TACOMA — Another day, another $750 million twist in the saga regarding the future of the Sacramento Kings.
A Sacramento TV station reported Monday night that hotel owner John Kehriotis, a Kings minority owner, is assembling a group to buy the woebegone team and relocate it into a privately funded arena in downtown Sacramento, wherever that is.
According to sources unidentified by the TV station, Kehriotis is ready to throw $350 million on the table, and has a oral commitment for an additional $400 million.
I hope Kehriotis succeeds. And if he doesn’t, I hope Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson achieves a last-ditch solution to prevent the Kings from moving. If this means Seattle has to wait a few more years before the NBA returns to the Pacific Northwest, so be it.
No pro basketball team is preferable to a lousy, hopeless, historically jinxed pro basketball team. The franchise was a bust as the Royals in Rochester and Cincinnati, and it’s been a bust as the Kings in Kansas City-Omaha and in Sacramento. Giving green and gold uniforms to the players and calling them the SuperSonics is no assurance they won’t be a bust in Seattle.
Sure, Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer figure to assemble a front office of visionaries, who’ll gut the sad-Sac roster and retool it as a Sonics team worthy of watching 82 times a season. Just because the Kings failed in four markets doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll struggle in their fifth.
But connect the dots between upstate New York and central California, with stops in southern
Ohio, western Missouri and eastern Nebraska, and what appears on the map is a road to perdition.
I’d rather the Sonics II evolve from scratch. Commissioner David Stern insists the league has no plans to expand from 30 teams to, say, 32. Then again, this is the same David Stern who has long had fancies of the NBA moving into Europe and Asia.
If London and Beijing are feasible NBA markets, so are Seattle and an expansion partner on a continent populated by fans who understand the difference between free throws and field goals.
In any event, let the Kings rot in Sacramento, where their last winning season – they finished 44-38 in 2006 – was marked by the firing of coach Rick Adelman, who was replaced by Eric Musselman, who was replaced by Reggie Theus, who was replaced by Kenny Natt, who was replaced by Paul Westphal.
The Westphal “era” lasted two full seasons and seven games into a third, when tensions with serial-moping forward DeMarcus Cousins reached a boiling point. Westphal, who had sent Cousins home from a Jan. 1, 2012 game for being “unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team,” suspended Cousins again on Dec. 22, 2012. This time it was for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.”
The suspension was lifted two days later. Clearly, the Kings were at a crossroads. Either the coach or the player suspended for “unprofessional behavior” had to go.
See ya, coach.
Keith Smart took over for Westphal and, as we speak, Smart remains employed. But he’ll soon be looking for work, too, which will give the team a chance to hire its seventh coach since 2006.
At least Musselman, Theus, Natt and Westphal were fired for reasons related to basketball. In 1980, when the Kings were based in Kansas City, general manager John Begzos was fired after buying $240 worth of postage stamps from a neighbor, and then reselling the stamps to the team for the $120 he paid for them.
Only problem: The stamps already were used.
“Second-hand stamps” — it sounds like the title of one of those terrible country songs that are so bad they’re actually kind of good — describes the Kings in a nutshell.
And yet the Kings remain at the core of a tussle between Sacramento and Seattle. Some people who have acquired fabulous wealth — shrewd businessmen grieving about the time a dime of theirs went to waste — are dreaming of owning an NBA basketball franchise that’s a headache immune to extra-strength aspirin.
The Kings have been plagued by owners who were incompetent, general managers who resold second-hand stamps, and coaches doomed to finish second in power struggles with players whose conduct was unprofessional.
My aversion to the idea of the Kings reinventing themselves in Seattle is not personal. In fact, I have pleasant memories, from when I was a college student, of watching the team in Kansas City. They competed in Kemper Arena, before enthusiastic crowds that embraced everything there is to like about the NBA.
On a June day in 1979, Kemper Arena took on the 70 mph gusts of Mother Nature, whose bad mood underscored the tradition of the most star-crossed franchise in professional sports.
The roof caved in.