Let me tell you about “your business”

Let me start off by saying that I am not a Kings fan. I have never been a Kings fan. And certainly now, I will NEVER be a Kings fan.

This is a fact about me that has caused some resentment and ire amongst Kings fans when I was allowed to join the TrueHoop Network and run the Sacramento Kings blog. For me, it was more of a writing exercise and trying to show you don’t need to be a fan of the team you blog about. I’ve lived in Sacramento for the majority of my life and know the Sacramento Kings fan base as well as I know any group of people.

It was the reason I thought I could pull off this little venture. I like being tested and I certainly like trying to prove myself to a rabid fan base that often exudes more knowledge about their own team than an ownership could ever hope for.

This doesn’t come from a bitter Kings fan, and it certainly doesn’t come from someone who is desperate to keep the Kings in this city. It comes from an outsider’s perspective who has watched this season unfold, talked to current and former employees of the team, taken the temperature of some of the smartest industry minds available, and been disgusted at this masquerade of an arena process over the last couple of years.

The politicians in this city have just taken hold of a Howard Schultz-ian PR stunt and sent a letter to the city of Anaheim. In this letter, the camera-seeking, vote-mongering officials of this town are engaging in reverse voyeurism and asking Anaheim to not vote on the bonds or try to bring the Kings organization to Orange County. They warn of horrific harm to Sacramento’s economy if the Kings are to move down south.

It’s as embarrassing as you’d assume it is and just a pathetic attempt to show the voters in this city that someone wants you to believe they care about your fandom. If anything, it just looks like a deleted scene from a modern reimagining of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.”

Instead of letting that just fade into the sunset of futility, Joe Maloof decided to finally make a public comment about the relocation situation and address the letter. Joe Maloof called it “below the belt” and “completely wrong.” The letter intimates that the Maloofs might not pay their loan to the city that is just over $76 million in a timely manner.

I agree with Joe Maloof that the letter by Sacramento assistant city manager John Dangberg was uncalled for. Whether it states incorrect facts or shows unrealistic financial concerns doesn’t really matter to me. What I’m concerned about is the fact that this situation has come to this and the Maloofs have been so misleading and insensitive about the situation at hand.

While the Maloofs don’t necessarily owe the city of Sacramento anything (other than almost $77 million of course), you would think they would have had the decency to wait through the upcoming lockout, listen to the findings and proposal of the ICON/Taylor group, and see if there can be a solution to a problem that has been lazily addressed by all parties involved in trying to get the Kings a new arena.

When Joe Maloof fires off that, “We will continue on with our business and do what is best for the viability of the franchise – what’s best for the franchise and what’s best for the league,” it makes me wonder if “our business” factors in the millions and millions of dollars this economically torn apart community has continued to pour into the Maloofs’ fledgling business.

Do what’s best for your franchise? I’m with you there. If they can make money for the franchise, it makes it more likely they can spend the money to keep talented difference-makers on this roster by exceeding the salary cap and luxury tax (assuming we still have these after the 2011 lockout is figured out). And by moving to the second biggest market in the U.S you give your team life in free agency it simply can’t offer in Sacramento.

Do what’s best for the league? That’s where you lose me. What’s best for the league is putting competent owners in small market situations and proving to the average/casual fan that there is hope beyond Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. What’s best for the league is building communities all over the country and promoting the best sport in the world to a wide audience. I don’t want to disagree with your own census department, but the Los Angeles market already has two teams to do that in the Southern California community.

What’s best for the league is becoming the next San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder.

I get that you have a rare opportunity to capitalize on an open TV contract slot in a major market. And it’s going to be hard to pass that up when presented with the insane amount of revenue it could generate for you and your bank account. But by moving to Los Angeles/Anaheim, you’re flooding the market with a worse product for the same price. You’re essentially offering new patrons dial-up Internet but promising to charge them like it’s fiber-optic cables.

By moving to Anaheim, you’re declaring yourselves a second-rate version of Donald Sterling and that’s exactly what you’ll become. It’s great to dream big about what you could be with a fresh new scenery filled with implants and even bigger implants, but nobody will care about your team. That market is already filled with Lakers fans and they’re not going to jump ship from their title contending “favorites” in order to follow a team that has won an embarrassing number of games the last three years.

