[UPDATED with Cow Town Checkmating Toontown?:] Sacramento Kings in Serious Talks to Move to Anaheim

UPDATE, APRIL 26, 2:41 P.M.: After a weekend of reports claiming its unlikely the Sacramento Kings will move to Anaheim before next season--if ever--Anaheim officials expressed confidence that their proposal remains the best one on the table for the NBA franchise.

ESPN, Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times are among the media outlets that have reported the NBA will likely block a move despite the wishes of Kings ownership.

That assessment came after NBA Relocation Committee members seemed giddy with delight over a presentation to keep the city where it is led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Afterward, committee members seemed to have lost interest in coming to Anaheim to hear what officials there have to say.

Meanwhile, Lakers and Clippers representatives are making full-court presses against a third team moving into the Southern California market, with some reporting the World Champs alone stand to lose a half billion in TV revenue over 10 years should Anaheim get a team. With the league heading into a possible player lockout after the playoffs, the NBA seems more keen on keeping Jerry Buss and Donald Sterling happy than they do the Maloof brothers.

That may explain the NBA Commissioner's "what-if" last week, when David Stern told the Associated Press the league may delay a move a year to give Johnson and Sacramento bigwigs more time to build a new arena suitable for the franchise.

The Honda Center walls seemingly collapsing promoted Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait to issue a statement saying, ""We are confident that we have established this region as a standalone market and that the NBA looks favorably on our city, our arena, and our fans."

That was before today, when Johnson and 30 representatives from Sacramento-area businesses essentially met the NBA's demand to "show me the money," signing deposits on more than $10 million in sponsorship pledges as a "down payment" on a new home for the Kings.

ESPN's Bill Simmons now writes that Sacramento, aided by money and luck, have checkmated Anaheim. In building his case, he writes this:

When Anaheim approached them about relocating the Kings there, the Maloofs asked the city to pay for the relocation fee -- determined by the other 29 owners based on the perceived value of the new market compared with the old one, which means that fee could climb as high as $75-100 million -- and lend them money to cover their debts on top of that. What a deal! So Anaheim gets a terrible basketball team and a ton of debt, plus, it doesn't get to own the team. How can the city turn that Godfather offer down?

Simmons then boldly predicts:

. . . the league will pay full price for the Kings (or close to it), use them as lockout leverage (along with the Hornets), then work with Johnson and Sacramento on finding new ownership after the lockout. It's the right move. There's every reason to believe that Sacramento could turn into Oklahoma City or Portland in the right hands. But it needs the right hands. And those hands need to be able to write checks that pay for stuff.

Hey, Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli has hands like that, too!

The Maloofs still have until May 2 to let the league know they officially want out of Cowtown.

UPDATE, APRIL 21, 9:16 A.M.:

The NBA Relocation Committee slithers into Sacramento City Hall this morning, and there to greet them will be workers from Power Balance Pavilion (formerly Arco Arena). They will not be there to usher the power brokers to their seats, serve them overpriced suds or point them to the mens. The members of SEIU United Service Workers West are fighting to keep union jobs in Sacramento from going to Anaheim's non-union Honda Center.

A statement from SEIU--which represents more than 40,000 janitors, security officers, airport service workers and other property service workers across California and more than 2 million across North America--says the goal of the rally is "to highlight how the loss of the Kings means the loss of good jobs in Sacramento." It continues:

"Many Power Balance Pavilion workers, through their union contract with the Kings and the arena, earn wages and healthcare that allow them to provide for their families and contribute to the economic well being of the region. Workers and community members fear that if the Kings were to move to Anaheim, where the same jobs are non-union, Sacramento will not only lose good jobs and a beloved team, but the community of Anaheim will also be hurt by subsidizing poverty-wage jobs."

Tip off is 11:30 a.m. in front of  Sacramento City Hall.

Meanwhile, Gustavo's buddy and Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton writes that the United Auburn Indian Community pledged $1 million to help keep the Kings in Sacred Cow Town. The tribe was apparently impressed by a presentation Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made at Thunder Valley Casino.

