If you were around Charlotte when the Hornets left for New Orleans, then these recent events involving the Sacramento Kings are an exercise in déjà vu.
A relatively small major-league market has a love affair with its NBA team. But the arena that team plays in is outdated as far as providing revenue sources. The city is reluctant to pay for a new arena, and negotiations between the city and the team owners undermine a sense of trust
While the NBA isnt particularly enamored with the team owners, it feels obligated to side with them. So the end game is moving the team to another city looking to replace the NBA team it once lost.
Substitute the Maloof brothers for George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge and Seattle for the Big Easy, and youve summed up the parallels.
The Maloof family owners of the Kings are reportedly discussing a deal to sell the franchise for $500 million. That deal would also move the Kings to Seattle, effectively replacing the Sonics, who became the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The only real difference between the Hornets departure and whats happening with the Kings is the NBA immediately investigated putting another expansion team in Charlotte. Frankly, I dont know that Sacramento, the capital of California, will ever get another major-league team.
Thats a shame because Sacramento fans were great in support of the Kings, and not just when the Chris Webber-Vlade Divac teams were chasing a title. The fan base came to be known as Cow-bell Nation, for the noisemaker of choice. The place rocked for the longest time.
The biggest thing I learned while covering the Hornets departure was this: Owners love to say these teams belong to the town and the fans. Its effective marketing because you want these teams to be perceived as public resources.
Theyre not theyre private property, and when theres someplace else these teams can make more money, theyll move. Once Seattle agreed to pony up for a new arena, the Maloofs had the escape route they desired.
Assuming that $500 million price tag is legitimate, the Kings would reset the bar for NBA team sales. Theres a reason the Maloofs would be paid a premium: Its called portability this team can move. There would be relocation costs, but none so daunting they would keep a deal from closing.
That doesnt happen every day. Usually when an NBA team is for sale, theres some arena lease or other mechanism tying it to its current market. Or theres an owner expecting assurances the team hes selling wont desert the city where he lives.
This is different: The Maloofs are Las Vegas guys and they want/need to cash out. While theres a lot at stake for Sacramento, it might already be too late for that city to hang on to its only major-league team.
Five passing thoughts on the Bobcats and the NBA:
• It sounds like the parting of the Milwaukee Bucks and coach Scott Skiles last week was at least as much Skiles dumping the Bucks as the Bucks dumping Skiles. Skiles was coming to the end of his contract and it was clear he didnt like the team he was coaching. Last time I was in Milwaukee, Skiles sounded exasperated. Then again, when has Skiles in his 13th season as a head coach not seemed exasperated?
• That massive contract the Bobcats once awarded Emeka Okafor finally ends next season. He was dealt twice, first to the Hornets and then to the Washington Wizards. Look for the Wizards to deal that expiring contract for a young player after this season. Teams looking to avoid the more punitive luxury tax in this collective bargaining agreement will find Okafors $14.5 million salary slot attractive.
• Ex-Bobcats guard Shaun Livingston, who went to the Bucks in the Stephen Jackson deal, continues to bounce around the league. After the Wizards cut him, the Cleveland Cavaliers claimed him off waivers. Livingston almost immediately got into Clevelands rotation; hes a good complement to Kyrie Irving. I hope Livingston establishes himself there, because hes a total pro.
• Theres a side of me dying to know exactly what Bostons Kevin Garnett said to New Yorks Carmelo Anthony to cause Anthony to go stalking after him later. And then I think whatever KG said must have been pretty disgusting and personal, so maybe no one should hear it.
• Final thought on Garnett: All these years later, shouldnt everyone in the NBA know hes a chronic agitator? Just ignore him or laugh at the game hes trying to play with your head.