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I've been a Kings fan for a long time, and I never had a chance to attend regular-season games until I started going to college. I frequently watched Kings games on local TV and saw many calls that would make you scratch your head more times than a kid with lice. Many of those calls took me back to the 2002 Western Conference Finals where the Kings were royally robbed of the championship. After attending many games last year and becoming a first time season ticket holder this year, I've come to see too many foul calls that are blatantly wrong and unjustified. As I look around at all the obstacles that the Kings organization is facing thus far, I can't help but believe that there is some conspiracy going around to get the Kings moved out of Sacramento. Now don't get scared yet, but be aware of everything that happens from this time going forward, because this article is to inform all Kings fans of the smoke and mirrors that's been going around to keep you from seeing what's really happening.
A little over a month ago, I attended the Kings and Bulls game with a friend of mine, and the contest was going really well until the referees started calling ridiculous fouls on DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Tyreke Evans. They even hit Beno Udrih with a foul that I felt was unnecessary. On the other hand, the Bulls didn't even get called for as many fouls that the Kings did, and they were fouling every time a white uniform drove to the basket, but that’s been common when attending a Kings game. I won't elaborate too much on this night, but as the game came to a close, I started getting the idea that maybe all this foul stuff is being done on purpose to lure the fans away from Arco so that the team can find a new home.
This past summer, Arco representatives informed the Maloofs that they were not going to renew the naming rights for the Sacramento Sports Arena. This came at a very bad time for a small-market team like the Kings because naming rights bring in revenue, and seeing that Arco hasn't been packed lately, that money is desperately needed. I feel that this decision made the Maloofs angry, and they started contemplating a move even though they said they would remain faithful to the city of Sacramento. Furthermore, George Maloof took a trip to Seattle this past summer as well to speak with former Supersonics President Wally Walker. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites that George claimed to have spoken specifically on why Seattle was unable to build a new arena and ultimately moved them out of town. I have my doubts about this claim because the Maloofs approved of the Sonics’ move with 27 other teams three years ago.
Now those are just a few situations to keep in mind, but what about that nice new shiny arena? Back in 2006, the Maloofs met with city and county officials to finalize an agreement on a new facility that would be built in the downtown railyard. City & county officials said they would split the cost of the arena with the Maloofs, but that wasn't acceptable. The deal enraged both Joe & Gavin Maloof, and they stormed out the building, which was reported by the Sacramento Bee. Then later on, they put a tax increase proposal on the fall election ballot, which became known as measures Q and R, to raise taxes by a quarter cent to pay for a new arena. Both measures were overwhelmingly rejected by voters, and this became the beginning of the Maloofs considering relocation. However, the Maloofs would continue to pursue new avenues in getting an arena built in Sacramento, but that was only because there weren't any other viable areas to move to in that span of time. Cal Expo attempted to construct a blueprint of fitting an arena on its fairgrounds, but that idea was too farfetched, because the housing market was plummeting around that time, and local funding was nowhere to be found.
Finally, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel when Mayor Kevin Johnson was voted into office and started the Sacramento First Task Force. David Stern even came out to Sacramento himself to talk to the mayor about the arena issue. But even though six developers came to the table with ideas for a new arena, only one could be chosen. That “one” happened to be the Land Swap Proposal, seeing that it was backed by David Stern and the NBA, and that it seemed realistic with the funding and needs of each party involved.
As time ticked away, it became less and less likely that this whole idea would pan out, and Cal Expo put the finishing touches on it when their representatives came to the conclusion that Arco Arena wasn't fit for a brand-new fairgrounds. Not only that, but David Stern informed the Maloofs and the task force that they would no longer be helping in any capacity with getting a new arena built. Now even though the mayor is continuing his pursuit of getting an arena built here, I feel that the Maloofs are livid from the decisions of the city and Cal Expo and have come to the end of the road with their efforts here in Sacramento.
I feel that the Maloofs and David Stern are working together to have the Kings moved out of town because of this. As I look at the product on the floor, I don't really see any improvement, and I feel that Geoff Petrie and Paul Westphal are being told what to do as well in order to keep fans from supporting the team. The referees are also playing a huge part in it, calling fouls on whoever they feel just to screw us over. All this adds up to fans being uninterested in attending games and despising the direction management is going. Furthermore, when Stern isn't giving his support anymore for a particular market, that essentially means he's giving the green light to the owners to file for relocation. Similar examples of this would be the Grizzlies’ move to Memphis from Vancouver, the Hornets’ move from Charlotte to New Orleans, and the most recent disappointing move the Sonics made to Oklahoma City from Seattle. Stern didn't care one bit about either of those markets, because they weren't willing to provide the teams with new arenas, and that's exactly the case with the Kings. The NBA is all about making money, and it's likely that Sacramento hasn't been doing that for years now which makes me feel that they're setting the wheels in motion for a move.
Lastly, I would like to point out the new arena rumblings that were going around in Las Vegas this past summer. According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun, Chris Milam; the CEO of International Development Management LLC, was quoted as saying that they already had an NBA team under contract (read here). The city is putting all its efforts into building it on the Las Vegas Strip, and I already feel that this deal is in place for the Kings to move if the arena is approved by the county. The Maloofs own The Palms Casino and Hotel there, and much of their business activities are done in Sin City. What would be better than to have the Kings moved into a brand-spanking-new arena that would suit all their needs and generate income? All this makes me skeptical of what the Maloofs are really up to, and I hope it doesn't lead to the Kings bolting from town.
So don't let all the marketing schemes and talk deter you from seeing what could ultimately happen if an arena isn't built sooner rather than later. I think the Maloofs want out of Sacramento, and it seems to me like it's trickling all the way down to the team. Just a couple weeks ago, Petrie said he had no talks with any other team about trading Jason Thompson, but Marc Stein from ESPN confirmed that he indeed tried to trade him to the Hawks for Jeff Teague. Now I hear Westphal is putting him into the starting lineup, but this is nothing more than a ploy to showcase his talents so that other teams will come calling.
And speaking of Westphal, throughout most of the games this season he's used terrible rotations and hasn't gone with the guys who have been doing good for us in the beginning of games. A good example of this would be the Kings and Bulls game I mentioned earlier. Westphal never bothered to go back to the starting five of Head, Evans, Greene, Thompson and Dalembert, who were playing very energetically and executing on plays. Afterward, Westphal had the audacity to blame his players and call them guilty. This came off very fishy to fans, and it made me wonder what was truly going on.
I hate to say it, but I feel the team is being run terribly, and it's being done on purpose to sway fans away from Arco. These guys need more time to gel, but the Maloofs aren't having it, and it's all because of a bigger plan to move the team out of town in the near future. With all this being said, have no fear Kings fans, because this is just a warning. I highly suggest getting involved with the “Here We Stay” and “Keep the Kings in Sactown” movements, because these groups are trying to make extra efforts to keep our only professional sports team around.
Photos by Rob Small, David Alvarez, Marc Mclaughlin & Steven Chea