UPDATE, APRIL 20, 11:49 A.M.: The forces fighting to keep the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento have been hitting their jumpers all week.

The forces fighting to bring the franchise to Anaheim famously have in their corner billionaire Henry Samueli, who owns the Anaheim Ducks and manages the Honda Center where the NHL team plays and the NBA's Kings/Royal would play.

Well, Sacramento has raised Anaheim a billionaire and added a second high-powered lobbyist.

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert has the scoop.

Lobbyist Darius Anderson and billionaire Ron Burkle have jumped into the battle to beat LA . . . of Anaheim.

For those who judge these things by scoreboard, Samueli was worth $2.7 billion in 2007, according to Forbes. Burkle, who owns Ralphs, Food4Less, Fred Meyer and the private equity firm the Yucaipa Companies (that employs Bill Clinton), and who sits on the boards of Yahoo!, KB Homes and Occidental Petroleum, and who is a major Democratic Party fund-raiser, had $3.5 billion as of 2008, so sayeth the Forbes.

Meanwhile, another high-powered Sacramento lobbyist, Rob Stutzman, says he's an eyelash away from having the 11,000 signatures from Anaheim residents needed to force a citywide vote on the $75 million bond measure the City Council earlier approved to lure the Kings. Wouldn't it be funny if Anaheim voters were ultimately as reluctant to approve Honda Center improvements as Sacramento voters have been in approving new digs for the Kings--which is what led the Maloof brothers to look south in the first place?

I don't mean funny "ha-ha."

Finally, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is meeting with NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday to seek further delay of a league decision on moving the Maloofs' franchise to Anaheim. The former NBA point guard is also getting an assist from Sacramento-area lawmakers convinced they can pass legislation to muck up a move.

Those looking at the half-empty or half-full glass of tea leaves up north claim all these powerful forces will combine to delay a move to Anaheim until at least after the next NBA season. 'Cause if there's one thing they have perfected in Sacramento, it's feet dragging.

UPDATE, APRIL 15, 2:04 P.M.: After hearing pitches for and against a Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim, the NBA Board of Governors extended the deadline for the Maloof brothers to file for relocation from April 18 to May 2.

The extra time is intended to allow the board to hear more about proposals from Kings ownership as well as other groups trying to keep the NBA franchise in California's capital city.

League Commissioner David Stern, via an Orange County Register report, says the board needs to check out "revelations" made by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is fighting to keep the team where it is.

While praising the Anaheim proposal, Stern also mentioned that details involving TV revenue, the appropriate relocation fee and raised revenue projects in the Honda Center need further investigation by the board.

The commish, who reiterated the outdated Arco Arena is the main stumbling block for supporters of keeping the team in Sacramento, said the deadline extension was sought by parties on all sides.

Still waiting for closure.

UPDATE, APRIL 14, 10:52 A.M.: Ownership of the Sacramento Kings is making its pitch to move the franchise to Anaheim to the NBA Board of Governors today.

Joe and Gavin Maloof, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, Anaheim City Manager Tom Wood and Honda Center manager and Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli are among the officials in New York pushing for the new Anaheim Royals.

Plenty of those who oppose the move will also address the NBA overlords, however.

Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who all oppose the move, were also at the hearing, reports the Los Angeles Times, which claims opposition could delay NBA regular season basketball in Anaheim by several months.

A majority of NBA governors must approve the relocation. The Kings have until Monday to formally notify the league that they are leaving Sacramento.

Meanwhile, a remark made Tuesday night by TNT analyst and former Kings star Chris Webber about buying the team and keeping it in Sacramento is being roundly written off as pie-in-the-sky thinking, although C-Webb did nab an on-air $10-million commitment from Sir Charles Barkley.

UPDATE, APRIL 6, 11:46 A.M.:

State Senate speaker

Darrell Steinberg

(D-Sacramento), a career politician who played rookie ball on Cowtown's City Council, has introduced legislation aimed at stopping the NBA's Kings from moving to Anaheim.

