[UPDATED with Cow Town Checkmating Toontown?:] Sacramento Kings in Serious Talks to Move to Anaheim
UPDATE, MARCH 4, 3:31 P.M.: Two ESPN-LA bloggers take pro and con sides in arguments about the Sacramento Kings relocating in Anaheim.
On the pro side, Arash Markazi claims the Kings' owners, the Maloof brothers, would "succeed as the anti-Donald Sterling." (He's the mocked Clippers owner at right next to Blake Griffin.)
On the con side, Ramona Shelburne argues the timing could not be worse for a Kings move to Orange County.
Markazi begins by ridiculing the idea that there would be three teams playing in the same market, arguing Anaheim is as different from Los Angeles as Santa Monica is from Santa Ana. The Kings will likely come here intent on building a winning program from scratch.
Forget how bad the Sacramento Kings are at the moment. There is a reason attendance at their games has been terrible and the team is looking to move out of their aging arena. They would essentially be like an expansion team had moved to Orange County. My guess is they would rebrand the team and create a new image to make them feel more like Anaheim's team and not a relocated team.
Starting from scratch is nothing new for the franchise that began as the Royals in Rochester and Cincinnati before becoming the Kings of Kansas City, then Sacramento.
Anaheim would no doubt embrace their new NBA team and its owners, the Maloofs, who would serve as the anti-Donald Sterling when it comes to interacting with fans and players and making the team an integral part of the community. Chances are, with the Maloofs in charge and the support of NBA fans in Orange County, we're more likely to see a Freeway Series in the NBA playoffs than a Hallway Series.
Playoff basketball in the Honda Center? Pinch me!
Of course, every NBA party has a pooper--in this case, Shelburne. She also has the Clippers on her mind--as the team that should have moved to Anaheim long ago. Her villain? Who else?
[B]ecause Clippers owner Donald Sterling didn't want to fight traffic from his Malibu home to Orange County 41 nights a season, or pull a Kobe and take a helicopter, what should've happened never did. Which is how we've arrived at this awkward moment with the Sacramento Kings, where two struggling owners seem determined to take the richest lifeboat available to them regardless of whether the market can bear them or will embrace them.
She is not one of those naysayers who does not believe the Southern California market can support three teams. ("It can.") She is one of those naysayers who believes the timing for a Kings-sized move could not be worse given the poor economy, the looming player lockout, and the promise young players on the Clips and Kings have demonstrated this season. Toss in the Lakers' deep market penetration in Orange County, and . . . well . . .
If the Kings were a successful franchise, things might be different. But like Donald Sterling, this town has no interest in fighting traffic 41 nights a season to watch a losing team.
Read the full pro and con here.
UPDATE, MARCH 4, 12:05 P.M.: A day after meeting with the Maloof brothers who own the Sacramento Kings, Mayor Kevin Johnson announced, "It's more likely they're going to be in Anaheim."
Prepare a nice locker for Tyreke Evans, Honda Center.
Reports CBS Sports:
Johnson reportedly met with the Maloofs Wednesday, but the co-owners aren't keeping Johnson in the loop much. So with Johnson getting that sense despite being held out of a lot of information means that Johnson almost seems to be throwing in the towel.
UPDATE, MARCH 3, 1:12 P.M.: The ultimate decision on whether the Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim will be made behind closed (Maloof) doors. But that fact is not stopping very public lobbying campaigns being waged on Facebook.
But if "like" numbers are any indication, Orange County fans of a move have got to represent. As of earlier this morning, the Anaheim Kings page had collected only five Facebook "likes" and mostly negative comments such as "KINGS WONT MOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!! HERE WE STAY!!!!!!!!!!!" and "SACRAMENTO IS NOT GOING OUT LIKE NO PUNK COME ON NOW U KNOW U DONT EVEN LIKE THE KINGS TAKE THE CLIPPERS."
Anaheim Kings: Here We Come only has two Facebook likes, but much more activity than its colleague in, as Charlie Sheen would say, "bringing it."
Among the pro-move posts on the latter site: "The world will finally be able to see the talents of Tyreke Evans in Anaheim!"
Like Facebook pages elsewhere wooing the Kings, Anaheim Kings: Here We Come also has a bastardized logo of the existing Sacramento Kings logo, making one wonder if some faceless illustrator out there has royalty checks coming.
What neither Anaheim page has is the Facebook support generated by similar online campaigns in Kentucky. The Kentucky Kings Facebook has 922 likes, Louisville Kings has a whopping 7,374, and Bring the NBA to Louisville, which is dedicated to bringing any franchise to the city (including the one currently in New Orleans), has 1,610 likes.
Brent Lady, a blogger for CBS Sports in Louisville, believes he has the answer why: "Kentucky has a demand for basketball. It is a basketball state. The enthusiasm about Kentucky and Louisville basketball and the team spirit are at high levels. If every game is sold out, why wouldn't they be able to sell tickets to NBA games? There are also fans in Louisville because there are three local favorites on the [Kings] team, Francisco Garcia (played at Louisville), DeMarcus Cousins (played for Kentucky) and Tyreke Evans (played for Memphis)."
(One city that apparently isn't getting in on the action, as reported by our sister paper The Pitch Weekly, is Kansas City, where the Kings franchise once played. Ah, the days of Nate "Tiny" Archibald.)
Based on its 5,168 Facebook likes and proven ability to get butts in seats, Sac Deflated, which is dedicated to keeping the team, is no slouch. That site also has going for it professional (and pro bono) support from a Sacramento-based marketing company.
Sac Deflated recently put up billboards that say, "Game Over," with a deflated basketball representing the "O" and, below that, "If the Kings leave, we all lose." The billboard/Facebook campaign has been credited with helping sell out Arco Arena for Monday night's Kings game versus the Los Angeles Clippers, reinvigorating a losing Sacramento franchise that won the game 105-99.
Team co-owner Joe Maloof, who was sitting courtside that night, told a Sacramento TV reporter, "It's an honor to see this place finally filled up again." But, as reported in The New York Times:
When the interviewer asked, "It's not too late, right?" Maloof looked around awkwardly with a pained expression and said nothing for several seconds. Finally, an off-camera handler for Mr. Maloof thanked the reporter and abruptly ended the interview.