Anaheim Kings? Anaheim Kings of Los Angeles? Seriously, the Kings could be the Clippers and Lakers neighbor to the south next season. The Sacramento Kings have been asking for a new arena in Sacramento for years now, in attempt to fight the decline of revenue and falling attendance. However, with the continual failures to get a new arena, the Kings will move to Anaheim, barring a last second miracle.
The fervency and attendance of the Kings’ fans was once a point of pride of the NBA. There’s a reason that the TrueHoop Blog is named Cowbell Kingdom. Clangs of cowbells and the cheers of fans used to rattle the arena and provide one of the toughest road environments for opposing road teams. Clearly, the fans exist in large enough numbers to support the team.
But that support has only come when the team has been good enough to compete. This year the Kings are 25th in the league in percentage of maximum home attendance (77 percent), but they’re also second to last in average home attendance (13,494 per game). However, a winning team not only isn’t guaranteed every year, but is impossible. Even elite organizations have had down years. The Lakers and the Celtics both had recent mid decade slumps and they’ve been the winningest franchises in the history of the sport.
Unfortunately, the Kings have struggled to lure free agents to make their team consistently competitive. The biggest free agents they’ve signed have been Vlade Divac in 1998 and Brad Miller in 2003, not exactly elite free agents. True, having a more attractive arena would maybe allow them to get slightly better talent, but they are never going to be able to compete with Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, New York, Dallas and Chicago from both a location and organizational standpoint. Even the Golden State Warriors, another historically bad team, have a better chance at luring free agents.
The reality is that the Kings, like so many other franchises, will probably have to relocate. But there is a bigger issue here, the NBA needs to figure out a way for every team to become financially solvent, whether it be in hard caps and franchise tags or contraction. The NBA can’t reach the point where mid and low level franchises don’t move every ten to twenty years because at some point, even strong franchises like the SuperSonics can fall into that low end and be moved, crushing the fan base. Some can be blamed on the ballooning of the contracts and the whim of the players, but the majority of the blame is towards the owners and the NBA. They begged for cities to build new arenas, allowed the cap, Bird Rights, expansion to all come into play trying to make more and more money and, in turn, have extended themselves to the point where the fans take the hit. Yes, they get entertainment, but they are the only ones that have a financial one way street and the NBA owners and the players need to realize this before they make a habit of burning bridges in cities around the country, even if they can only see the negatives by how it affects their wallets, because the habit of continually moving teams will be bad for business.
Keys to the Game
– Crowd. No it’s not 2001 again, Divac isn’t whipping passes to Webber or a good Bibby, but the Kings face a unique circumstance: relocation to Anaheim. The deadline to announce relocation? March 1st. The Kings fans will show the organization just how much it means to play in their home town and that added effort on their part could easily animate the Kings.
– Shooting Guard. When the Clippers wrecked the Kings at the beginning of the year, star sophomore Tyreke Evans wasn’t in the lineup. The second time the Clippers faced the Kings, Tyreke was in the lineup, scored 32 points and came within a free throw of tying the game in regulation. But Tyreke is laid up again. Instead the Kings will get minutes from the recently acquired Marcus Thornton at the shooting guard position (their team leader in PER). The Clippers are dealing with their own shooting guard absence, as it appears that Eric Gordon won’t play. EJ averaged 29.5 points in the Clippers two wins over the Kings, but with Randy Foye elevating his play (he scored a season high 32 points against the Celtics), the Clips might be able to survive the Kings.
– Rookie Bigs. DeMarcus Cousins has averaged 16.4 points and 10.3 rebounds over the last month, demonstrating his surprisingly refined post game. No one would confuse him or his attitude for Blake Griffin but don’t be surprised if DeMarcus’ length gives Blake problems from time to time, which could be the difference in the game.
Note: The Clippers waived Rasual Butler yesterday, and while it would have been nice to get a pick back for him, at least the Clipper didn’t let their mistake cost Rasual. He’ll be better off in Chicago, because he certainly wasn’t in the future plans for the Clips. Adios, Rasual, best of luck.
Eric Gordon: right wrist, day to day (out)
Tyreke Evans: plantar fasciitis, out
Hassan Whiteside: knee, out
Francisco Garcia: calf strain, out