And, to hear Orange County legislators whose districts include parts of Anaheim tell it, Steinberg's ploy could work.

"Darrell's looking to blow up the deal through legislation. And he just might do that," state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) tells the Orange County Register. "I believe (the bill) will have some chilling effects on the transaction."

Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) warned Steinberg has "a lot of clout" in Sacramento. "I can't see him getting a lot of support," Norby reportedly said, "but you never know."

Steinberg vowed to introduce a bill during his weekly appearance on Sacramento radio station KFBK. The legislation would effectively prevent professional sports teams in one California city from moving to another California city until debts are repaid to the first city.

"We are one state,'' Steinberg said. "We shouldn't have one city picking off another.''

Sacramento city leaders claim the Kings owners, the Maloof brothers, still owe $77 million. The Kings counter they have a repayment plan in place with the city and have missed no payments.

In other relocation racket, a Sacramento political-action committee's petition drive in Anaheim aimed at stalling a move (see post below) will not work, according to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. In attempt to appeal to Anaheimers' fiscally conservative sides, the PAC is trying to convince them to force a citywide vote on the City Council-approved $75 million in bond funding to lure the Kings to the Honda Center.

But, in an email exchange with the Register's Eric Carpenter, Tait writes, "We've been very clear from the beginning that any NBA deal would be privately funded. Our actions as a city council last week assured that protection to our taxpayers."

Too bad the council didn't include protection from Steinberg.

UPDATE, APRIL 5, 10:13 A.M.:

Foes of what appears to be the Sacramento Kings' impending move to Anaheim are doing the political equivalent of a final second heave at the basket from half court:

A petition drive in Toontown.

The Committee to Save the Kings--a political-action committee composed of Sacramento lawyers, former politicians and prominent fans--has sent signature gatherers into Anaheim neighborhoods in hopes of forcing a citywide vote on the $75 million bond the Anaheim City Council unanimously approved last week to further help lure the NBA franchise. "We are out to make sure our team stays here," Sacramento political strategist Rob Stutzman, who was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's communications director, tells the Orange County Register's Eric Carpenter. "We think there are real questions about why a public-finance authority is part of this deal at all, and we believe it's something that should be decided by the voters of Anaheim."

One wonders if Stutzman, who says he's been a Kings fan since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985, would be circulating petitions in Cowtown if his city council approved $75 million in bonds to keep the team.

Speaking of a similar chunk of change, Kings ownership has rejected the city of Sacramento's demand for written assurance the team will immediately pay its $77 million city loan if it leaves town.

The Sacramento Bee cites a letter to the city from the Kings' attorney Scott Zolke, who states the team will contact the city "at the appropriate time ... to establish a process for addressing the proposed timing and details of repayment" of the loan.

Hey, he forgot to add "if we even move at all." Hmmm . . .

UPDATE, MARCH 30, 8:22 A.M.: The Anaheim City Council last night unanimously approved the $75 million bond-lease deal to put the NBA's Kings in the Honda Center.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento City Council has moved beyond grief to the anger stage: Cap city leaders last nght discussed possible litigation against the Maloof brothers to keep the Kings.

Speaking of anger, check out this email yours truly received from a Mr. Spencer Hall . . .  

How many times has Orange County filed for Bankruptcy?

You should answer that question publicly before you call Sacramento, your own CAPITAL, a 'cowtown'; you little insidious creep. You are a disgrace to journalism and an embarrassment for the second rate publishing company that has the unfortunate title of being the parent to this worthless site. I hope your tap water comes from the LA river and your food, well...

Thanks, Spence. I'll make that an LA River Roadkill Royale with Cheese in honor of our new NBA team.

UPDATE, MARCH 29, 9:42 A.M.: As Anaheim City Council members headed into tonight's special meeting to consider a $75 million bond-lease deal to put the NBA's Kings in the Honda Center, they were lobbied hard against the deal by Sacramento fans and, especially, Cowtown's assistant city manager.

