In Part II of Kingdom Interviews with Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee — click here if you missed Part I — the Sacramento Kings beat writer breaks down the reality of relocation; the additions of Paul Westphal, Sean May, and Desmond Mason; and the Hall of Fame chances of three legendary former Kings.
There has been a longstanding fear that Sacramento could lose the Kings if a new arena isn’t built in the near future. As it stands now, how serious is the threat of relocation?
The threat of not getting a new arena any time soon is very great. But I think that the other end of that is where are they going to go? I don’t see any exit strategies for the team. I believe that you’re talking about $80 million if the Maloofs choose to leave town, in terms of what it would potentially cost them between paying the city back for the arena and relocation fees. So, I almost think that the economy is keeping them here beyond next season right now.
How would losing the Kings affect you, as well as the loyal Sacramento fanbase?
It would be huge. As far as the sport realm of our paper, they are the franchise for us and are the only team that we can claim to cover exclusively. It would be a huge blow to the fanbase and the community – just look up at Seattle and how the sports fans are still in mourning over what they lost with the Sonics.
That being said, a lot of the time when you write a story for the front page of the paper, and you’re talking to a more widespread audience, the comments are along the lines of “good luck in Vegas or Kansas City.” There are fans in the area who could care less over whether the team is here or not. But just to cap that off, if they became good again like before, there’s just nothing in the area that can capture a global audience like they can. When C-Webb and those guys were doing their thing, Sacramento was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and it spread the name of the city like few other things can.
Moving on to some of the Kings' offseason moves, do you think that Coach Westphal was the right hire for this team?
I think they very badly needed to hire a guy who’d been there and done that, since as one of the Maloofs said, “no more grand experiments.” There’s still some curiosity about Kurt Rambis, and from a PR standpoint, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been in the news a whole lot more than the Kings largely because of who they hired. It’s a splashier move – they had national reporters coming to the news conference to see what Rambis was planning to do with that team. With the Kings, there was a lot shrugging because he’s been away for nine years in the head coaching business, but you know what you’re getting with Paul.