Kings to become Anaheim Royals?

Updated: March 17, 2011, 12:38 AM ET
ESPNLosAngeles.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento Kings have taken yet another step toward a potential move to Southern California.

With the Kings exploring a move to Anaheim, a Sacramento attorney representing the team's owners filed for at least four federal trademark registrations this month.

Among the names filed for according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's website were: Anaheim Royals, Anaheim Royals of Southern California, Orange County Royals and Los Angeles Royals. The filing was made March 3 by attorney Scott Hervey on behalf of the Crickets Corp., a Nevada-based company.

Hervey has worked for Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof in previous sports business dealings, including the Maloof Money Cup skateboarding competition in Orange County. A message left at Hervey's office seeking comment was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Joe Maloof declined to comment about the trademark filing, and a message left with an NBA spokesman also was not immediately returned. The franchise was previously called the Royals in Rochester, N.Y., and Cincinnati.

The NBA has already granted the Kings an extension until April 18 to file an application for relocation next season. Teams usually have until March 1 to apply for a move for the following season.

The Kings will have the opportunity to discuss their options at the NBA Board of Governors meetings April 14-15. Sacramento's season finale is April 13 at home against the rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Sacramento has refused for years to build a publicly financed facility, which the Maloofs argue is crucial for the franchise's long-term financial viability. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player, met with the Maloofs last month and said he believed the "likelihood of them leaving is probably greater than them staying, but it's not a done deal."

Johnson also said Sacramento will work to build a new arena for an NBA franchise "with or without the Kings."

The trademark move is the latest in a series of developments that could potentially see the Kings relocate to Anaheim as early as the 2011-12 season.

Joe Maloof has acknowledged that "many cities" besides Anaheim have expressed interest in serving as the Kings' new home. But sources close to the situation say that, with no NBA-ready arena for the Kings to move into in the Maloofs' home base of Las Vegas, 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, which finds the Kings heading for their fifth straight season out of the playoffs at 14-43 after a run that took them to the brink of the NBA Finals in a seven-game series with the Lakers in 2002.

Johnson has said cash-strapped Sacramento will continue to try to secure the funding for a new sports arena with or without the Kings, having chosen a developer (ICON venture group of Denver) to spend 90 days exploring the avenues for financing the complex.

In 2006, Sacramento voters turned down a measure that would have increased sales tax to fund a new arena. The NBA then took an active role in trying to help the Kings and the city find another solution after that vote, but commissioner David Stern made it clear at All-Star Weekend that the league was no longer investing any time or money in trying to keep the team in Sacramento.

"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," Stern said. "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. That is for the Maloofs and the people of Sacramento."

Anaheim has been searching for an NBA team to share the Honda Center with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks since the building was introduced in 1993 as the Arrowhead Pond. The Clippers flirted with a move there before owner Donald Sterling chose to join the Lakers at Staples Center in 1999. The Honda Center has been well-maintained over the years and houses 83 luxury suites, compared to just 30 at Arco Arena.

Orange County also has a larger, wealthier population than Sacramento and its surrounding areas, with greater potential for corporate partnerships and higher ticket prices. The proximity to Los Angeles, furthermore, could theoretically help the Kings recruit players.

The Maloofs first have to come to terms on a loan and lease arrangement with Ducks billionaire owner Henry Samueli, whose management runs the city-owned Honda Center, before they can even take their plan to the league's owners for a vote.

The Seattle SuperSonics were the NBA's last team to move, reinventing themselves as the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008 and leaving behind another of the NBA's most loyal fan bases when a deal with the city of Seattle to build a new arena could not be struck.

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," echoing Frank, who in January said that such a fee is not mandatory.

Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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