Monday, February 28, 2011

Buzz kill at Arco. Don't expect the Maloofs to change their minds.

Talk about a buzz kill.

On a night that was supposed to be all about energy and atmosphere and showing the Maloofs that the Kings needed to stay in town, Monday night's crowd just never took flight.

The Kings came out in throwback Royals jerseys (an awful idea that needed to be quickly shoved aside but wasn't) and it was all downhill from there.

The arena was far from full. 

The chants never took hold and fizzled out.

And Arco thunder was more like a brief streaks of lightning flickering in the distance.  Sure the fans could get very loud every now and then, but it was certainly not enough.  Not enough to rekindle memories of the old days.  Not enough to turn back the oncoming train of change.

This was the view exactly three minutes from the national anthem.  The arena filled up more, but I was shocked the fans weren't packing the place and ready to rumble early.

But you can't blame the fans.  They've been churned, burned, and spit out.  A dreadful economy, an awful team, and now talk of a move to Anaheim.  Despite the pleading,  only the very loyal diehards remain.  And they are not enough.  

I doubt the Maloofs were impressed.  In fact, the turnout and energy may have sealed the team's departure, not that I thought there was a much of chance of them sticking around, anyway.

Here they stay?


Looks like there they go.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shocker: Disneyland announces move to Elk Grove

In a shocking move made in order to take advantage of unemployed state workers, the owners of Disneyland have announced they are packing up their rides and taking them to Elk Grove.

The site will be the abandoned Lent Ranch Mall just south of the city off Highway 99.

"This is big for us," said a Disney spokesman.  "We're sick of Anaheim and all those phony Southern California fools.  We want to attract a new type of crowd to our park.  And we think Elk Grove is the perfect destination."

Mayor Kevin Johnson was stunned but overjoyed.  "Look, I didn't get a phone call but I don't care. Bring on the Matterhorn."

There will be some small changes when the new park opens in 2012.  One example: The Pirates of the Caribbean ride will be renamed "The Drunk Recreational Boaters on the American River Ride."

The park will be staffed by laid off and furloughed state workers, who already attended a job fair in Citrus Heights.  "It was incredible,"  said one beaten-down job seeker, "I'm going to be buckling in people on Big Thunder Railroad.  And I get to work five days a week."

Anaheim officials were left confused and bitter.   Disney had warned them that the park needed an influx of new blood.

The disappearance of the park will leave a gaping hole in the Anaheim economy, but a Disney spokesman scoffed.  "They've got the Maloofs now," he said.  "They'll fill the void."

He then doubled over in laughter, walking away.

Other amusement parks will have to vote on the relocation, but it should be approved.  Only Raging Waters in Roseville figures to put up much resistance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sacramento needs a new arena, but Maloofs need cash -- and that's why they're gone

Yes, Sacramento needs a new arena.

Yes, it's pathetic that the city was unable to figure it out during the boom times five years ago.

But let's be straight:  When the Maloofs move to Anaheim, it will be strictly because they need money right now.   And a move -- if some kind of cash or loan is involved -- is the only way to get it.

The Kings are not owned by Mark Cuban or Paul Allen.  Joe and Gavin Maloof do not have deep pockets.  If fact, they might be lucky to have anything in their pockets at all.   Furthermore, the entire Maloof empire is crumbling.  The Palms Casino, once the hippest stop in Vegas, in now facing a severe financial crisis with huge debt on the property.

The Maloofs basically have no choice.  If they stay in Sacramento, they get no influx of cash.  If they move to Anaheim, they get some dough and get a chance to save their lifestyle.

Even if an arena deal is somehow hatched over the next couple of months, it would not mean a penny in the pockets of the Kings' owners.

Simply put, they have to move to survive.   I'd probably do the same thing if it was my team.

However, I think the Maloofs deserve some of the blame for their current situation.

Instead of spending money to keep the team competitive, they went the austerity route, slowly  dismantling the team in an effort to cut payroll.  Right now, it's the lowest in the league.

This short-sighted strategy strangled the team, destroyed their winning ways, and took the steam out of the fans.  Instead of a packed arenas and a city-wide buzz, they left themselves with sparse crowds and a "who cares" attitude among the public.

That's not a recipe for arena support.

