In 2008, when Seattle lost their beloved SuperSonics, almost no one warmed to the idea of the NBA without a team in Seattle. Over the past three years, a Seattle-based group has been trying to buy the Sacramento Kings with the intention of moving them to Seattle. The NBA currently fields 30 teams, 15 in each conference, so there would be no room for an expansion team.
The city of Sacramento desperately came together and fought to keep basketball in the state’s capital at the end of the season when it looked like a foregone conclusion that they’d lost their team to Seattle. It was surprising: Kings’ home games are hardly the sellout crowds you were accustomed to in the great Shawn Kemp-Gary Payton days, but the last few games of the season were near sellouts. In the past six seasons, the Kings have twice finished last in overall attendance and never better than outside of the bottom five. But it wasn’t just the fans that rallied. Sacramento City Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player himself, made it his goal to keep the team. This is arguably why Seattle lost its team back in 08; fans were angered, but no one with power stepped up and fought for the team. And now the team they put together, the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one of the league’s best.
Sacramento seems to have secured its placement in the NBA for the foreseeable future, as an NBA ownership relocation committee voted against moving the Kings to Seattle on Monday. This was much to the delight of Sacramento fans but much to the dismay of Seattle hopefuls. However, you can imagine that Seattle fans would understand the sentiment in Sacramento. But for the Kings as an NBA franchise, this needs to be the first step in recommitting to quality basketball.
Since 2006, the last year the Kings made the playoffs, they’ve been at the bottom of the standings every year. The new owners of the team, anyone’s guess at the moment, will have their work cut out for them. The Kings have a few assets that they can develop and/or trade away for pieces. Big man Demarcus Cousins and guard Tyreke Evans were expected to make the Kings a formidable team again, but they lack the maturity and leadership to handle the expectations around leading an NBA team. The Kings have a handful of long-term contracts that they should look into shedding: players like John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes, who were the three highest-paid players on the team last year, but sparingly contributed to what
little success the team had, are all signed for the next two seasons. PG Isaiah Thomas and C Jason Thompson are good role players to keep around with affordable contracts.
Kings fans will be hoping to get lucky, yet again, on May 21st at the NBA draft lottery. They have a 6.3% chance of getting the first overall pick — which could land them a player like Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel or Michigan point guard Trey Burke. Regardless, they will have a top lottery pick coming into the fold for next season which will add to their already youthful roster.
While the official vote will be put to the NBA’s 30 owners on May 13th, it is all but official that Sacramento will have the Kings in 2013-2014. The next step will be finding the team’s next owners and then deciding on where to build a new arena. While these are important steps for the Kings, the long-term plan is to put a winning product back on the court, and to have those fans that consider themselves the NBA’s best actually show up for a good basketball team. Sacramento needs to put its money where its collective mouth is.