The Kings leaving Sacramento? It could happen.
February 21, 2011

When the NBA's Kansas City Kings relocated to Sacramento in 1985, then- Sacramento Bee columnist Joe Hamelin jokingly wrote that the team's stay in California's capital city would be temporary, because the franchise had progressively moved west. It began as the Rochester Royals in 1948, then moved to Cincinnati, Kansas City with several games in Omaha, then just Kansas City, and then to Sacramento. Hamelin facetiously figured that the team would move to Honolulu, and ultimately to Guam.

But while there will be no move to Hawaii, exploratory talks have happened with officials in Anaheim. While a move would mean three teams in the Los Angeles area, arena officials at the Honda Center would be thrilled to have a basketball team in their building to complement their hockey franchise--the Anaheim Ducks. Owners of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers could vote against any relocation to Orange County, but any move would only need majority approval.

Why would the Kings leave Sacramento? Ownership has been trying to get a new arena built for a decade. Of course they want a new state-of-the-art facility built with at least some public funds during a time of recession and economic dormancy. A proposal to build an arena on the state fairgrounds fell apart last year, but Sacramento's mayor Kevin Johnson is a former NBA player, and the city is now focusing on a study to build an arena downtown.

In my opinion, Arco Arena--the current facility--is just fine, although I am clearly in the minority. It houses over 17-thousand for basketball, and has more than two dozen luxury boxes (that to my knowledge are not sold out), but owners claim they need a new facility to compete for the corporate dollar, and league commissioner David Stern has agreed.

This weekend, during the NBA's All-Star festivities in Los Angeles, Stern confirmed that Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof have talked with officials from Anaheim. Stern claimed to not have any knowledge of the status of the talks, and neither of the Maloofs, nor anyone from Anaheim, is commenting.

If the Maloofs want to relocate in time for next season, they have until March 1 to file with the league. However, it has also been reported they could get an extension.

Anaheim doesn't seem like the best fit for a new team, but there are other alternatives. The Maloofs own the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, and that city's mayor has campaigned for an NBA franchise for years. A growing population base is a plus, but gambling is certainly a minus. Both Anaheim and Las Vegas have slight NBA histories--the LA Clippers played some regular season games in Orange County in the 1990s, and the Utah Jazz played some "home" games in Nevada in the eighties (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke Wilt Chamberlain's all-time points record in Las Vegas). Other candidates mentioned by Stern include Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and ironically Kansas City. Seattle, which lost their team to Oklahoma City over arena issues in 2008, would be another possibility if that city can get a new building.

The Sacramento Kings are a big chapter in my life. When the team arrived in 1985, I was in college in Chico, and got a job as the statistician to radio broadcasters Gary Gerould and Dave Grosby. The two of them, along with Grosby's successor Tim Roye, were the main influence in me choosing broadcasting as a career (over 25 years later, I still don't know if that was a good choice, but that's not their fault). I spent 11 seasons on the sidelines there. It would certainly be a sad moment for me if the Kings left.

My guess is, the Maloofs may not file for relocation next season, but if no arena progress is made, Anaheim, Vegas, or maybe even Guam could become a player in 2012.