Most NBA fans, especially the ones from Northern California, are familiar with the Sacramento Kings' struggles to land a new arena and their indecision involving whether the team should remain in Sacramento or move to a more lucrative market.
In case you're unaware of these tribulations, I'll fill you in quickly. In the spring of 2011, it looked as if the Kings were moving to Anaheim. But ultimately, the team decided to give Sacramento one more chance to land an amicable deal for a new arena.
In Feb. 2012, a term sheet for a new arena was agreed to by the owners of the Kings and the city of Sacramento. It looked as if the team would get its permanent home in the state capital.
Then, in a bizarre turn of events, on April 12, 2012, team ownership backed out of the deal they had agreed to because they felt it would cost too much to build the arena.
Regardless, the Kings will be playing the 2012-13 season in Sacramento. Beyond that, nobody knows, although the Maloofs (team owners) say they're committed to staying in Sacramento long term.
But what about if the Kings make the playoffs this upcoming season? What type of effect would that have on their chances of bolting Sacramento for greener pastures?
Personally, I don't think what happens on the court in 2012-13 will have any bearing on the team's future in the city. I think the Kings will end up staying in Sacramento, regardless of what happens. There are too many reasons for them not to leave.
For one, in order for the team to move to another market, it would need approval from the NBA's Board of Governors. When speaking before Game 1 of the NBA Finals in June, NBA commissioner David Stern was asked about whether or not the Kings would have enough support from the league to move.
Stern replied, "“If there was a vote now, there would be no support for a move.”
Of course, that was two months ago. However, the situation hasn't changed much, if at all, since then. The fact remains that the Maloofs jilted the NBA when they backed out of an arena deal that the NBA worked through and agreed on with the city of Sacramento.
A lot could change between now and when the team would have to file for relocation (likely in the beginning of March 2013).
I doubt it happens, but let's assume for a second that the Kings file for relocation and get the necessary votes from the Board of Governors to go through with a move. What would be the next step in the process?
Well, the team would then have to pay a relocation fee. And the relocation fee will not be cheap. James Ham of CowbellKingdom.com reported that it's expected to be between $150-200 million.
As Ham points out, the relocation fee doesn't include the $70 million the team already owes the city of Sacramento.
If the Kings want to move, they'd have to pay both of those fees. Given the Maloofs' financial situation, there's no way they could come up with that type of cash.
They could get a loan from an investor, but who would want to give out that type of loan for a team that's unlikely to generate enough revenue to pay it back and an ownership group that's taken real financial hits in the past few years?
So really, whether or not the Kings make the playoffs in 2013 has no bearing on the team's future in Sacramento. The team isn't going anywhere for 2013-14, regardless.
A playoff-bound season may help to restore some of the goodwill between ownership and the fans. It may increase season tickets and increase revenue a bit, but even then, it would not be enough for the Maloofs to afford relocation.
If anything, a successful season might help to precipitate a renewed dialogue between the Kings and the city on a new arena.
But the team doesn't need a successful season for that to happen—all it needs is time. There's too much at stake for the city to let the team leave without trying to come to terms on another arena. And for the Maloofs, there are too many financial obstacles to overcome for relocation.
The only logical conclusion for both sides is to work something out. Whether it's renovating the old arena in Natomas or building a new downtown arena, regardless of making the playoffs or not, the Kings will stay in Sacramento beyond the 2012-13 season.
At this point, it's their only option.
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