Too often, they played the silence game when the arena issue arose.   There never seemed a strong sense that they wanted to play a big role.  And I never got the sense they really wanted to make Sacramento their permanent homes.  They like the bright lights.   Natomas just flickers.

In reality, a move to Anaheim is foolish.

Wait until the Maloofs wake up next season to realize they are mere dwarfs in the Los Angeles sports landscape.  If the Kings continue to lose, the team will quickly become an irrelevant joke, playing third fiddle to the Lakers and Clippers, not to mention a bevy of other sports and recreation choices.

I'd like to be dead wrong about this.  I'd like to believe there's hope that some deal can keep the Kings in town.  I'd like to believe it's not just about saving the Maloof empire.  I'd like to believe we'll all be sitting in an amazing new facility in four years.

But all signs point south.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writing is on the wall: The Kings are gone

Unless the Lakers or Clippers can raise a big enough stink to submarine the deal, it looks like a Blake Griffin slam dunk that the Kings are gone.

Look at the facts:

NBA commissioner David Stern has washed his hands of the situation.

The Kings and Anaheim have been talking for months.

An arena deal for Sacramento is still a fantasy.

And the Maloofs desperately need cash. Right now. (By the way, note to Maloofs: This is what you get when you spend five years cutting and slashing salary and refusing to look at bringing on talent. Empty seats. If you guys had tried to keep the Kings winners instead of trying to keep your sports cars, it might be a different story)

So sad.

Sacramento was once a small-market dream franchise, selling out the arena for years on end. But that's a distant memory.

The glory days of Divac and Webber and Bibby are almost a decade old. The vibrant pride this city felt for its team has dissipated.

And now we're left with nothing but a dismal team in a dismal arena.

I knew the Kings were done in Sacramento when a group of people knocked on the door of our office the other day selling Kings tickets door-to-door at cut-rate prices.

It's over folks.

Cue the curtain.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sacramento Kings: Where immaturity and selfishness happen.

Okay, so let's see where we are...

DeMarcus Cousins, one of the surliest, most immature rookies in NBA history, now blatantly hates the fact that Tyreke Evans is the team's go-to guy.

Tyreke Evans, filled with too much confidence fueled by a team's decision to make him the savior of the franchise, is not about to give up the role.

And Geoff Petrie, the most overrated decision maker in the league, has been given distinct orders not to make any trade that would cause the team to take on a dollar more in salary.

I'd say things are pretty much screwed for the Kings.

It's too bad, because the team had been playing a more improved brand of basketball of late.

But when word leaked out the Cousins had berated and possibly come to blows with Donte Greene because he hadn't gotten the ball in the final moments of the game against the Thunder, it just spoke volumes about what's important to many of the players on the team.

It's easy to know what Cousins is feeling. His emotions flash across his face like a beacon. And it's easy to tell that the most important thing in his life is being the most important player on the court. This is fine, except that he hates when other people take that role -- even briefly.

I've seen Cousins react with disdain when another player followed up one of his missed shots with a basket. It was all about his miss rather than the team scoring. He's happy on the bench only when he's having a stellar game. Otherwise, he could care less about his teammates.

As for Tyreke, well, Tyreke is Tyreke. He is incredibly skilled but he's not a smart player. At least right now. He leads the league in leaving his feet and tossing off awful, misguided passes. He has been coached for two years to be Kobe Bryant, but he is not even close. Why does everyone keep wondering why the final five minutes of every game become a stagnant, ball-pounding misadventure?

I heard ESPN's Bill Simmons mention the other day that the talk around the league is that Evans is a tough guy to play with. Not because he's a bad teammate, but simply because he demands the ball, dominates the ball and doesn't make his teammates an ounce better.

Is it coaching? Or are these two guys just inherently self-centered?

Who knows? But it is about time for Paul Westphal to show some balls and publicly announce that he will not stand for players who don't buy into the team concept. If you don't share the ball and care about your teammates, you sit. It's about winning, not personal stats. Period.

So what do the Kings do?

Trade one? Trade both? Start over?

For me, I like watching unselfish, team basketball.

Give me players who pass the ball and don't care whether they can strut up and down the court and point at themselves.

Maybe that's too much to ask in this era of Jersey Shore entitlement.

And maybe it would be different if the Kings were winning.

But the team is awful.

And watching this mess unfold is just sad.