Farewell to another NBA city? The league is as sick as ever
Watching the curtains close on the Sacramento Kings brought back memories of when the Sonics left Seattle three years ago. The NBA's broken model and shortsightedness could ruin the league.
Seattle Times staff columnist
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It happened again Wednesday night. Rabid fans of a loyal NBA city gathered at an outdated arena, cheered their throats sore and lamented a bittersweet final game of the regular season, fearing that will be the last game they ever see.
Watching the curtains close on the Sacramento Kings brought back memories of Seattle three years ago. In the Sonics' final game at KeyArena, Kevin Durant directed the "Save our Sonics!" cheers to get louder as the home team upset the Dallas Mavericks.
Durant didn't want to leave, and neither does the Kings' young star, Tyreke Evans. It doesn't matter, though. NBA business cares little about logic, history or devotion anymore.
In many major cities, people are talking about how great the regular season was. They're anticipating the playoffs will be amazing. With all of the superstar shuffling over the past nine months, with the largest markets experiencing a return to relevance, with solid parity for a league that had been top-heavy for a while, the drama will be incredible. And the quality of play should be better than we've seen in some time.
But beneath the facade of health that intrigue provides, the NBA is as ill as it has ever been. The business model is broken. The owners' misguided solution is often to hold cities hostage for new arenas, and if they don't get what they want, they run off in the middle of the night, hoping to make a sucker out of another city. With extremely shortsighted leadership, NBA commissioner David Stern allows this, and in many cases, he supports it.
Business is bad, really bad. The league is making desperate decisions. Just as the Sonics were allowed to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Kings will become the Anaheim Royals soon. Why? Because Sacramento won't finance a new arena that, only in theory, could help owners Joe and Gavin Maloof make money by providing the kinds of amenities that appeal more to bandwagon-jumping, status-seeking high-rollers than the fiercely-loyal average customer.
Just as Oklahoma City is a questionable long-term NBA hot spot, Anaheim has many wondering why the league thinks having three teams in the Los Angeles market, the king of fair-weather fandom, makes sense. Well, it doesn't make sense. The Clippers have a hard enough time competing with the dynastic Lakers for attention. The so-called Royals should actually be named the Subordinates.
NBA business is so bad that, after this incredible season ends, a labor war will commence that could make the NFL's battle seem like a friendly. A lockout seems inevitable, and it could linger deep into next season. The league is so on edge about what's to come that it fined Lakers coach Phil Jackson $75,000 for discussing how the anticipated lockout likely will send him into retirement. And to show it was really mad, the league slapped another $75,000 fine on the organization.
Before the NFL lockout, players and team executives talked openly about the possibility. That league didn't fine any of them for stating the obvious. The NBA's sensitivity shows its grave concern.
Kobe Bryant's potty mouth has created a controversy and discussion of homophobia this week, and he was fined $100,000 for barking a vulgar remark at a referee. But the Jackson fine is just as meaningful because the league didn't punish him for a stupid, heat-of-the-moment remark. It punished him because it wants to mask an ugly truth.
The NBA has a mess on its hands because too many of its owners make terrible business decisions. Now, the owners want their collective-bargaining agreement with the players to serve, essentially, as a safeguard against their own foolishness.
They can't make money because they pay backup power forwards $50 million, and the backup power forwards say, "Gee, thanks!" and pocket what they're offered. They can't make money because they convince cities to build them new palaces, only to realize several years later that they didn't think ahead and create an arena that ages gracefully and adapts well to change.
Or owners used to make money, but they hit a slump for a few years, give up and start making shortsighted decisions. Cities invest in teams for the long haul, but too many owners panic. If the NBA keeps burning loyal cities, it will crush what's left of its integrity.
So here we are again, wincing as Sacramento gets ready to join Seattle in this latest wave of franchise-shuffling. And you get the feeling this discouraging merry-go-round will continue to spin and spin, spin and spin, causing more and more dizziness, until the entire league feels like it wants to vomit.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
|After having no teams relocate since 1985 when the Kansas City Kings moved to Sacramento, the NBA could have its fourth franchise move since 2001.|
|* pending NBA approval|
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
email@example.com | 206-464-2277
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