LOS ANGELES - There was too much information to cram into tomorrow's column about the Kings' possible relocation to Anaheim's Honda Center, but as of late Saturday, the basics remained unchanged. NBA Commissioner David Stern for the first time confirmed what we all knew - that the Maloofs have explored a move to Southern California, a process that has been on and off for the past few years. The Commissioner insisted that he has distanced himself from these particular discussions, however, partly because he is immersed in gnarly collective bargaining talks.
I also get the sense that while the league probably would approve the move, the higher-ups aren't thrilled about the prospect of (a) abandoning the 20th largest media market; (b) adding a third NBA team in Southern California and (c) having to deal with all this with a lockout looming.
A few other items of note:
While the deadline to file for relocation for next season is March 1, the league is flexible. The Maloofs could simply request an extension, and the Board of Governors would comply.
When one NBA executive was asked late Saturday about Sacramento's chances for retaining the Kings, he replied, "It could be bad."
The situation has intensified quickly, as often happens in these situations. The Maloofs have been approached by officials from Anaheim, Las Vegas, San Jose, Kansas City, St. Louis - on and on - for the past few years. (Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman never takes off the fullcourt press). The Samueli group in Anaheim has been almost as aggressive ... and they actually have a building. Until very recently, however, the Maloofs have swallowed their frustration about the arena situation and the region's economic limitations and judged Sacramento preferable to the alternatives. Common sense dictates that with the deadline approaching, Anaheim would sweeten the offer. The question is how badly the Maloofs want to be romanced. Again, as of late Saturday, I was hearing that they were teetering ... the situation incredibly fluid.
Stern provided another chilling moment for Kings fans during the televised press conference when he was asked by an Italian journalist if the league considered purchasing Seattle's Sonics - precluding their relocation city in 2008 - much as was done recently with the New Orleans Hornets. Later in a lengthy response, the Commissioner added, "Seattle was a completely different story. Everyone agreed, it needed a new building; a new building couldn't be built, and the ownership decided to move it out. That's all. I'll introduce you to Ailene (said Bee columnist) from Sacramento, though." The linkage of Seattle and Sacramento? Think that was a message?