Sources: Kings consider relocation
The Sacramento Kings are seriously considering the possibility of applying to the NBA by the league's March 1 deadline for relocation to Anaheim for next season, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking.
The Kings haven't made a final decision, but sources said team officials have been in Orange County, Calif., this month to gather more first-hand data on the feasibility and potential obstacles involved in trying to move to Anaheim's Honda Center at season's end after a 26-season run in Sacramento and numerous failed attempts to secure the financing needed for the construction of a new modern arena.
NBA commissioner David Stern publicly confirmed for the first time Saturday night at his annual All-Star Weekend news conference that the Kings have had discussions with Anaheim officials about a possible move.
We have to look at all of our options at this point. But we also want to concentrate on our team right now. Any of the arena stuff, we'll talk about that later.” -- Joe Maloof
In a subsequent phone interview with ESPN.com, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof declined to discuss specifics but said: "We have to look at all of our options at this point. But we also want to concentrate on our team right now. Any of the arena stuff, we'll talk about that later."
Maloof also reiterated comments he's made to the Sacramento Bee newspaper about the Kings being approached by "many cities" besides Anaheim.
But sources close to the situation say, with no NBA-ready arena for the Kings to move into in the Maloofs' home base of Las Vegas, that Anaheim holds the greatest appeal to the Kings.
The Kings have been trying for nearly a decade to replace outdated Arco Arena (soon to be renamed Power Balance Pavilion) with a new revenue-generating building that would ensure they stay in a market that was once known as the home of one of the NBA's most fervent fan bases. That was before Sacramento's slide down the Western Conference standings.
The Kings are 13-40 this season and it will be their fifth straight season out of the playoffs after a run that took them to the brink of the NBA Finals in an unforgettable seven-game series with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002.
But Stern, at his news conference, confirmed the league no longer has an active role in trying to keep the team in Sacramento after originally backing the efforts of Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson -- the former star guard with the Phoenix Suns -- to find a solution to the arena issue.
"All I'll say is that we and they have tried very hard over the years to see whether a new building could be built, and with the collapse of the last attempt -- which took a few years, and several million dollars, on behalf of the league -- I said we are not going to spend any more time on that," Stern said. "That is for the Maloofs and the people of Sacramento.
"I don't know where that is right now. I mean, I do know -- I talk to Mayor Johnson from time to time in relation to the various projects he's engaged. But I'm not driving it and we'll see how it goes."
Among the issues that could dissuade the Kings from making the relocation request before next season's deadline in 10 days are the millions still owed by the Maloofs to the city of Sacramento in loans and the behind-the-scenes resistance they could potentially receive from the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Kings would likely need favorable loan and lease terms in Anaheim to mitigate those financial obligations and the franchise might still face opposition from the Lakers and Clippers. Although those teams would only have one vote each -- and despite the fact franchise relocations in the NBA only require a 15-14 majority vote for approval from the league's other 29 teams -- it's certainly conceivable the Staples Center co-tenants would band together to try to rally support from other teams to oppose to a third NBA franchise moving into a building that sits roughly 30 miles away.
Officials at the Honda Center, according to the Bee, declined comment Friday when asked if they are in negotiations with the Kings.
The NBA's Board of Governors has the right to attach a relocation fee to any franchise move it approves, but such fees are distributed evenly among the league's other teams and wouldn't be paid directly to the Lakers and Clippers in the event of the Kings moving to Anaheim.
One league source, furthermore, reiterated that such relocation fees are "discretionary."
March 1, meanwhile, is not only the NBA's deadline for relocation applications for the 2011-12 season but also the day that Arco Arena's name officially changes to Power Balance Pavilion.
Yet it's believed that the naming-rights deal with Anaheim-based Power Balance is one of the least lucrative in league history because of the age of the building -- which opened in 1988 -- and the franchise's uncertain status in town.
The Kings and the Atlanta Hawks have each moved three times, more than any other NBA franchise. After originating as the Rochester Royals and moving to Cincinnati, the franchise became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings and then the Kansas City Kings before relocating to Sacramento.
Sacramento radio station KFBK (1530 AM) reported in January that Henry Samueli, owner of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, has offered to loan $100 million to Joe and Gavin Maloof to pay off the requisite debts and fees to move the Kings into the Samueli-owned Honda Center.
Senior writer Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.