fantastic news — this is a market that has proven it will wholeheartedly supported that team, making it one of the most feared home courts a decade ago. They didn’t deserve to lose their team.

But if they want to keep them the real work starts once the parties end.

If plans for a new arena are not an unstoppable force of momentum a year from now, today’s decision is simply a stay of execution.

David Stern himself has made this plainly clear — the future of the Kings in Sacramento is all about a new building. In the end, it is all that matters. Here is what George Maloof told the Associated Press, emphasizing this is a one-year deal right now.

“I think it’s the fair thing to do,” Maloof said. “We’ve always said we think Sacramento has the best NBA fans in the world. Their overwhelming show of support was incredible. But now they realize that we’re giving them another opportunity and we’re anxious to play basketball.”

Former Arco, now Power Balance Arena is one of the last of the old generation of arenas. Those were great for the average paying fan because those old arenas were intimate, with fans seeming right on top of the court. They were loud. But modern sports economics demand luxury boxes and high-end VIP seats near the court. Those boxes and seats generate more income (far more) than the “real fans” that fill the upper parts of an arena in the less expensive seats. And the Kings arena lacks the needed high-end seats and boxes to make it work.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson wowed the NBA owners when he met with them in New York with talk of a new arena in downtown, and showing off the experienced team putting it all together. The NBA Board of Governors was swayed, it started the momentum that led to the Kings staying put.

But if this arena does not have financing in place, if the plans and approvals are not well down the road by next spring, the Maloof brothers will again talk of moving the team — and this time other owners will support them.

While the building is key, there are a lot of factors in play here.

One is the Maloof family finances. The brothers have reiterated — and did so again today to Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick — they are not selling the team. But the Maloofs are hurting financially — they own a casino and a hotel, two industries hit very hard by the recession. Next to their beloved Palms in Las Vegas they built a massive new condominium building that sits more than half empty, also due to the economy. They have racked up a lot of debt (which seemed to be part of the rational for the move, it came with another loan from Henry Samueli, which might have helped keep them a float for a while). But they insist they have money and will spend some during free agency.

Then there is Ron Burkle, a billionaire in the grocery store industry and buddy of Bill Clinton, who Johnson said wants to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento. He has deep, deep pockets. The Maloof brothers want him out of the picture, but he is sitting there on the sidelines.

Well, not totally on the sidelines. His associate and Sacramento lobbyist was one of the key people helping mayor Johnson round up $10 million in new sponsorship money. Helping keep the Kings in Sacramento, putting more pressure on the Maloofs, who could have to sell and… just a thought.

The real pressure now is not on the Maloofs but on Sacramento to keep the Kings. They have to pony up the sponsorship money and fill the building next season. They need to prove again they care about the Kings.

But more importantly, the fans and voters need to apply pressure to make sure this building becomes a reality. Because in the end it’s all about the building. That is the real work to do in Sacramento.