John Danberg's message (essentially): Don't trust the Maloof brothers because the Kings' owners are deadbeats.

The Maloofs' comeback (essentially) Shut your piehole, Danberg!  
Danberg claims in the letter a Kings move will cause the franchise to default on $77 million in loan payments owed to Sacramento. For that reason, he urged Anaheim leaders to stop negotiating with the team lest the Orange County city find itself in the same predicament. Sacramento is also seeking state legislation to stop the Kings' talks with Anaheim until the loan issue is resolved.

Calling Danberg's missive "an awful letter," Kings co-owner George Maloof warned Sacramento against "interfering with our business," saying the owners take their business "very seriously."

He added the Kings have not missed a payment to Sacramento, telling the Sacramento Bee, "We have no intention of leaving that town without paying our debt. For someone to imply that we are not going to pay our debts, it's wrong, it's ridiculous."

The deal the Anaheim council is looking at tonight calls for $50 million in bonds to be used for relocation costs and $25 million to renovate the Honda Center. The city claims taxpayer funds will not be put at risk, as increased Honda Center revenues will pay back the bonds.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking at a deal of their own--and not liking what they are seeing. ESPN.com reports the team's recent $3 billion, 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable loses value if the Kings move to Anaheim. Estimates put that loss at 10 percent, although it should also be noted the Lakers and Time Warner deny the deal's pricetag was $3 billion.

PDATE, MARCH 24, 11:18 A.M.:

"It feels like a slow death," Sacramento Mayor

Kevin Johnson


his latest blog post


He goes on to thank the fans and groups fighting to keep the Kings, saying his heart is with him. But his head "wants this painful drama to end."

KJ is obviously ready to move on and, with a town committed to pro sports, prove to the NBA it deserves another franchise.

Tom the Royal

UPDATE, FEB. 25, 3:39 P.M.: Although Phil Jackson is the only one to go public with his opposition to the Sacramento Kings moving to Anaheim (scroll down to last post), there has been a lot of talk about the Los Angeles Lakers franchise working behind-the-scenes to stop a SoCal relocation to protect the market share Showtime shares with Blake Griffin's J.V. squad.

But at least one NBA observer argues the Kings darkening the Honda Center is good for the Lakers and the Clippers.

Take it away, Dexter Fishmore, the Lakers blogger for SB Nation Los Angeles:

The move, if it happens, will make Southern California the unquestioned hoops capitol of the world. Anchored by the Lakers, the league's flagship brand, a full 10 percent of the NBA would have a SoCal address. Locals would relish seeing some of the most electric young talent in the game--Blake Griffin, Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins--grow up in close proximity. In a few seasons, after the Clippers' and Kings' youngsters have had time to develop and coalesce, three of the eight teams in the Western Conference playoffs could hail from these parts. And think of the buzz and energy if two of the three are ever contenders at the same time. Think back to the Lakers' and Kings' legendary conference finals series in 2002, and imagine what that would've been like if the teams were just down the road from one another. Throw in an A-list college program at UCLA and vibrant prep and pick-up scenes, and SoCal's gravitational pull on the basketball world would be unmatched.

Lamar Odom feels the loves at the Honda Center in Anaheim while playing against the Jazz last October.
Lamar Odom feels the loves at the Honda Center in Anaheim while playing against the Jazz last October.
Photo by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly


[H]aving the Kings in the neighborhood could actually benefit both the Lakers and Clips by converting two road games a year into de facto home games. Instead of flying up to Sacramento twice per season, they'd need only cruise down the I-5 to Anaheim. And when they arrived, they'd find a much friendlier crowd than they would at ARCO. This holds especially true for the Lakers, who dominate the mindshare of local basketball fans. Until the Kings earn the affections of an organically grown, Orange County fanbase--a process that will take years, if not decades--the Lakers will feel at home and much-loved when they visit the Honda Center.

Considering how long it would take the Anaheim Kings to reach contender status, the Lakers would continue to be loved in Orange County for years to come.

As Fishmore puts it, "People don't forego buying Chateau Lafite just because Ralphs has a special on Heineken 12-packs."

UPDATE, FEB. 24, 11:47 A.M.:

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson confirmed to local reporters that buzz about the town's Kings NBA team possibly moving to Anaheim "are more than rumors."

League Commissioner David Stern informed Johnson before the All-Star break that the Sacramento franchise's owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, are in serious negotiations with Anaheim officials to come south. Not that there is anything former NBA point guard Johnson can do about it. "As a city, we can only control what we can control," he told reporters.

"KJ" makes a splash.

So, what's Johnson's answer to keeping the Kings in Sacto? Buy home-game tickets, merchandise and anything else to support one of the league's worst teams.

Oh, and everyone get behind a new arena fit for the Kings.

"Sacramento used to have the best fans in the NBA," says Johnson, who hails from the city's predominantly African-American Oak Park community and went on to star at Cal and, after one brief season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Phoenix Suns.

"David Stern has said repeatedly he loves the Sacramento market," observed Johnson, who added the NBA's chief executive identified the franchise's current problem being "a half dozen failed attempts" over the past 10 to 12 years to build the Kings a new arena.

Other small markets are also dealing with this, as owners staring into a possible player lockout see more revenues generated from state-of-the-art facilities as a way to remain economically viable, Johnson explained.

He said the Maloofs would be looking at Sacramento differently if the city had a new arena in place that was named after a generous corporate sponsor.

You know, like Anaheim's Honda Center.

To keep the NBA in town, the Sacramento community must share that new arena vision. Unfortunately, the Maloofs are running out of time. If they choose to have their team play somewhere other than Sacramento next season, they must inform the NBA by March 1--although there are reports this morning the bros may seek a relocation extension through the end of the season.

Nice shorts

"They are business people, and they have to make a decision on what is best for their business," Johnson said. "Hopefully, staying in Sacramento will make the most sense."  

Count Phil Jackson among those who seconds that emotion.

"I think we'd like to see them stay there," said the Lakers coach who was famously serenaded with cow bells by fans at Arco Arena after he complained Sacramento is a "cow town."

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Jackson conceded Los Angeles is not a "saturated town" because it still lacks a pro football team, but he said three NBA teams in Southern California would be "a little bit overdoing it."

Many NBA observers believe the owners of the Lakers and LA Clippers are working behind-the-scenes to stop a Kings move to Anaheim out of fears an Orange County team would slice into their financial pie.

Both LA teams would get a small share of a relocation fee paid by the Kings' owners, but it wouldn't be as financially sound as maintaining an absolute grip on sales of pro basketball tickets and merchandise in the region, the Times reports.

ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 21, 8:57 A.M.:

It did not overshadow the Los Angeles Clippers' phenom Blake Griffin winning the slam-dunk contest by jumping over a car or LA Lakers superstar

Kobe Bryant

winning the All-Star game MVP award for a record-tying fourth time, but hot NBA news out of the Staples Center this past weekend did concern Orange County.

Commissioner David Stern confirmed rumors that the owners of the Sacramento Kings are in serious discussions to bring the team to Anaheim.

"I do know because I read in the newspapers that they are supposed to have had discussions with Orange County, and they have," Stern told the Sacramento Bee. "I don't know whether they are ongoing. No one has told me that they have been tabled, and no one has told me that they are ongoing."

Stern added he is "not driving it or making any recommendations, and we'll see how that goes."

Kings' co-owner Joe Maloof has only confirmed on the record that the team is talking to other cities while Sacramento Mayor (and former NBA point guard) Kevin Johnson and business leaders try to keep the Kings in Cow Town. Voters there have repeatedly killed efforts to build the team a desired new arena.

Officials at the Honda Center are not squawking, but the professional-sports franchise whose owner also owns the building has expressed a desire to have the NHL's Anaheim Ducks share the space with an NBA team.

Such a move would give Southern California three NBA teams (yet still no pro-football franchise).


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