Sacramento’s Last Stand

One final time (perhaps), the Kings will get to roar in Sacramento. Photo via Getty Images/DayLife

Just about everyone in the NBA feared this day would come. The end of the season. Yes, 16 teams will be excited about the potential of the postseason. And others will just be happy to see this season end and dream about the problems of tomorrow.

For fans of the Sacramento Kings, there are no playoffs and there may not be a tomorrow.

The dark cloud hovering over ARCO Arena (or Power Balance Pavilion) is no longer just ominous. Decision day is coming and the Kings may not be long for Sacramento.

The battle between the Maloofs and the city is a familiar one.

A small market team struggles to turn a profit while the team fails to win on the court. Owners look to get a new arena to increase revenue. City stalls because of the massive investment that requires. Owners threaten to move. The fans are left forgotten in the middle.

Throw in the down economy (allegedly) hurting every team in the league and Sacramento was in a horrible position.

It is never easy for any NBA fan to see a team ripped away from a loving fan base. Sure, seeing the Hornets leave Charlotte and the Grizzlies leave Vancouver was unfortunate but not horrible. Those were unproven markets that did not have established fan bases.

But to see former NBA hotbeds and long-standing NBA markets like Seattle and Sacramento lose teams in such a short time? That hurts. It really hurts.

It was not so long ago that ARCO Arena was one of the most feared places to play. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac were just a few fleeting moments away from reaching the NBA Finals. It’s only fitting that what could potentially be the last home game ever for the Sacramento Kings is against their arch-rivals from L.A.

Sacramento fans have certainly been dreading this day for a long time now after seeing negotiations between mayor Kevin Johnson and owners George and Gavin Maloof break down and then seeing the somewhat public disclosures of a lease agreement between the Maloofs, the Honda Center and the city of Anaheim, California. Soon after that, reports came in that the team had filed for trademarks and purchased the rights to the domain name for a team called the Anaheim Royals.

This has been something Sacramento fans have seen a long way coming, but have probably not had the heart to accept. Because the thing was, Sacramento has always accepted their team. Really, no matter what.

As former coach Garry St. Jean told Ailene Voison of The Sacramento Bee: “I remember when Don Nelson and I were working in Milwaukee and we came here for the first time in 1985. We won the game at the old Arco Arena by 30 or 40 points, and with three minutes left, everybody stood up and gave the Kings a standing ovation. We’re looking at each other like, ‘Huh?’ Then before we got on the bus for the trip to the Bay Area, these nice concession people come running up with boxes of hot dogs, chips. We were riding away, saying, ‘This is going to be a great place.'” 

Sacramento has always welcomed its heroes and adored its Kings. As Chris Webber pointed out on “Inside the NBA” on Tuesday night, even when he felt like he was exiled to Sacramento, the fans accepted him and made him feel at home.

Now players such as Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac may not have a true home in which to hang up their banners much like Oscar Robertson, Dolph Schayes and Gary Payton of now-defunct franchises.

Once news got out that the franchise was seriously considering moving away, games began selling out and the “Here We Stay” campaign was born. It was an outpouring of emotional support from a city with no other professional sports franchises to call their own.

All their efforts have ultimately, as these things are in squabbles between millionaire owners asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in public support, appeared to be in vain. Or so it would seem.

While the move out of Sacramento and to Southern California seems to be all set, it still lacks the rubber stamp of approval from the league and from the other owners.

KFBK News Radio in Sacramento confirmed the Maloofs recently took out a $75 million loan from the league. While this is not an uncommon occurrence from teams, it might show how “dire” the team’s financial situation is in. Furthermore, even though the paperwork appears to be set between all parties involved, the Maloof brothers along with Henry Samueli, who owns the Honda Center and the Anaheim Ducks, aren’t so sure they will get the approval of the owners to move the team.

The Maloofs will be going to the Board of Governors meeting in New York for one final showdown with Kevin Johnson and other local supporters to keep the Kings in place. Donald Sterling of the Clippers and Jerry Buss of the Lakers have both voiced disapproval of the Kings moving into their backyard in Anaheim.

This is certainly a last ditch attempt to save the Kings. But as Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty points out, teams can also be saved at the 11th hour through the owner’s vote. The Timberwolves were set to move to New Orleans in 1994 when the league discovered the new owners did not have quite as much of a solid financial backing and the owners ultimately voted down the proposed move. Glenn Taylor stepped in and has owned the team ever since.

So there is hope. Even if it is just a glimmer for the fans of Sacramento.

Regardless, tonight should be a celebration at ARCO Arena for everything the Sacramento Kings have meant to the community. There is no need to think about tomorrow quite yet.

Additional Photo via AP/DayLife

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily