Sports Opinion & Analysis

On Relocation, Part 3-of-4: The National Basketball Association

In NBA on June 29, 2012 at 9:02 am

With the NBA draft behind us, and free agency fast approaching, I thought I would use the next portion of my four-part series to discuss the merits of a few NBA teams packing up and finding a new home.

NBA team location map, as of 2012.

There are a few teams that need to relocate (New Orleans, Cleveland), due to how their cities are no longer economically viable enough to host multiple professional sports teams. There are places like Indiana, who might be too small of a market to support a basketball team and a football team. There are places like Memphis, who might be too small to support any team.

No matter what though, in these locations there exists an invested interested by David Stern to keep these teams in their respective homes. Because of that, teams like the Hornets, Cavs, Pacers and Grizzlies aren’t even worth discussing in this forum. Why waste my figurative breath?

Instead, I’m going to comment on one team that potentially is already on the move, and two teams that should move, not because of the economic wellbeing of their community, or their community’s size, but because their location makes no sense whatsoever in regards to equality of resources.

With that said, here goes the list.

1. Sacramento Kings

This choice is unfortunate, because in the early 2000’s the Kings were a great team, and as a consequence, the city of Sacramento managed to let everyone think it could be a viable basketball town.

“Enjoy this moment, because it’s all downhill from here.”

The problem is, like Oklahoma City, San Antonio and other small markets, if given the right leadership, a better arena, and a product on the floor worth rooting for, Sacramento could be a great basketball town. I currently live in Sacramento, and while not a Kings fan, I’ve seen the passion the team incites in their fan-base. I see the potential of a young and up-and-coming roster. I am pretty certain I can guess the reaction of the community if the team was given the downtown arena they deserve (and which they had already come to contractual terms to build, before the team’s owners ran away like spoiled brats).

For the record, I do not want to the Kings to up and leave. It would be bad for the team, and bad for the community. I want them stay. When the day comes, I will fight for them to stay.

However, I understand some of the reasons why they would want to relocate (besides the Maloofs history of poor decisions), and they do face a very real possibility of relocating. Since I’m speaking in all hypotheticals, that’s what I want to discuss here. Where they should potentially move, if they do, and why.

There are only so many NBA teams to go around, and with the thinning pool of available talent, there is no chance the NBA will expand in the foreseeable future. That means if blossoming or already established markets don’t already have a team, they will either never get one, or they will have to absorb another city’s source of pride to establish their own.

California has four teams. The Lakers rule the southern portion of the state (I’ll talk about the Clippers in a bit) while the northern part has been divided into a two-team market; the Warriors in the Bay Area and the Kings for the northern central valley.

Yet, in no other sport does this divide between Valley and Bay exist. In every other avenue the valley is represented by the larger, more metropolitan Bay Area, so why not basketball? With the Warriors soon moving out of the impoverished city of Oakland and into the more financially secure San Francisco, why can’t that team, like the Giants and Niners (and arguably the A’s and Raiders depending upon their location future), represent Sacramento and the other cities in the central part of the state? If the Kings potentially relocate, the residents of Sacramento would, hypothetically, still have a team to root for, albeit further away, while another community would also get the chance to have their own team.

While the Kings didn’t start in their history in Kansas City, they did play there from 1972-to-1985. And with the newish (2005) arena there, they should consider moving back.

Shiny.

Kansas City isn’t a Mid-West backwoods sort of town. It has history and BBQ, as well as the Royals and Chiefs. It knows how to support and maintain a team playing at the professional level. Sprint Arena sits 19,000, and has 72 corporate suits, which in this age is the mark of vitality for an NBA franchise. It’s better than most arenas with an NBA team already playing in them, and it’s far better than anything Power Balance Pavilion (old Arco) can offer.

KC is also equal in size to Sacramento, yet is not crowed by other franchises too close to home. That is, unless you count Denver (266 miles away), Oklahoma City (350 miles), or Chicago (529 miles). Having an NBA team there just makes sense.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

You probably don’t know this, but there is an NBA team not named the Lakers that play in Los Angeles.

You’ve never seen this logo before, have you?

