Kings-Anaheim: The Royal Wedding that Should’ve Been

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The Maloof brothers have decided to keep the Kings in Sacramento for 2011-2012, leaving Anaheim without a basketball franchise for at least another year. This news has disappointed legions of basketball fans in the Orange County area who wouldn’t mind having the Kings franchise renamed the “Royals” just for the sake of allowing Anaheim to have its own team.

For years Orange County has been dying for a basketball franchise that can electrify and bring hopes of a basketball title to the OC.

Just kidding.

Most Orange County baskeball fans align themselves with the Lakers or Clippers. If the entire Southern California area has been captivated by the dynasty of a first-class basketball team like the Lakers or the explosive high-flying style of the second-rate Clippers, what’s the point of having a third-rate team like the Kings in Orange County? Call me crazy, but I truly believe there are some positives in having a franchise like the Kings come to Anaheim in the future.

First off, the Kings are on the brink of returning to the consistent winning of the Mike Bibby/Chris Webber era. Assuming that next season will be the Kings’ last in Sacramento, by the time the Kings’ become a part of Anaheim, it is likely that rising stars DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans will be well-seasoned in their third and fourth years, respectively, and able to make greater contributions to the team. Moreover, assuming Marcus Thornton stays, the team will have three potent weapons on offense that allow the team to score from anywhere.

However, the supporting cast could definitely use some work. Samuel Dalembert did a C+ job playing center, which is actually decent in comparison to extremely soft big men that the Kings started in the part. But now he’s a free agent, and there’s no guarantee that Dalembert will play for the Kings. There is no telling when Francisco Garcia will break again and not be able to provide his solid defense and 3-pointers on a consistent basis. Aside from those two, the Kings also have to worry about their bench. Though their bench has plenty of well-balanced scorers, nearly all of them are too soft to pressure opponents. Nevertheless, these problems can be fixed if the Kings move to Anaheim, raise their payroll and sign better players.

Remember when the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder? The team went from the worst team in the West to the fourth seed in just three years. This is the type of transformation we can see in the Sacramento Kings.

The franchise can gain more revenue from the city of Anaheim. The population of Anaheim and surrounding cities not only doubles the population of our state’s capital, but it’ll also bring more wealth. A corporate base in Orange County triples that of Sacramento County in terms of private companies. Moreover, the Honda Center in Anaheim has roughly three times more luxury box seats than the Power Balance Pavilion (84 to 30).

The Maloofs can be optimistic in turning these business benefits into building a better basketball team. For free agents, playing in the city of Anaheim will attract them to join the Kings (or Royals) because of the peaceful living conditions of the OC.

The $75 million offered by Henry Samueli would do the Kings a huge favor in improving the roster. The Kings have great potential that has yet to be met, and that potential can be realized with the new money they would receive if they relocate to Anaheim.

The Kings can develop their own fan base in Anaheim. There will likely be attendees going to Kings games mainly because they want to drive a shorter distance to see the Lakers play at a cheaper price, but eventually there will be a core fan base. If the team rebuilds into even an eighth-seed contender, they can attract a new legion of fans who find the drive from the OC to Staples Center a hassle and those who love basketball but never felt connected with the Lakers or Clippers (and the number of Laker haters). The Royals wouldn’t try to hog the spotlight in LA, they would claim Orange County and set themselves apart from Los Angeles.

The rivalry between the Lakers and Kings franchise would certainly pick up where it left off, intensified by the fact that they are an hour apart. This rivalry can be a great marketing tool to convert the OC locals into Kings fans and set a definite border between the Southern California basketball fans just like what the Angels and Dodgers did for baseball.

I really don’t have any sympathy for the fans in Sacramento, and I honestly have to say that moving to Anaheim is the better choice. A better facility, more money, more fans and a bigger market are waiting for the Kings. Not to mention it’s hard to take the Kings’ fan support too seriously after seeing a great drop in attendance in the midst of their consecutive losing seasons.

As a Clippers fan for the past 10 years, I’ve witnessed the Staples Center fill up 16,500 seats during their losing seasons and almost 18,000 in the 2005 playoff season and the beginning of the Blake Show. That certainly says a lot about a strong fan base in comparison to the Kings whose attendance dropped from roughly 18,000 to 13,500 after they stopped winning.

Sacramento fans should start backing up their words and start attending games more frequently, because the franchise could thrive so much more here in Orange County.

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