Posts Tagged ‘basketball’

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I’m unfortunately still without a computer, so I can’t really go into too much depth on this. However, as it involves the Sacramento Kings, I figured that I should include mention of it here.

The Maloof family, owners of the Kings, have filed for several trademarks in the event of relocation to Anaheim. As expected, if they moved to Southern California, the Kings seem intent on changing the name of the franchise so as to not run into potential difficulties with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. As per a report by ESPN, the Maloofs are looking into their pre-Kansas City past to return to their original name, the Royals.

More information on this development can be found here: http://es.pn/hhsp5q

Hopefully I’ll be able to go into a greater level of detail in the near future.

For my previous entries on the Sacramento Kings, please visit HERE.

The past several days have been hectic ones for Sacramento sports fans.  News broke last week during the NBA All-Star festivities that the owners of the Kings, the Maloof family, were in close negotiations with the city of Anaheim over the potential to relocate there as early as next season.  Then, a few days ago, the Kings officially filed for an extension with the NBA to explore their options to move next season.  Under the old deadline, any NBA team that was considering relocation for next season would have to give notice of said fact by today, March 1st, in order to move ahead with any plans to move.  In response to the apparently accelerated timetable for possibly losing their team, Kings fans throughout Sacramento showed their support of their beloved franchise and their dismay over potentially losing it by posting billboards, begging that the team stay in the California state capital, and cheering their team at the top of their lungs at subsequent home games.

But it may be all for naught, as the NBA (unsurprisingly) agreed to grant the Kings an extension to the deadline, meaning that the Maloof family now has until the April 14-15 meeting of the NBA board of governors in New York City to officially file for relocation for next season.  During that time, Kings management will undoubtedly be on the phone nonstop trying to drum up support among other team owners to vote in favor of moving the team, something that the Lakers and the Clippers have already expressed their strong opposition against if they try to set up shop in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.  Depending on how this lobbying goes, there are three options for the Kings.  They can either:

  1. Gain enough support among NBA owners to allow relocation to Anaheim,
  2. Lacking support to move to the L.A. area, still gain support to relocate elsewhere, or
  3. Find little to no support for relocation, and thus stay in Sacramento for the next season.

While recent news has been surrounding the franchise’s apparent intentions to move to Anaheim, where they’d play alongside the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL, pressure from the Lakers and the Clippers might very well be strong enough to prevent a majority of the Board of Governors allowing a third team being added to the L.A. area.  Should that happen, and if the Maloofs are convinced that they cannot stay in their current home in Sacramento, they would likely face less of a fight if they instead decided to relocate to another location.  As they’ve already held conversations with San Jose, Louisville, Las Vegas, and Kansas City (which would be the ultimate irony, considering that the Kings abandoned Kansas City for Sacramento a quarter century ago), as well as several other cities that I’d consider bigger long shots than those four options, thiscould very easily be a consolation prize to the Kings ownership if they absolutely want to move by next season and don’t gain support for their apparent top choice of Anaheim.

Regardless, options 1 and 2 seem to be the most likely to occur, sad as it may be for Sacramento fans.  And, as we’ve seen from recent experience, the NBA seems to be willing to drop the hammer on traditional NBA markets with outdated arenas in favor of new locations with more modern facilities available.  The Seattle SuperSonics were stunningly relocated to Oklahoma City of all places a few short years ago as a result of team and league displeasure with the outdated KeyArena versus the modern Oklahoma City Arena.  History could very well repeat itself, this time with the Kings and the NBA abandoning Sacramento because of the outdated Power Balance Pavilion (known as the ARCO Arena prior to today) in favor of Anaheim’s Honda Center, San Jose’s HP Pavilion, Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center (the more I see it, the more I honestly hate that name…), Kansas City’s Sprint Center, or a few other possibilities.  The ultimate slap in the face would be if the Kings decided to move to Las Vegas, which doesn’t even have an NBA-caliber arena, but still remains a backup possibility given the Maloof family’s interests in the city.  The only facilities that could potentially host an NBA team would both seemingly be a step down for the Kings, as the Thomas & Mack Center is even older than their current home and the MGM Grand Garden Arena would need to be heavily retrofitted for a permanent NBA team, not to mention that neither facility has sufficient luxury boxes for a modern home.

The only thing we know now is that the deadline has been extended, and Kings fans will undoubtedly have to endure another month of nonstop “will they, won’t they” talk over their home team.

STORY UPDATE – The situation regarding the Sacramento Kings has since changed.  For more information on the Sacramento Kings request for a deadline extension, please go HERE.

