NBA Sunday: Why the Kings Should Have Relocated
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Why the Sacramento Kings Should Have Relocated
It was truly one of the NBA’s feel-good stories of the summer. The Kings were all but picking out curtains in Seattle, but at the last minute the city of Sacramento swooped in with a counter-proposal that allowed the team to stay put. All those bell-ringing Kings fans could rest easy knowing that their home town heroes would be back in action for the foreseeable future.
The conversation has changed in recent weeks, however, from how miraculous it is that the team isn’t moving to how to make sense out of its mess of a roster. The reality that the Kings are just not a very good basketball team is settling back in just in time for the run-up to ticket sales for the new season.
Very soon the realization is going to set in: the Kings should have been allowed to relocate to Seattle.
The last time Seattle was involved in a relocation, the situation turned a young and struggling team into one of the best teams in the modern Western Conference. That situation was unique, and made possible by virtue of its uniqueness. The team was on a slow and steady decline following the Gary Payton era of contention, and while the team that centered around Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis was competitive, it really needed one more big piece that never found its way to their roster. Following the 2006-07 season, they let Lewis and Allen walk away, drafted Kevin Durant and essentially started over.
That’s when they moved.
The move to Oklahoma City did one miraculous thing for the Seattle Sonics, who were soon renamed the Thunder. It gave them a ravenous fan base, one that would sell out their arena night after night, and didn’t care so much about the final score. The NBA fans in OKC, who had been primed by babysitting the then-named New Orleans Hornets for a short time, were so happy to have a team in town long-term that they turned out in droves to support the team. That first year in OKC the Thunder won just 23 games, but you would have thought they won the championship based on the fan response.
If they had stayed in Seattle and followed three losing seasons with a 23-win season, you would have been able to hear a pin drop in Key Arena. After so many years of making the playoffs and even coming close to winning a championship, fans in Seattle were tired of the mediocrity that followed and there was no easy way out of the nosedive. What the Sonics needed to do was lose a ton of games, get some high draft picks and rebuild around the players those draft picks turned into.
After winning just 20 games in 2007-08, the Thunder drafted Russell Westbrook. After winning just 23 games in 2008-09, they added James Harden to the mix. With Durant emerging as a prolific scorer and Westbrook and Harden joining the supporting cast, the Thunder won 50 games in 2009-10 and were two years away from a berth in the NBA Finals.
That rebirth was made possible largely by the team’s relocation, which gave GM Sam Presti the time he needed to rebuild while also selling out his arena every night. It’s a luxury most teams are simply not afforded, and it’s one that the Kings desperately need.
Had the Kings relocated, they would have fallen into the loving arms of a fan base starved for NBA basketball. They could have made some hard decisions, like jettisoning DeMarcus Cousins and using him to unload unwanted contracts like those of John Salmons and Jimmer Fredette, for example. They could have lost 60 or so games to sellout crowds who knew they were pushing for their next franchise player in the 2014 draft. They would have had a window of two or three years to be really bad, developing young talent, before anyone asked any questions about the team’s record.
Instead, the pressure will be on immediately. The Sacramento base will be happy to have the team in town, and that will likely help ticket sales early in the season. But what if the new regime has no more luck getting Cousins’ attention than the previous one? What if a team that is largely a conglomeration of power forwards and point guards can’t make any headway in the Western Conference? Will the Sacramento fans who chose to stay home and do laundry rather than show up for games last season decide dirty laundry once again takes precedence over bad basketball?
There has been a great deal of discussion about rebuilding the Oklahoma City way, and that’s exactly what the Kings need to do. Unfortunately, to really follow the Thunder model a relocation is almost required, and without one the Kings are going to have their work cut out for them as they attempt to rebuild and sell tickets at the same time.
Michael Beasley Back to Miami?
When the Miami HEAT drafted Michael Beasley with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, there was absolutely no question that he was an outstanding basketball player. The big concern that teams had about Beasley was about his mental approach to the game, and to date his mental approach has been the big issue in his quest to find a home in the NBA. Miami wound up letting him go for practically nothing (two second-round picks) in an effort to clear the cap space they needed to sign both LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade as their new trio of superstars.
The Minnesota Timberwolves had high hopes for Beasley, and saw him as a low-risk, high-reward commodity since all he cost them was two second-rounders. New head coach Rick Adelman was well known for getting the most out of his players and also for helping guys overcome their issues off the court, and for one year it looked like the Timberwolves may have found a steal. Beasley averaged 19.2 points per game and looked like he would prove to be worth that second overall pick.
Unfortunately, his second season in Minnesota didn’t go nearly so well, on or off the court, and after he averaged just 11.5 points per game the Timberwolves opted to go in another direction at season’s end. Beasley would quickly find a new home, however, signing a three-year, $18 million contract with the Phoenix Suns. Sadly, that relationship didn’t last long. Despite an intensive effort from the Suns that included hiring a full-time counselor to work with Beasley, he couldn’t play well enough to earn a spot in the rotation, and when he was arrested for suspicion of drug possession it spelled the end of his time in Phoenix.
“We worked hard to devote ourselves to Michael’s success but we have to maintain the standards to build a championship culture,” Suns president Lon Babby said of the decision to buy out Beasley.
So now Beasley is a free agent again, but this time his reputation as a once-great basketball player is overshadowed by his issues off the court. He has yet to garner much interest in the open market, even in the form of a training camp invite, though a rumor surfaced yesterday that the Miami HEAT may considering bringing him back. Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski reports:
The two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat are considering the possibility of bringing back troubled free-agent forward Michael Beasley, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Several of the Heat’s key veteran players are supportive of the signing of Beasley, and he has a strong interest in returning to the franchise responsible for taking him with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, sources told Yahoo.
Since that report, however, multiple sources out of Miami, including HEAT beat writer Ira Winderman, have refuted the claim, citing sources within the HEAT organization saying that there was absolutely no interest in bringing Beasley back.
When a basketball player is as gifted as Beasley, there is always a chance that some team will take a flyer, and odds are that Beasley will get another chance to prove he can get his act together and resume his NBA career. Whether that chance comes in Miami or not remains to be seen. For now, he had better be doing a great deal of soul searching, because his next chance in the NBA could very well be his last.
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