Court Vision: Geoff Petrie out, Phil Jackson in once Kings move to Seattle?
By Ben Golliver
• Late Sunday night, word broke that the Maloofs had officially reached a deal to sell the Sacramento Kings to an investment group intent on relocating the franchise to Seattle. On Monday, the NBA, the Maloofs and the investment group, led by Chris Hansen, all confirmed the sale agreement. New owners in a new city are sure to bring sweeping changes to the franchise, which has been one of the league’s least successful on the court in recent years.
• Yahoo! Sports reported that Kings general manager Geoff Petrie “will not be retained” and that Spurs GM R.C. Buford and former Pacers executive Larry Bird are among the top targets.
To convince Buford to leave San Antonio, where he enjoys close personal and professional relationships with Popovich and owner Peter Holt, the Seattle group might need to offer a small percentage of equity into the franchise and give him autonomy to assemble and run basketball operations. Any potential offer in Seattle would need to be extraordinary to get Buford to leave the Spurs.
Bird, the NBA’s 2011 Executive of the Year, stepped away from the Pacers in the spring to take care of some health issues, but had planned to return in 2013 or ’14. Bird wants to work again and there’s nothing contractual that binds him to the Pacers. Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard are running the Pacers’ front office now.
• Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey reported on Twitter that former Lakers coach Phil Jackson could become the “front office face” of the organization and help “mentor” the coach. Keith Smart’s contract was extended through the 2013-14 season last August.
• SI.com’s Ian Thomsen weighs in on the deal.
This announcement changes everything for the Kings. The Maloofs, who enjoyed enormous success in the early years of their ownership, are now selling an NBA franchise for the second and likely final time (having previously owned and sold the Rockets, which they also regretted at the time). General manager Geoff Petrie is unlikely to have much to do leading up to the trade deadline next month because the new owners aren’t going to want him to deal their assets. Cousins, the Kings’ troubled center, may do everything in his power to persuade the new owners to not trade him, now that he suddenly has the chance to play for a new organization in a top market. He and his teammates will spend the rest of the season auditioning for the next team president and GM, or for the leadership of another team, because there is no way that this dysfunctional roster will remain intact in Seattle next season.
The most interesting impact will be felt in Seattle itself, where Hansen promises to be a highly popular owner. One crucial reason he was able to win over legislators and make ground-breaking deals is because he is a good listener. He is known for embracing all points of view, and it’s a testament to his engaging personality that people in Seattle rallied around his plan.
• The New York Times reports afew clarifying points on the deal.
The Hansen group will purchase 65 percent of the team, which includes the Maloofs’ share. The remaining 35 percent is held by minority shareholders. Assuming an enterprise value of $525 million, the 65 percent stake would cost about $340 million, said people informed of the deal.
It is unclear whether this amount includes the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento or the money needed to pay off the Maloofs’ loans from the city of Sacramento and the N.B.A. The board of governors would also need to set a relocation fee, which can be any number they choose.
• Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times reacts jubilantly.
Pinch me. Go ahead. Smack me upside the head and remind me this is real. This isn’t another one of those dreams where I’m walking into KeyArena and the Sonics and Oklahoma City Thunder are gathering for the opening tip.
The rumor floating in NBA cyberspace — and there are seemingly hundreds of them right now — is that Jackson would run the team, not from the bench but from the front office. It might be a Te’o-sized hoax, but imagine the kind of coaching staff Jackson might be able to put together. Could he be the guy who could convince Mike Krzyzewski to leave Duke? Or Tom Izzo to leave Michigan State, or Bill Self to leave Kansas? Would Nate McMillan return to coach this new edition of the Sonics with Jackson as his boss?
• NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports a few details regarding the negotiations.
The sale left the Maloofs, who bought controlling interest in the Kings in 1999, “bittersweet,” according to the source. The family’s patriarch, George Maloof, Sr., owned the Houston Rockets from 1978 until his death in 1980. The Kings have been in Sacramento since moving from Kansas City in 1985.
The source said the Maloofs, as late as a month ago, were in negotiations with a single, unnamed buyer who was prepared to keep the team in Sacramento for at least two more years. But the deal could not be consummated and the family turned back to Hansen last month.
• Tom Ziller of Kings blog SacTown Royalty has penned an open letter to the Maloofs.
You worked so hard to get back into the NBA after your aunts made you sell the Rockets in 1982. And this is what you did with that opportunity: made the name “Maloof” synonymous with “failure.” Is that what you had in mind? Is that what you’d hoped Sacramentans would remember you for when you came to town in 1998? You thought you’d get a statue, I bet. You’d be lauded as heroes and given a statue. I’ve got an idea for a statue that would perfectly encapsulate what you mean to Sacramento. We’ll take that broken urinal from the arena and cast it in bronze. We can set up at one of the landfills and rename the place Maloof Plaza. Hope you can make the dedication!
