NBA At 2: Play Ball! (In Sacramento)
As Major League Baseball opens the 2011 season today, NBA fans in Sacramento are just hoping there will be another season of basketball for the Sacramento Kings . . .you know, in Sacramento. The news of late has made it sound like a done deal that the Kings would be moving to Anaheim, but now, as the eleventh hour nears, Sacramento may just find a way to keep their budding young NBA franchise.
It seemed strange that the current mayor of Sacramento – former NBA point guard Kevin Johnson – would be the one to preside over the city losing its NBA team. Now it seems he may, instead, be the man who saved the city’s NBA franchise. City leaders have been pursuing a viable arena financing plan for years, but the fact that the Kings are now very close to leaving the city seems to have sparked new motivation.
"Our community realizes we need to build a new entertainment and sports complex whether the Kings are here or not," Mayor Johnson said Wednesday. "It’s about our city and proving we can get big things done."
So far it’s been the citizens of Sacramento who have been getting things done, more so than the politicians and city planners. Minutes after the Anaheim City Council approved a new bond measure for improvements to the Honda Center, where the Kings would play if they moved, fans in Sacramento tipped off the "Here We Build" effort, which raised $125,000 in the first few hours as Kings fans scraped together their lunch money and vacation savings to try and prevent their beloved team leaving town.
"We’ve been watching everybody drag their feet, thinking the Kings don’t have anywhere to go, and now we know they do," said Tony Peric, an Internet manager and Kings fan who helped set up the group’s website at meetup.com/herewebuild. "The Maloofs, they’re not seeing what they need to see. They need to see money, they need to see commitment."
Of course, $125,000 is hardly enough to buy a section of seats for a new arena, but it could be the start of something big. A similar effort took place in Houston a couple of years ago, and the result was a beautiful new stadium. The Rockets are still as big a part of the Houston community as ever, and playing in the state-of-the-art (and LEED Certified) Toyota Center. Fans in Seattle were not as successful. Key Arena, like the former Arco Arena, was deemed unacceptable for the modern NBA, and as Seattle stubbornly refused to build a new arena their team left for the greener, sunnier pastures of Oklahoma.
Like the former Seattle SuperSonics, the Kings have had no shortage of suitors. Cities across the country would love to have an NBA franchise, including, but not limited to St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisville, and . . .drum roll, please . . .Las Vegas, where the Maloofs have long been lobbying to move their team.
This is just a start, and a small start, at that. Sacramento officials would have to move quickly to prevent the Kings from moving, especially once renovations of the Honda Center have begun. The Kings aren’t gone just yet, but they have absolutely have one foot firmly planted outside the door.
Up Close: J.R. Smith
The Denver Nuggets continue to roll, Carmelo or not Carmelo, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing. Even as the newness of their sudden facelift has worn off, the wins have continued to pile up. They finished the month of March with a 10-3 record and have a firm hold on the Western Conference’s fifth seed. Sixth-man J.R. Smith talks with HOOPSWORLD about the team success, his own increased role in the offense, and more in this exclusive interview:
This div will be replaced
For more exclusive interviews and content from HOOPSWORLD, be sure you "like" our page on FaceBook by linking here!
The State Of The Jazz
Few teams will be as happy to see the 2010-11 NBA season come to an end as the Utah Jazz. They started the season expecting and believed to be contenders, but they could never have predicted the disastrous series of events that will lead to them missing the playoffs altogether. The team has been in a tailspin since the abrupt departure of head coach Jerry Sloan and subsequent trade of All-Star point guard Deron Williams. The Jazz now just need time to stop, pick up the pieces, and evaluate what’s left of their team.
"(The situation) is lousy," Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor said after announcing the team had signed Kyle Weaver. "We were here when we won 26 games (in 2004-05), and I think we came out of that OK. We had a lot of injuries that year, if I remember. Andrei (Kirilenko) missed over 40 games and Carlos (Boozer) missed a lot of games and Raja (Bell) missed games at the end of the year … so we understand what it is and we appreciate it.
"As far as the whole thing goes, it’s lousy. If they don’t make a miracle shot, New Orleans, and (Jordan) Crawford doesn’t hit the jump shot (for Washington), then we’ve won two out of last three and we feel a lot better about ourselves. But you understand that this is part of what you go through; you’re teaching the young players you have to do the right things.
"Whatever the scoreboard says is what it is and you are who you are with that and you’ve got to continue to do the right things. You’ve got to be on time for practice. You’ve got to do all of the things that you’re supposed to do. This organization and the Miller family, that’s one of their trademarks. … We’re responsible for doing things professionally in the right way.
Normally, the Jazz are as professional an organization as you’ll find. They’re a low-drama, high-success team. The events that unfolded this season have left the team in disarray, with solid pieces, but no easy way to make them fit.
"We’re going to have to put it all back together a little bit going into next season," said O’Connor. "Devin Harris, to me, is a very good point guard, and I think Raja would say this to you that he probably didn’t have the kind of season he wanted to have. Defensively, I think he’s done a good job, and hopefully he’ll bounce back next year with that. The only guy that’s significant that plays that we don’t have back next year is Andrei. We have a couple of draft picks, so I think it’s a matter of evaluating in the offseason. It’s their responsibility, too, as players to get better. Look, Al’s 25, it’s not like he’s coming into the prime of his career hopefully. He needs to get better. We need to do a better job managing. I need to do a better job. Ty (Corbin) needs to do a better job. The Miller family has given us everything we’ve asked for, so it’s our responsibility and it’s right on us. It starts with me and works all the way down to the coaches, to the players, to the people trying to keep them healthy — everybody. Everybody’s involved with this and everybody’s got to do it. We’ll be judged accordingly. Our report card is public."
It is, indeed, and right now the public report card shows that Utah has lost six in a row, eight of their last ten, and they’ve sunk to the 11th seed in the Western Conference. Still, O’Connor offered up a statement of faith in new head coach Ty Corbin, who is tasked with finding a way to usher in a new era of playoff basketball.
"Everybody’s going to be questioned. Again, if those two shots didn’t go in (for the Hornets and Wizards), we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it maybe as much. But what you’ve got to understand is he’s going to be questioned because he’s a young coach. The second reason he’s going to be questioned is he’s following a coach who was here for 23 years and was successful. All of those things he knew going into it. That’s why we felt he was the right person for the job. That’s why we felt that everybody outside of the organization needed to understand that’s why we gave him a contract, because going forward we feel he’s the right guy for the job and going on from there."
There are certainly a lot of tough questions to be answered in Utah this summer. Al Jefferson hasn’t been nearly the fit they hoped he would be, Harris has had problems with adjusting on the fly, and the team has looked out of sorts in crunch time. Still, there are some good pieces in place and the Jazz have a track record of making quick turnarounds.
HOOPSWORLD Twitter: HOOPSWORLD has launched a new Twitter module where we will be releasing more breaking news and insider-type information via Twitter. Make sure you are following all of our guys to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNBA, @stephenlitel, @TommyBeer, @DPageHOOPSWORLD and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats today starting with HOOPSWORLD rookie Stephen Brotherston at 12pm EST. Stephen covers the Toronto Raptors and the Eastern Conference for HOOPSWORLD. Senior NBA Writer Joel Brigham will host his weekly NBA chat at 1:30pm EST. HOOPSWORLD rookie Lang Greene will host his NBA chat tonight at 8pm EST. Lang covers the Atlanta Hawks and the Eastern Conference. Get your questions in early. You can always find the next NBA chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats.