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.
[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.
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.
“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).