[UPDATED with Cow Town Checkmating Toontown?:] Sacramento Kings in Serious Talks to Move to Anaheim
UPDATE, MARCH 1, 12:41 P.M.: The NBA has granted the Maloof brothers' request to extend the deadline from today (March 1) to April 18 to apply to relocate their Sacramento Kings franchise to Anaheim next season.
Reacting to that news at a press conference, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson mentioned that he told Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait last week that he's "rooting against him" and wishing the Orange County city "ill will."
So much for diplomacy.
"I'm wishing them ill will, let me be clear," Johnson told the gathered ink- and virtual-ink-stained wretches. "We're wishing them ill will. I told that to the Anaheim mayor in a delicate way last week. I am rooting against him."
The former NBA point guard said he plans to meet this week with the Kings' majority owners--Joe, Gavin and George Maloof--and to speak again with league Commissioner David Stern.
But Johnson could have rubbed elbows with the Maloofs last night; they and the mayor attended the Kings-Clippers game at Arco Arena. "Save the Kings" social networking was credited with selling out the venue, and Sacramento responded with an emotional 105-99 victory. Fans made signs, wore body paint and chanted, "Here we stay" at the Maloofs sitting courtside.
Despite such shows of support, Johnson conceded it will be difficult to keep the Kings because Anaheim is pushing very hard, and unless the Maloofs are presented an unacceptable deal, Da Mayor suspects they'll depart for SoCal. But Johnson vowed Sacramento will continue with plans to construct a new arena--with or without the Kings.
The league announced the relocation deadline extension will allow the Kings ownership to "discuss its options" with the NBA Board of Governors on April 14 and 15.
Sliding the Kings into the Honda Center will require a majority vote of approval from the 30 NBA owners--followed by heavy relocation fees paid to the team's Western Conference rivals, the Clippers and Lakers of Los Angeles.
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.
|Photo by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly|
|Lamar Odom feels the loves at the Honda Center in Anaheim while playing against the Jazz last October.|
[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."