Earlier in the week, I wrote an article about the rumors swirling around the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Thrashers over the possibility of the teams relocating. Today, the rumors around the Sacramento Kings grew significantly more serious. NBA officials have confirmed that the Kings have requested an extension to the rapidly approaching March 1st filing deadline to give notice of their intention to relocate for the next season. NBA officials have not yet confirmed if they will grant this extension, purportedly requested to give the franchise more time to consider their options, but this development is clearly the strongest indicator that we’ve seen so far regarding the intentions of the Kings. This is no longer a rumor. The Kings clearly want out of Sacramento. This is no mere bargaining ploy.
The way the news got out seems to highlight the fissure that has grown between the Maloof family, the current owners of the Kings, and the Sacramento municipal government. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a 12-year veteran of the NBA, reportedly claimed that he heard about the Kings request from the media, and not from the team ownership. Johnson was quick to express his dismay at the situation, as well as his determination to fight any relocation by the Kings. Sacramento area residents have already been fighting the potential move, organizing a $150,000 campaign to raise awareness of the downsides of a Kings move, including putting up billboards against the proposal.
If the NBA agrees to extend the notice deadline for the Kings, they will have until the April 14-15 meeting of the league’s Board of Governors in New York City to weigh their options. If they do decide to move to Anaheim, where they would play in the Honda Center (already the home of the NHL’s Anaheim Kings), they would still need to receive the approval of the Board of Governors before they can officially move. This could very well be an uphill battle for the Kings, as the Lakers have already expressed their opposition to a third NBA team being added to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Additionally, the Board of Governors has the right to attach a relocation fee if they so desire, meaning that they could easily make any potential move to Anaheim cost-prohibitive for the Kings.
All of this gives clear reason why the Kings would want an extension to the March 1st deadline… they want more time to drum up support among the rest of the NBA before they proceed. The Kings organization is undoubtedly calling other NBA teams around the clock trying to gain support for the move (and likely opposition to a prohibitive relocation fee) while the NBA is considering the extension request. If the Kings find significant opposition to a potential move to Anaheim however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Kings would be content to stay in Sacramento. Other cities have been identified in the media as having been in communication with the Kings, including Las Vegas, San Jose, and Louisville, Kentucky. Of these, Las Vegas would seem to be the least likely potential home for the Kings, despite the Maloof family having interests in the city, as they don’t have an NBA-caliber arena. The other two cities, on the other hand, have facilities readily available for an NBA team. In San Jose, the Kings could share the HP Pavilion with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. In Louisville, the Kings would have two options; sharing the massive, state-of-the art KFC Yum! Center (potentially a contender with the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale as the worst named sports facility in North America) with the University of Louisville’s basketball teams or playing in the older, but completely open, Freedom Hall.
Regardless, expect this story to change very, very quickly. March 1st is just around the corner, so will have to hear about the decision on whether or not to grant an extension in the next couple of days. Sadly for Sacramento basketball fans, all of this should seemingly indicate that the odds are against the Kings staying in the California state capital for much longer. It seems very unlikely that the team would be so willing to obviously antagonize their home city if there was any doubt in their mind that they could stay put.