Friday, January 11, 2013

Sacramento's Loss, Seattle's Gain and Everyone Else's Something

Seattle will soon welcome another NBA team to the city with the Sacramento Kings nearing a deal to sell the franchise to Seattle. (

It's been a painful couple of years for Seattle basketball fans. Not only did the fans of the Sonics see their team ripped away from them and move to Oklahoma City but then had to watch the new Thunder win, and win a lot, in their new home. But if Seattle fans believe in karma balancing out the world, then Seattle's world is about to become more balanced. The Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings, is nearing a deal to sell the Kings to a group of investors in Seattle. Of course, this move isn't great for everyone. Sacramento sports fans are the obvious choice (it's their only professional sports option, or it was) but we'll also look at some of the other winners and losers that might not be as apparent.

Loser: Kansas City
When AEG built the Sprint Center in Kansas City, AEG CEO Tim Leiweke told the Kansas City Star in 2004, "I can assure you, there's going to be an anchor tenant" (referring to either an NBA or NHL team making a home at the Sprint Center). Options have come and passed (including a chance at the New York Islanders and this sell with the Kings) yet AEG has sat on its collective hands. For Kansas City fans, the chance of bringing an NBA team back to KC is seeming more like a pipe dream. And it's not the venue or fans, as both the NBA and NHL hold exhibition games at the Sprint Center to packed houses. Making the sting of not landing the Kings worse is that before the Kings were in Sacramento, they called Kansas City home. Seattle's karma may have kicked in to get their team back, but Kansas City fans are still waiting for theirs.

Winner: Isaiah Thomas
The diminutive Kings point guard was born in Tacoma, Washington, and spent all three years of his college career playing for the Washington Huskies. Bittersweet though it may be leaving the first city he called home upon entering the NBA, Thomas may be getting the second best dividend available amongst the rubble. There's no need to call it a homecoming yet, though someone surely has, but Thomas has already proven his worth as a starter in the Association and collected two Rookie of the Month awards and an All-Rookie Second Team nod along the way. Jimmer Fredette would get more resounding yells if the franchise was moving to Utah, but Thomas is consistently going to get the biggest applause in Seattle's new arena. The ensuing surge of confidence could be an on-court bonus, too.

Loser: Tyreke Evans
Already on the trading block because of nagging injuries and uneven play since being named Rookie of the Year in 2010, Evans should be worried. With this news, his future is as unclear as the Kings' chances of staying in Sacramento used to be. Evans will become a restricted free agent this summer, as he was not offered an extension, but when a franchise moves and re-brands, it is a literal fresh start. Evans looked to be the brand of the team's future in 2010, but Seattle fans don't owe Evans anything, which could cause problems for him remaining with the organization. They could shed the lowly reputation they have now by removing some of the names currently on the roster. DeMarcus Cousins, as much trouble as he may be, is producing on the court while Evans has largely stalled. Thomas is already reliable in the first guard role and Fredette is starting to come around, and trading Evans or letting him slide away in free agency could be the Kings' first unofficial move toward their eventual new look.

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
There will still be hard feelings between Seattle fans and the franchise that bolted to a different small market only to find success with the still-budding potential of two of the NBA's top players (three, if you count James Harden, and four if you count his First Team All-Facial Hair beard). But now Seattle fans will be busy cheering for this new team, meaning less time wishing OKC's bus breaks down on the way to a game. This should relieve some of the hatred and pressure the Thunder organization is feeling from Seattle fans, who can now move on. Oklahoma City also stands to benefit, though, if the franchise relocating to the Pacific Northwest seeks to claim the Supersonics name. The banners earned in Seattle hang from the rafters in OKC, after all. The name has changed but the history is still the same, and borrowing a piece so ingrained in that past glory would cost a princely sum. The Thunder should expect heavy, genuine boos when they return to their old playground, but the extra padding in the franchise's pocket should soften the blow, assuming Chris Hansen and Co. pursue familiar naming rights.

Winners to Everyone but the Public: The Maloofs
Botch your ownership of a professional sports franchise and break the collective heart of a proud fan base. Pass go, immediately collect $500 million. In this deal, the Maloofs will also keep a very small percentage of the team, but will have no say in any of the decisions or operations. To Sacramento fans, or anyone with a conscious, even this is too much. The Maloofs are a big bank getting bailed out by the government in the way that they failed miserably, yet instead of suffering the consequences, will get a nice pay day and keep some dignity with the ownership deal. Remember, these are the same owners who at one point were "working" to build a new arena for the Kings in Sacramento before backing out. Don't feel sympathy for the Maloofs; they will be fine. Feel sympathy for the fans of Sacramento who have been teased and toyed with about if they can keep their franchise and now have no franchise to be teased with.

Kyle Davis co-authored this post.

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