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I was expecting to just sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice, long day of watching hockey today, but pretty much as soon as I woke up I noticed not one, but two relocation rumors circulating the web.  When it comes to any sports relocation rumors, you need to obviously take them with a grain of salt.  However, these are surrounding two teams that are oft-discussed as potential relocation candidates and the stories have been picked up by various major media outlets, including the New York Times, USA Today, and ESPN, so I think that the discussion of both teams is obviously worthwhile here on SportVotes.

The first rumor is surrounding the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association.  According to ESPN reporter Marc Stein, and seemingly confirmed by NBA commissioner David Stern, the Kings are in close negotiations with the city of Anaheim over the possibility of moving from the state capital to the Orange County for next season.  Any such relocation proposal would need to be submitted to the NBA by March 1st, so the Kings are really on the clock if they are actually considering this move.

Purple basketballs are in vogue in Sacramento.

For those that don’t know, the Kings are a team that have already relocated three times over the course of their long history, having existed previously as the Rochester Royals (1945–57), Cincinnati Royals (1957–72), and the Kansas City/Omaha Kings (1972–85) prior to finally moving to Sacramento.  No matter where they go however, the franchise just never seems to be able to find sustainable success and are currently experiencing what will soon become a six-decade championship drought.  In the quarter century they’ve spent in their current home, the Kings have appeared in the playoffs ten times (including an impressive eight-year streak from 1999-2006), but have only won their division twice.  They’ve been stuck out of the playoffs for the past four seasons and have been suffering from declining attendance during that time.  Couple that drop in attendance with the team’s belief that they play in an outdated facility, the ARCO Arena (set to be renamed to the Power Balance Pavillion on March 1st, oddly enough the exact same day as the already mentioned deadline to give notice to the NBA for a possible relocation for next season), and you have a classic recipe for relocation.

The Kings have been pushing for years for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art arena in downtown Sacramento.  They had planned on eliciting partial public support for the proposed-$600 million arena, but in 2006 voters overwhelmingly rejected a pair of ballot measures which would have created a 15-year quarter cent sales tax increase for the funding of the new arena.  With this avenue for revenue blocked, the Kings and the NBA approached the California state fairgrounds with a plan that would include a potential landswap and various other measures to allow for a new facility to be built on their grounds.  In 2010 though, this too was shot down, leaving the Kings with the firm belief that they had to consider the possibility of relocation.  Ever since then, the Kings have been in highly publicized and speculative meetings with various municipalities, including Las Vegas, San Jose, and Louisville, Kentucky on the possibility of moving the team.

On February 19th however, during the All-Star Game festivities in Los Angeles, the relocation discussions appeared to have gone from speculative to probable, as NBA commissioner David Stern admitted that the Kings were currently in discussion with the city of Anaheim and that the team had inquired the NBA about the potential to relocate.  While the threat of moving a franchise has long been used as leverage to successfully gain public funding for new arena construction projects, these appear to be actual serious discussions.  Couple that with the short timetable between when the discussions became publicized with the notice deadline for any potential relocation, which stands at just a little over a week from now, and from all perspectives this appears to be a serious threat over a mere bargaining ploy.

If the discussions actually move to fruition, the Kings would likely play in the Honda Arena, home of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.  An interesting name discussion might also arise if the relocation goes through, as the Los Angeles metropolitan area already has another franchised named the Kings, the Los Angeles-based NHL team, which plays a mere 30 miles to the northwest of their prospective home in Anaheim.  While there have been past examples of teams in the same area having the same name (such as the former examples of the St. Louis football and baseball Cardinals and the New York football and baseball Giants), it would be a unique rarity in sports today.  In fact, the Sacramento Kings also have a history of changing their name in acquiescence of another team, as the franchise became the Kings so as to not have the same name as the Kansas City Royals of the MLB when they relocated, despite the fact that the basketball team had existed in other cities long before baseball team had even been founded.

But, that would be a discussion for another day.

The next team that has been rumored recently is the long-troubled Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL.  While the rumors circulating around the Kings appear to be at least relatively substantive, the rumors about the Thrashers are much more speculative, albeit still significant.  The Thrashers have existed in Georgia since they were founded as an expansion franchise in 1999.  Since their foundation though, the Thrashers have been a troubled franchise, having only made it into the playoffs once in their time in the league.  Combined with attendance figures that have been near the bottom of the league for years with their very low franchise value, which has been ranked 121st out of 122 major professional sports teams in North American in both 2009 and 2010, and you can see why the Thrashers have long been rumored on the league’s chopping block for potential relocation.

Despite their on- and off-ice troubles, I've always liked the Thrashers logo.

Despite recent high profile moves by the team in adding to their roster to try to make it to the postseason this year, including signing assistant captain Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $26 million contract, recent news has also spread the flames of rumors surrounding the potential for relocation.  Court documents released in January have shown that the current ownership group has been hunting for potential investors and part-owners unsuccessfully for the past six years.  And, as recently reported on the NHL Network, the league is apparently getting involved in actively trying to get a new majority owner to buy the team in the next 6-8 weeks, indicating that, if a new ownership group is not found in that time frame, they might be willing to open the door for relocation talks to other cities.

While the NHL obviously does not want to give up on the ninth largest market in the United States, they also appear to not want to repeat the mistakes they’ve made (and are currently making) in Phoenix with the Coyotes.  The Thrashers are already hemorrhaging money and facing a distinct disinterest from local sports fans, almost a mirror image of what has already been happening in Arizona, and the league apparently does not want to be stuck holding the tab for yet another southern white elephant.

This, of course, has fed the flames of one of Canada’s favorite pastimes over the past decade, speculating over potentially adding another team up north.  Centered mostly around Winnipeg and Quebec City, both of which lost NHL franchises in the 1990’s, hopes for new Canadian teams have been fiercely stoked over the past couple years.  Most recently, hundreds of Quebec City residents traveled south to Long Island to attend a game between two of the most oft-discussed relocation candidates, the New York Islanders and the Thrashers.  Former-Nordiques fans rallied throughout the game to get their support for relocation heard by both teams, much to the resentment of Islanders fans in the arena.  Additionally, a primary reason for both Winnipeg and Quebec City losing their franchises in the first place, not having available up-to-date arenas, has mostly been solved in both municipalities, as Winnipeg already has the ultra-modern, though smallish, MTS Centre, and Quebec City recently approved partial municipal funding for an NHL-caliber arena, which is currently in the process of being designed.

Given the very short time table for both teams, we can definitely expect to hear much more on this in the coming days and weeks.  If you asked me to rank which one was more likely, I would have to go and say that the Kings relocating is definitely the more probable option, given the NBA’s already shown willingness to allow teams to relocate over stadium issues versus the NHL’s fierce defense of unprofitable teams.  However, if the rumors about the NHL not wanting to face another Phoenix situation are true, then the impetus to search for an ownership group to move the team elsewhere could very have have legs of its own as well.

I enjoyed writing the previous article on the Washington Nationals so much that I decided to make another post along the same lines, this time on their fellow D.C.-residing basketball counterpart, the Washington Wizards.  Whereas the Nationals were so-named to avoid any potential political or public backlash, the Wizards provide an interesting counterexample as they have faced controversy over their name, and name changes, at several points during their existence, oftentimes ignored by team ownership.

The Wizards are a bit of an odd team, as the history behind this franchise, and especially the history behind their name, is fairly unique in the realm of major North American sports teams.  The Wizards have played professional basketball in three major cites under four different names, and the most recent name change came about as part of the owner’s decision to rebrand the franchise into something a little less contentious.  Ironically though, this renaming almost backfired, as the choice of their current name proved, at least temporarily, to be highly controversial in the District of Columbia when it was first unveiled.  Additionally, it is still somewhat unpopular, and to this day there remains a push to bring back their cherished older name.

The franchise began its existence in the Windy City as the Chicago Packers in the early ’60s.  While the team only lasted two years in Chicago, they still found the time to change their name to the Zephyrs for their second season, likely in response to the invariable confusion that surrounded a new team having the same nickname as the town’s primary rival in football (Chicago also had a football team called the Cardinals for over sixty years from 1898 to 1959, almost assuredly likewise causing some consternation among Cubs fans).  At the end of 1962-63 season though, the Zephyrs determined that things were just not working out for them and decided to skip town, leaving Chicago without a basketball team for three seasons until the Bulls were formed in time for the 1966-67 season.  They decided to move east to Baltimore, where they changed their name to the Bullets, paying homage to a previous Baltimore-based team that had folded over a decade prior.

Washington Bullets

The Baltimore Bullets logo. Call me crazy, but that's actually a pretty snazzy logo.

While they may have had high hopes for success in their new home, their inability to attract sustained fan support followed them from Lake Michigan to the Chesapeake Bay.  The Baltimore Bullets lasted a little over a decade in their new city before relocating again to Washington, D.C. in 1973 (okay, to a Maryland suburb, they wouldn’t move into D.C. itself until 1997).  Shortly thereafter, the Bullets won their first and only NBA championship in 1978 over the San Antonio Spurs.  In their third hometown, the Bullets finally began to settle into a groove and develop an active and loyal fanbase, something which had not been able to develop in either Chicago or Baltimore.  By the early 1990s however, the owner of the Bullets, Abe Pollin, grew increasingly uncomfortable with the violent connotations of the team’s name.