This isn’t like baseball, where two teams share the same city (Yankees/Mets, Dodgers/Angels (sort of), Cubs/White Sox), yet play on completely different ends of town to somehow accommodate a large pool of consumers fans. The Lakers and Clippers play in the same part of town. In fact, they play in the same building.

I think the Clippers play in Staples Center to allow the more downtrodden sections of Los Angeles an affordable opportunity to see the Laker’s play at least four times a year.

It doesn’t make sense that, until recently, owner Donald Sterling has been able to consistently field a mediocre team and still make more money then most other teams in the league. That’s how valuable the Lakers sloppy seconds are. The Clippers can make more money selling tickets to wannabe actors from Toledo, who can’t afford Laker tickets so instead go to Clipper games on Tuesday nights when they’re manager at the Starbucks re-gifts them the free tickets she received from a ‘client’ during the morning rush, then if the Clippers have their own city and fan-base.

While I’m not one to fault a guy for making a buck, this is not a good practice for the NBA (just because they can make money in a particular location, doesn’t mean they should). Instead, the Clippers should relocate, and since they don’t have a remarkable history or a championship banner in the rafters, they should de-franchise as they move. And what city best deserves a de-franchised team with no history to tie them to the past?

A new history is better than the Clipper’s history.

We all know the story. Clay Bennett was a “man possessed,” bought the Seattle SuperSonics, lied, lied some more, lied a lot more, and then moved the team to Oklahoma City. Fortunately for Seattle fans, they got to see their former team lose the Finals this year, like Cavalier fans did last year (Lebron, was in fact, Cleveland’s entire team). Even though their old club lost, that still doesn’t heal the wounds of losing a team that played in their city for 41 years before being stolen away.

Since it’s nothing to write home about anyway, the Clippers should dump their history and move up to the rainy north-west. They should start anew. Anything’s got to be better than what they’ve so-far ever accomplished.

Brooklyn Nets

Even if the new Brooklyn Nets win an NBA championship, everyone in New York will attend the ticker-tape parade just to be depressed how it’s not the Knicks who won.

Most famous Net besides Jason Kidd and Kris Humphries.

My point was already made with the Clippers. Just scroll back up, reread that section and replace “Lakers’ with ‘Knicks,’ and ‘Clippers’ with ‘Nets,’ when you do.

Except for some rare cases in baseball, no city deserves two teams. No city. The Nets are (like the Clippers) just second-class citizens picking up the bigger guy’s scraps. They should be forced to move.

And what city is sexier than the bright haze of New York, as seen from Brooklyn?

This city is for lovers. And meth.

Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This city is roughly the same size as every other small market in the country. It also has no professional sports team at all. Like other virgin small-markets in their day (Phoenix, San Antonio, Orlando), an NBA franchise is usually the best way to pop a city’s pro-sports cherry. It’s something everyone can rally around.

Albuquerque isn’t the most alluring city, I know, and is especially a downgrade when it comes to the excitement factor of ‘almost-New York,’ but there are still a lot of people in the city and the region. A lot of people who aren’t represented by any sports team (Phoenix is 467 miles away, and Denver is 448 miles). A lot of people who just need the chance for their own team.

Still not buying it? Me neither, so let’s have a redo and move the team here, instead.

Much better.

Vegas baby. Same argument as Albuquerque, only a few notches higher on the excitement factor.  This is a where a hockey and/or basketball franchise belongs. Medium to ever-fluxing market size, great nightlife and an environment that would allow for ‘stardom’ of their players. You think Jaw-Z would have problems keeping Deron Williams, or signing any free agent if their team was playing here?

Unfortunately, if the Nets move to the west, that would set up some logistical problems with the amount of teams in each conference. Easy fix: move the Grizzlies to the Eastern Conference. Problems solved.

Regardless of all that, I’m sure whatever team one day moves here, will do just fine. Whether it be hockey or basketball or baseball, Vegas is ready to take the step from gambling and legalized prostitution, to pro-sports market (Although I don’t think football would survive here). Basketball would excel playing under the bright lights of the strip. And if not, it’s the NBA. If they don’t succeed, they’ll quickly just relocate somewhere else.

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