DALLAS 118, KINGS 100
Voisin column on Maloof's financial struggles
There's more to come.
Let's just start there. There's so much more to come it's not even funny. No, really, it's not anything close to comical for people who would prefer the Kings remain in Sacramento and who don't realize the dangerous degree to which these financial threats have grown.
And while the reporting will continue, let us first shed some light on anecdotal evidence of how much things have changed in Kingsland. For the purposes of this blog post - and without touching on everything because there is so much more to come and because a call back from team president John Thomas would certainly have been appreciated - at least consider the following and go ahead and draw your own conclusions about how bad the financial situation regarding this team has become. The following is rock-solid information ...
* No Kings employees are allowed to work overtime anymore. No OT at all will be approved, which is a big deal considering the old culture was one in which a number of employees made a killing on OT money.
* Kings TV crew has been cut in half (or something close to it). The number of people who were paid to travel with the team to produce the telecast has gone from six to three, although they may have four people on this particular trip.
* Kings media relations now travels one representative instead of the previous two.
* Potential trades cannot add to payroll. Period. End of sentence.
* Fanfare magazine - the in-house publication that waxes poetic about all the positive elements of the current climate - is no longer being printed and will be an online-only entity. I happen to have the final Dec./Jan. edition in my bag, with Gavin Maloof on the cover for a "Week in the Life of ..." story. Too bad they didn't pick this week ...
* Most team employees (not sure where the line is drawn here) are not permitted to eat dinner in the Arco Arena media room. This is a stark contrast to the past, when it was a come-one-come-all environment of feasting frivolity.
In Ailene Voisin's Monday column on the financial situation, she tallied the estimated losses at roughly $25 million. I've even heard around $28 million, which got me thinking that it would be a great time to chat with Mark Cuban about this whole situation.
While I may have lost a couple hundred bucks gambling before, the notion of seeing $28 million go bye-bye is something I simply can't relate to. Enter Cuban, the Dallas owner/billionaire who was kind enough to weigh in on the Kings' current plight while doing his routine pregame treadmill workout in the team's training room.
For those who want the actual interview, click below. For those who like to analyze words in their written form, scroll below for the transcribed Q&A (and pardon the gap that I couldn't get rid of). One quick sidenote: there is one edited break in the middle in which Kings center Brad Miller laughs with Cuban about the fact that Robert "Tractor" Traylor was once traded for Dirk Nowitzki. Needless to say, I hit the pause button during their banter before continuing with the interview.
Q: Your thoughts on the importance of a team like (the Kings). You've seen the good times.
A: Kings-Mavs. Kings-Lakers. I mean, things go in cycles. The Mavs had a heyday in the '80s, and then we had the lost decade, and then things came back. So things do go in cycles. The problem is ... let's not talk about the NBA. Let's just talk about cap systems in general. I'm not allowed to talk about the NBA.
Cap systems like the NFL, like the NHL, that are based on averages of, based on some percentage of revenue divided on the number of teams, or an average, are small-market killers. Just killers. They were great when salaries were out of control. They were great when national revenues were always going up, when local revenues were going up. But in an economy like this, particularly where there's not national revenues going up - whether it's the NFL, NHL, or whatever. The current structure of leagues is just death to small markets. You compound that with if your team takes a turn for the worst ...
Miller interruption to discuss Traylor for Nowitzki ...
Q: That's not encouraging news for Kings fans. Does this thing only have one endgame then?
A: That's just one of the challenges of owning a professional sports team, that when things go against you, it's going to be expensive. You just hope you make it up in other years or your franchise appreciates to make it up, but it doesn't make it any less painful.
Q: They're currently ... not hitting the panic button, but ... (Sacramento mayor) Kevin Johnson is getting more involved, (NBA Commissioner David) Stern has come in. In terms of the arena and essentially keeping the Maloofs from panicking - there's a lot of chatter around that team right now that they're looking at Plan B or Plan C, San Jose, Anaheim - to what extent do efforts need to be made to keep that from happening. Is Sacramento a viable market?
A: Oh, Sacramento is a great basketball town. If they were selling out, I'm sure it wouldn't even be an issue. So you think about it though - the difference between the best of times and now is 5,000 fans. Can you get 5,000 tickets times 40 - 200,000 tickets sold across a population of how many million? A million and a little bit, right?
Q: You've got about two (million) in the greater area.
A: So two in the greater area. So you figure you sell an average of three tickets each - what's that 40 times five, 200,000 divided by three. Let's just say 60,000 people buy three tickets. If it's important enough to Sacramento, you can find 60,000 people to buy three tickets for next year, you know? That's what it comes down to. It's that simple.
Q: How important is it to be flexible and fluid with everything from ticket structure and plans. That's something they've dealt with. They've been reluctant ...
A: I've lowered ticket prices in three of the last four years. We went to the Finals, and we lowered ticket prices in the upper bowl instead of raising money. We never increased prices for the first round of the playoffs.
I always knew there'd be a time when we'd suck, and I wanted to generate as much goodwill as possible. And when fans get their bill, and it's less than last year - you know, we've got 4,000 tickets priced at 19 (dollars) and under. We've got two-dollar seats, five-dollar seats, 10-dollar seats. Who else creates two-dollar seats?
Q: Where are those at?
A: They're in the end zones, but I've sat there. They might be terrible seats, but they're fun.
Q: Gets you in the building.
A: What's that?
Q: Gets you in the building.
A: They're fun. If you're in the top row at Arco, those guys have just as much fun screaming than those guys down in the first row, if not more.
As a final dose of context, Johnson has obviously seen enough warning signs that he is getting involved in a big way. He voiced his commitment to the effort this week, and gave this news conference this week as well.
- Sam Amick