How about those NBA Playoffs?! Derrick Rose is leading the Bulls like a once-led-by Jordan team did back in the day. Russell Westbrook has established himself as just as worthy and important to the OKC Thunder as teammate Kevin Durant — might there be some jealousy clouding the team’s Playoff hopes? We already witnessed the Hawks of Atlanta beat down Orlando and their muscly-chiseled giant and could very well see Memphis take the Best of the West down too. All that in the opening round, and it’s just heating up.
It’s really unfortunate that these lively and entertaining Playoff games have to be dolefully overshadowed by the unfortunate situation in Sacramento. Some may think nothing of it — Why should we care about what’s going on in a poor basketball town like Sacramento? But when the league’s integrity is at stake, it should be considered a big deal.
If you’re not up to date on the Sacramento situation, here’s where we are now: The Maloof’s, Sacramento’s “proud” owners of their Kings, screwed up, ran out of money, cut the costs of operations throughout the organization and now they’re in a pickle looking for a new arena and a new beginning. Unfortunately, a city as small as Sacramento can’t afford a new arena to please the Maloof brothers’ requests and they’ve explored the option of relocating. “Relocation,” it’s the only word that provides enough motivation in the word itself to bring a community together to fight the stronger powers of the world. So as the city of Sacramento rallies itself to save their lone professional franchise — The Maloof’s already allowed their WNBA team to hit the fan — the fate of the Sacramento Kings is now in the NBA’s hands, as they’re now figuring out if it’s worth their interest to keep the franchise afloat in a dismantled NBA market.
In Sacramento’s case, we’ve quickly learned the fact that smaller-market teams are ruining the NBA’s limelight. By that I mean that they’re low attendance, poor marketing and tendency to withhold franchise players from going to a preferred destination hinders the league and its owners — and in Lebron James’ case, can curse a franchise and its fans. That won’t get you on David Stern’s good side, where he pictures the NBA as joyful as a fairy tale, where Chicago, New York, Miami, Boston and L.A. are all an integral part of each season and postseason.
But we’ve seen this all over, especially as of late with the Kings on the fence and other franchises in limbo. To make matters even more relevant than it blatantly should be already is that it happened in our very own city. Kevin Garnett hoisted this franchise onto his back and hauled it for 12 long, demanding seasons. But when KG left at McHale’s request — and ultimately for the good of the league — the franchise turned into a crippled and demoralized heap of excrement that proved to be more detrimental to the league than helpful. After that, all those involved, especially the fans, grew detached from the situation entirely. And now we’re winding down an awfully similar, and eery, path that the Kings tumbled down. We’re watching operation costs getting slashed, the fan support is decreasing and they haven’t caught a glimmer of luck, or hope, yet.
We’ve seen very similar situations happen multiple times — Seattle and New Orleans most recently — where the NBA’s front office has had to intervene in one organization’s business because either A) Owners go broke, B) Fans grow disinterested for any number of reasons, or; C) The team just flat out sucks. But more importantly, what all these troubled teams have in common is they’ve just failed to catch that break and, honestly, were never in the right caring hands to begin with.
Why didn’t the situation implode? Because Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge showed up. Because owner Paul Allen embraced how deeply Portlanders identified with his franchise and started emphasizing character. Because Allen hired an enterprising front office that used his money as a competitive advantage, buying extra draft picks, thinking outside the box with creative free-agent offers and raiding cost-cutting teams of solid veterans. The team built a good enough foundation to survive a few bad breaks (most recently, Oden and Roy), and now they’re giving the Mavericks everything they can handle in Round 1. Maybe the Blazers haven’t been totally lucky, but they’ve definitely been smart.
Bill Simmons said that here and I advise taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to read the article in its entirety. Anyways, back to the point: Teams in smaller markets are doomed in the NBA. Unless they’re being run by very smart people, such as the Blazers, or have just caught some lucky breaks, such as the Thunder, you’re years in the NBA, or at least in a specific city, are limited at best.
The next question is how can we fix this dilemma. Underprivileged owners in poor markets don’t have the gonads or the resources to survive in the NBA. It could very well lead to a contraction process in the NBA. Would contraction be a bad thing for the NBA? Looking forward both economically as well as the entertainment factor, a condensed and consolidated league could be the best thing going forward. No longer would Stern have to worry about bankrupt owners. No longer would city’s sit through season after season of suffering and aching. No longer would down-to-earth athletes have to make a professional decision about leaving their “home team” because of a “business decision.” The league would flourish in mounds of cash, sponsorships and the overwhelming amount of publicity they’d receive with all the different rivalries that could stem from big name players moving from one big name city to the next.
But at the same time, you can take Minnesota’s perspective and shoot all of those glamours of contraction down. We have the talent to turn things around. We have enough fan support, as we showed during the KG era, to make a statement amongst a league of coast-dwelling, tax-free states that have all the night clubs and warm weather to attract any talent they sought after.
The league doesn’t need to jump to any conclusions: If they find the right hands for a franchise like Sacramento, there’s hope. And if they also hit the lottery like OKC has, they could very well be the Blazers of tomorrow, even in a city as irrelevant to basketball as Portland once was. Minnesota is no different. Given the right amount of time and brains working behind the curtain, any team can be flipped right-side-up.
It’s just a matter of luck and intelligence. Isn’t everything?