I’m glad you got a $30 million non-refundable deposit from Chris Hansen. We wouldn’t want to see you flying coach between Seattle and Vegas (where you lost all but 2 percent of The Palms, a hotel and casino you built and ruined within the span of a decade, which is actually pretty damn impressive, even by your Maloofian standards). I’m also glad to know that now you’ll be able to afford a nice going-away gift for your employHAHAHAHA sorry just a small joke to lighten the mood.
The worst part is, you abominable cowards, is that you’ve held Sacramento hostage for the past seven years. Y’all are fond as hell of expressing exasperation at all the years you’ve been trying to get an arena in Sacramento. You always find a way to neglect to mention that YOU YOURSELVES HAVE KILLED EVERY VIABLE ARENA PLAN.
• Sonics fans at Sonics Fever are already selling “We’re back” and “Hansen is my hero” T-shirts.
• Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will have the opportunity to present his case to the NBA’s Board of Governors that the Kings should remain in Sacramento. The NBA did strongly discourage the Kings from moving to Anaheim, Calif., in 2011. However, Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com assesses the NBA’s history regarding relocation efforts and it doesn’t look good for Sacramento.
In practice, the Board of Governors has not blocked a move in modern history. They voted 28-2 in favor of the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City, with only Dallas’ Mark Cuban and Portland’s Paul Allen voting against.
The closest parallel for Sacramento was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ unsuccessful move to New Orleans in 1994. The Board of Governors voted against the sale of the Timberwolves to a group, Top Rank, intending to move the team to the Crescent City. While that decision was largely due to questions about the group’s finances, it gave Minnesota the opportunity to find a local owner (Glen Taylor) to keep the team in town.
A source close to the relocation efforts indicated that at least one owner was willing to vote against the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City if there was a viable plan to keep the team in Seattle, which fell through when the state legislature was unwilling to provide necessary funding. But in the Kings’ case, Stein reports that Board of Governors approval is “widely considered to be a formality.” In general, owners are considered unwilling to block any move because of the possibility that they might need approval from the Board of Governors for their own move. Also, preventing a franchise from moving opens up the possibility of an antitrust suit against the league.
• Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, who is from Seattle, offered his thoughts on the possible move to The Associated Press.
“It’s just a little weird (but) at the same time I love Sacramento. I love everything about it. Love the fans; the organization just brought me in with open arms. That’s all I really know in this league is Sacramento,” said Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, a Tacoma, Wash., native. “But then I am from that area back home. It’s just kind of a different situation. Whatever I say about Seattle, Sacramento fans might be mad at me, and whatever I say about Sacramento, Seattle fans might be mad at me. I just love both cities.”
• Nick Eaton of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wonders whether Sonics fans are hypocrites for celebrating the Kings deal after losing their franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Five years ago, the Seattle SuperSonics were — many folks feel — stolen away and moved to Oklahoma City. Sonics fans were dismayed that an NBA team with such rich history could be taken from them so swiftly. But now, it looks as though the Sonics are coming back. But they’d be coming in the form of the Sacramento Kings, “stolen away” from the California capital and relocated to the Emerald City.
Surely, if the NBA approves the sale of the Kings to the Seattle group led by arena investor Chris Hansen, Sacramento basketball fans will hate Seattle much the way most Sonics fans hate Oklahoma City. Seattle was the victim; now it’s the villain.
Are we all huge hypocrites?
• Zach Harper of CBSSports.com runs down what Seattle would be getting on the court.
They have a lot of guard depth with Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, and Jimmer Fredette. Throw in Aaron Brooks too because he’d be crazy to decline his player option for next season. Does any of that fit together? With the exception of Thomas, all of those guys need the ball in their hands to score, which is their main and often sole attribute.
They have DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Thomas Robinson, and Chuck Hayes signed for at least the next two-to-three seasons. This rotation of big men could work but it’s going to be expensive to keep once Cousins gets his extension (assuming he doesn’t take the one-year qualifying offer and bolts for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2015). And for it to be truly effective, you need wings who can shoot the ball from downtown.
There is talent on the roster but no focus.
• NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper of notes that Thunder owner Clay Bennett is the head of the NBA’s relocation committee.
It is fitting to note that the man who heads the relocation committee, Thunder owner Clay Bennett, is the same man who took the SuperSonics from Seattle in the first place. Don’t attach too much actual meaning, though. Seattle as a destination – apart from whatever maneuvering transpires on other levels – gets approved no matter who chairs the committee.