By this point, the nation’s capital had experienced a marked rise in their crime rates, especially in homicide and other violent crimes.  In 1995, Pollin’s longtime friend, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was assassinated by a radical Israeli gunman in opposition to his signing of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.  For Pollin, this would be the straw that broke his camel’s back.  Shortly thereafter, he announced that the Bullets would be changing their name and that a team naming competition would be held to suggest a new name for the franchise.

The Washington Bullets logo, which may very well be the least bullet-looking bullet logo I've ever seen.

Despite opposition from many of the team’s fans, D.C.-area residents flooded the team with 2,000 name suggestions, which they eventually narrowed down to five potential choices by the spring of 1997: the Dragons, Express, Sea Dogs, Stallions, and Wizards.  While there was vocal opposition to changing the name from diehard Bullets fans, as many found the finalists all inferior to their current name, the organization pressed ahead and, without releasing the final tally of how many votes each finalist received, announced that the team would be renamed the Wizards for the 1997-98 season to time in with the opening of their new arena in D.C., the MCI Center (now the Verizon Center).

But then things got ugly.  Local black leaders were quick to point out that “Wizard” was also a term used for a high-ranking official in the Ku Klux Klan.  Complaints were also directed at the Wizards’ new logo, which featured a hooded man, which also seemingly brought unintended comparisons between the team’s new identity and the KKK.  Finally, and less-racially (though still traditionally) controversial, the team changed its colors from red, white, and blue to blue, black and gold.  All of these changes lead to vocal public outcries against the team’s rebranding, especially in a city as predominantly African-American as Washington, D.C.

The Washington Wiz... wait, is the Wizard wearing a tuxedo?

In the end though, Pollin decided to stick with the Wizards, and the public outcry against the Wizards eventually died down.  As the years passed though, the Wizards began to fade into obscurity on the national level, even with a spike in popular attention when Michael Jordan was hired in 2000 as the team’s president of basketball operations and came out of retirement for the second time to play for them from 2001-2003.  However, Pollin would waste this positive press by shocking the team, fans, and media by firing Jordan after he retired from the team’s playing roster, leading many to angrily accuse the organization of only hiring the all-time great as a publicity stunt for as long as he was willing to play.  The franchise would get an even bigger public black eye in late 2009/early 2010 when Gilbert Arenas, an All-Star who had recently received a 6-year, $111 million contract to play in D.C., was charged with unlawful gun possession, storing the weapon inside the Wizards’ locker room, and even pointing it at other teammates.  Despite losing the violent connotations of their prior name, the Wizards seemed to be developing that reputation anew for their off-court antics.

Wizards secondary logo.

These distractions, among other factors, lead the Pollin family to sell the team to Ted Leonsis, the owner of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, in 2010.  As the sale was being finalized, the Wizards pulled an upset in that year’s draft lottery, winning the first pick of the 2010 draft.  The team’s new ownership wasted no time to try to rebrand the team away from its past shortfalls by trading Arenas as soon as was possible and drafting John Wall of Kentucky first overall in the draft.  While these moves have not exactly lead to any real improvements on the court, the Wizards are evidently interested in even more fundamental changes to the franchise.  On October 10, 2010, Ted Leonsis released a to-do list of 101 potential changes to the Wizards on his personal blog that his ownership group was considering or actively implementing moving forward.  Perhaps most notable among these ideas are the following two points:

28. Change Wizards’ colors back to red, white and blue
31. Change Wizards’ team name to Bullets

While these suggestions were enormously popular among longtime fans of the team harkening back to the red, white, and blue Bullets days, the proposal to change the name yet again also evoked another minor-name controversy, as some have expressed concern that it would revive the violent connotations that the former owners had desperately sought to avoid and remind people of the still-embarrassing Arenas incident.  If the Wizards move ahead with a return to their former name, they could very well be the only team in major sports history to face noteworthy controversy over two name changes.

Even with that in mind however, renaming the Wizards back to the Bullets seems like it would be a very popular move among longtime supporters, and obviously would generate an explosion in merchandise purchasing as all of the previously-owned Wizard and gold and black paraphernalia would suddenly be out of date.  Regardless, it will be interesting to see what, if any, name and color changes take place over the upcoming offseason, and if naming controversies continue to follow this sometimes beleaguered franchise.