Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski breaks so much NBA news that he’s become basically the only national basketball writer everybody absolutely needs to pay attention to. Wednesday, Woj blew up Twitter with the claim that the beleaguered and much maligned Maloof family was about to sell the Sacramento Kings to a group of investors from Seattle who had the intention of returning the NBA to the Emerald City.
Various Twitter discussions and arguments broke out following this announcement. Everything got spun up just a little more when claims began to surface that the Maloofs had denied the $500 million offer that had been made on their team.
As of right now, nothing has been finalized. The Kings are in Sacramento, and Seattle is without an NBA team. But anybody who has paid attention to Wojnarowski knows that he is very rarely wrong. Chances are, this kind of mammoth scoop will not be his first misstep. Here’s his story on the whole deal.
The Kings have been in various degrees of turmoil, both on and off the court, for a number of years. Still, Sacramento has a strong tradition and a loyal fan base, seeing a small market team sunk by bad ownership then shipped away is never fun. The twist, of course, is that what is in the process of happening to Sacramento happened not too long ago to Seattle.
The SuperSonics made the NBA Finals in 1996, and won at least 57 games in the three seasons between 1995 and 1998. The Sonics were Northwest Division Champions as recently as the 2004-05 season. But then in July 2006 Starbucks’ CEO and head of the Basketball Club of Seattle sold the beloved Sonics to Clay Bennett and a group based out of Oklahoma City. By 2008, the Sonics were no more. Seattle fans, many of whom had been following the team since its inception in 1967, could do nothing but watch as the Oklahoma City Thunder grew into one of the strongest teams in the NBA.
Well, they could do more than nothing, I guess. There’s the film Sonicsgate that focuses on some of the more shady elements of the deal that first gave the team to Bennett and then moved the team to OKC. Acclaimed author, poet, and Sonics fan Sherman Alexie testified on behalf of his favorite team before a federal judge. Save Our Sonics night became a thing at the Rose Garden in Portland and the Key Arena in Seattle. If the Maloof deal goes through, it seems that all their pleading was not in vain.
But just as the Sonics are doing to the Kings what was done to them, so too will Kings fans do what Sonics fans have been doing for years now. Here We Stay has been a thing in Sacramento for awhile, and they aren’t going away just because it looks like their grassroots movement didn’t accomplish what they hoped it would. In fact, Here We Stay has launched a petition to keep the Kings in Sacramento with a local owner and add an expansion team in Seattle. The petition is here for anybody who wishes to sign it.
I certainly can understand the heartbreak Kings’ fans are feeling right now. Back in the early 2000s, the Blazers were in a tailspin, they’d burned through a number of players who had collectively worn out their welcome, the team was losing, and nobody was showing up for games. Paul Allen’s Oregon Arena Corporation filed bankruptcy and it seemed very possible that the Blazers would be be no more.
Public support for the Blazers was impressive following the bankruptcy filing, similar to the outpouring of support in both Seattle, and Sacramento, and David Stern himself made it known that he would do everything in his power to keep the Blazers in Portland.
Maybe the market wasn’t right, maybe Paul Allen had a change of heart or was really playing a high stakes game of chicken as The Oregonian claimed he was doing, or possibly the effort made by his front office to bring in talented character guys like Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge convinced him his team could win (and make money) again. Whatever the case may be, the Blazers stayed and for better or for worse continue to thrive.
There’s no real moral of the story here. Sacramento fans will feel slighted if their team leaves; Seattle fans will be elated to get the Sonics back (which is what will happen, they won’t be the Seattle Kings). The plight of the small market will remain until every team in the NBA is relocated to either New York and Los Angeles (with a couple teams in Chicago and a couple teams spread evenly through the major metro areas of Texas).
What Portland fans can take away from all of this is that in 2013-14 it will likely be much easier to travel to at least two away games, and an important Northwest rivalry has been renewed. That, and it really helps in a small market that is subject to the highs and lows of winning and can’t recruit big-time, game-changing free agents to have an owner who literally has endless funds.
If Paul Allen was in the same financial situation in 2004 as the Maloofs are in today (regardless of the bankruptcy filing Allen had PLENTY of money then and has PLENTY of money now) he would have certainly sold off his team.
The NBA is first last and always a business. Basketball is important, it’s the product after all, but like it or not, business comes before all else in this league.