If they do decide to jump ship to a new team, it’s going to be the Clippers, who house arguably the most exciting player in the NBA today. You’re headed to a front-running market and to sway people to your team store, you have to either have a kick-ass building or a team that is in front of more than just the Wizards, Wolves and Cavaliers in the standings. And despite the wonderful innovations I’m sure that occurred between 1988 (when Arco was built) and 1993 (when the Honda Center was built), I very much doubt you’re headed to a kick-ass building of biblical proportions.

You have cap space to lure free agents in a summer that will see the landscape of salary cap flexibility most definitely tighten, and a weak free agent class that will probably make mid-level exceptions to Mikki Moore seem like a defendable action. With superstars aligning with each other to promote legacy, winning and not having to try so hard to succeed, you’re going to need more than just cap space to lure free agents to Anaheim.

Yes, you have two young players with an immense amount of raw talent. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins have proved they have all of the skills you covet in building blocks that ooze potential. They’ve also proved to foster difficult reputations around the league, whether justified or not. Perception is your biggest killer in this business because people perceive your team as talented, but ultimately going nowhere with said talent and not worth the time right now.

But don’t take my word for it, either; ask around.

I don’t want to tell you “your business” but by embracing the role of Donald Sterling’s understudy, you’re showing that business is your main concern. And on some level, maybe it should be. You have a great chance to make a lot of money while harboring a subpar product on the playa-adjacent parquet. You’re following Sterling’s playbook by hoping for the scraps from the big market table and watching the money roll in. It’s like owning the Clippers without having an alleged affinity for prostitution, racism or being a slumlord.

Except, you kind have been a slumlord for the greater part of this decade. You’ve charged insane ticket prices while branding “Arco Thunder” as the reason to pony up the money. Never mind that the team hasn’t been a title contender in seven years. Up until the last two seasons (when flex pricing based on strength of schedule was the only way to keep small market teams from getting completely destroyed at the turnstile), you’ve been trying to herd the Kings’ faithful into an antiquated and dilapidated building because it’s cozy, quaint and gives you a real “experience” when the Kings play.

I don’t want to tell you “your business” but maybe if you were willing to concede all of the perks that you’re giving up to the city of Anaheim in order to co-inhabit the Honda Center, the city of Sacramento would probably have had a better chance at giving you the palace these Kings deserved. Instead of trying to corner the market on all things parking, restaurant and panhandling in the downtown area, a mutual agreement to share these revenues would have really pushed through a lot of red tape.

But that’s not important anymore. Much like your efforts to put a winning product on the floor the last half decade, you’ve given up on the city of Sacramento. If it were “my business” I would probably see what David Taylor and ICON can come up with in their eventual arena proposal. They have a really good track record and out of respect for the undying support this community has given you (when you’ve given them something to actually support), it would probably behoove you to not be quitters just yet.

I don’t want to keep telling you “your business” but you’re headed to a market that just doesn’t care about you. Over the last decade, you and the league have fostered this idea of a good ole fashioned Hatfields and McCoys-level rivalry between yourselves and the fans in Southern California. They’ve been taught and conditioned to dislike you and your team or just flat-out dismiss you. This isn’t something that goes away. You want the OC market and Henry Samueli wants an NBA team in Anaheim. But who else in Anaheim wants you?

Wouldn’t you rather be somewhere that you’re wanted?

At the end of the day, you’re going to do what’s best for “your business” in terms of financial success. This isn’t really about basketball. It’s just about making money, and that’s your right as a business owner. Do what’s best for the bottom line. But don’t pretend like the people of Sacramento haven’t carried you as a silent (but also screaming) partner over the past 13 years.

The only thing left for this city is a last ditch effort that will be ignored, unless the NBA realizes what a horrible message they’re sending by potentially allowing this relocation. It’s hard enough generating interest in a second LA team, and branding yourself as the Anaheim Royals doesn’t change the awkwardness and misguided nature of the ménage-a-franchise that the greater Los Angeles area is about invite into bed.

Joe Maloof, this past summer you told me that I had written the single best take on the franchise you had ever read in your time owning the team. And while I doubt anybody will view this current diatribe as anything close to the best take on the team they’ve ever read, I ask that you just give it its just due. There is quite a bit of name-calling here but there is also quite a bit of truth.

Again, this doesn’t affect me the way you would assume it would affect a Kings blogger. By the end of the year, I’ll be living in a different part of the country and enjoying seeing my favorite team in person every night they play. This is a luxury I want for the people of Sacramento well beyond these final 16 days of this regular season.

You’re not turning your back on me by tucking your financial tail between your legs and hightailing it out of Sacramento. You’re turning your back on your true fans and the people that have given you “your business.”


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