NBA PM: Kings, Sacramento Reach Arena Agreement
“It’s Game Over”
The Sacramento Kings—perhaps the most-traveled franchise in basketball history outside of the Harlem Globetrotters—might not be leaving California’s capital after all.
Following over a year of speculation that the team would be relocating to Anaheim where a modern, convenient arena already exists, the Kings have reached an agreement on a new stadium in Sacramento thanks to the efforts of mayor and former Phoenix Suns point guard Kevin Johnson, NBA commissioner David Stern and Kings owners the Maloof family, according to a report by Ryan Lillis, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee.
“We got something worked out, tentative,” co-owner George Maloof told the Bee. “We’re all very excited about it. We were skeptical about whether or not something could happen.”
Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick, who has covered the team for years, is reporting that the Maloof’s contribution to the $387 million proposed arena is $73 million (the Bee says $75 million), but the family will also toss in a 5% ticket surcharge beginning in 2015, which could add another $60 million toward their contribution (George Maloof told the Bee: “probably another $75 million over the term of the agreement.”). Amick also reported that, while the Kings didn’t receive any NBA loans to build the arena, the current stadium’s land will be sold at some point to help refund the construction.
However, Stern seemed to imply the NBA would make a contribution to the project.
“(The owners) have authorized me to be as supportive as we could possibly be in this process so we could cement the future in Sacramento,” Stern said.
There is still a March 6 City Council vote scheduled to seal the deal, but, as Amick wrote on Twitter, “No one seemed the slightest bit concerned.”
“It’s game over,” Johnson told the Bee.
The Kings franchise originated as the Royals in Rochester, NY before moving to Cincinnati and then on to Kansas City/Omaha where they became the Kings. The franchise finally settled in Sacramento in 1985 and remained one of the league’s bottom feeders until general manager Geoff Petrie traded Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber before the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 campaign. Petrie buoyed that success with the signing of Vlade Divac and the drafting of point guard Jason Williams as the franchise became a perennial contender from 1999-2000 until 2004-20005.
However the Kings have had only fleeting success since the exits of Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie, Mike Bibby and Divac, which is why attendance began faltering after the 2007-2008 season. Prior to that, the Kings were consistently at capacity from 2002-2003 until 2006-2007. The Kings have sold 86.2% of their tickets so far this season, which isn’t bad considering they’re an 11-win team. But since Power Balance Pavilion (former Arco Arena) holds just 17,317 people while limiting luxury box and advertising opportunities, the Maloof family needed more revenue to effectively operate the franchise.
Forbes.com ranked the Kings as the NBA’s 23rd most-valuable franchise in January, reporting that the team was worth $300 million after a 2% bump from the previous season with an operating income of $6.4 million.
Deng Facing Fine?
Because the NBA likes to control all messaging, clothing and perhaps inner monologue involving its players during work hours, Chicago Bulls All-Star forward Luol Deng might be facing a fine.
The South Sudan native (who is a citizen of Great Britain) wore a t-shirt during the All-Star Game introductions that depicted the continent of Africa on the front.
“I wouldn’t do something that’s negative,” Deng told Nick Freidell of ESPNChicago.com when asked about a potential fine. “I wouldn’t do that at all. If you look at the T-shirt, it’s not of anything. I’m not advertising anything. I just felt like being where I’m from and where I came from, it’s something that I always wanted to see as a kid. Now that I’m here I had a chance (to do that). I’m sure there’s a kid out there, or a lot of kids, who really enjoyed it and made them happy to see that.
“I appreciate the fact that I’m in the position that I’m in to do so,” he continued. “I just felt like there’s only been (Hakeem) Olajuwon and Dikembe (Mutombo) and both were big men. Being a perimeter player (from Africa), It hasn’t happened before. And I just felt like I didn’t want the kids to just see it and just go by. I just wanted them to remember where I came from and get something out of it.”
Deng went on to say that he doesn’t care if he gets fined. He played six minutes in the ASG but left after falling in his wrist in the first quarter.
More proof that the NBA has moved beyond the negativity of the lockout: Ratings are as strong as ever.
First, the NBA All-Star Game earned a 5.4 overnight rating for TNT, which was the highest since it posted a 5.9 rating for the 2005 All-Star Game. Now, the ASG didn’t beat the Oscars, which pulled in an 11.7 rating for the adult demographic, but that’s still a strong showing all things considered.
Perhaps the biggest news is the return of local television ratings.
Four teams have more than doubled last year’s local ratings while local ratings as a whole are up 19 percent, according to John Ourand and John Lombardo of the Sports Business Journal.
The biggest winners have been the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder, who have each seen local ratings spike 140%. The Los Angeles Clippers (138%) and the Philadelphia 76ers (112%) are trailing close behind in that regard.
The SBJ is quick to point out that New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin has helped where local ratings were extremely vulnerable. The Knicks had been battling with Time Warner Cable until recently, which left many Knicks fans without the ability to see their favorite team. However the two sides recently struck a deal in time for Lin garner two record-setting audiences. Even though the Knicks were playing the lowly New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets, Madison Square Garden Network still pulled in a 7.3 rating (540,788 households, according to the SBJ). Those broadcasts now stand as the network’s highest-rated regular season games since they began tracking that data in 1988-1989.
“There was pent-up demand because we were not on Time Warner and there was a bit of a hangover effect from that,” MSG Media president Micahel Bair told the SBJ.
The Spurs (7.94 average rating), HEAT (6.49), Bulls (6.10), Thunder (5.97) and surprisingly the Cavaliers (4.91) are the league’s best in terms of ratings while the Lakers (258,000 average number of households), Bulls (213,000), Knicks (149,000), HEAT (103,000) and Clippers (102,000) are pulling in the most total viewers.
Interestingly enough, the Spurs’ ratings are down 17.5% from a season ago, but since they still dominate the market (what else is there to watch in San Antonio? Really, I’m asking) they have the best ratings in the league. Meanwhile, the Celtics are averaging 37,000 fewer households per game this season, which is likely the result of them falling to the middle of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls (+73,000 average households) and Knicks (+60,000) have seen the biggest bumps in their total viewership.
The New Jersey Nets have, by far, the lowest rating (.38) but still get more viewers than the Wizards, Grizzlies, Bucks and Bobcats, the last of which averages 13,000 households per game.
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