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If Kings don't move, owners have some 'splainin' to do

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

Once upon a time, there were two brothers, Joe and Gavin Maloof. I mean, there still are two brothers, but work with us here.

They were rich. They were young. They were wealthy. They were energetic. They were loaded. They were dynamic. They were galactically well off. They were the future. And they had money.

Kings fans might not be all that welcoming if the Maloof brothers are forced to stay in Sacramento. (AP)  
Kings fans might not be all that welcoming if the Maloof brothers are forced to stay in Sacramento. (AP)  
And a basketball team, the modest but precocious Sacramento Kings, nee the Kansas City Kings, nee the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, nee the Cincinnati Royals, nee the Rochester Royals. They had bought it from another young guy who had some money but not nearly enough, and they turned it into, forgive the pun, one of the jewels of an empire that earned them a 60 Minutes feature and the admiration of millions.

Today, they find themselves considering the horrible thought that they might have broken up with the girl (or boy, if you prefer) with whom they're still sleeping. They may still be having sex, but they're not enjoying it. Not even the rolling over and falling asleep while your partner is talking part.

The Maloofs, as you know, have announced their intention to take the Kings and move them yet again, to Anaheim. They would widen their lead in the Nomadic Tribes of the NBA video game, taking in their sixth city. The Hawks technically would be working on their seventh if you wanted to count their years as the Tri-Cities Hawks (Moline and Rock Island, Ill. and Davenport, Iowa) as three cities rather than one, but frankly, you don't care, and neither do we.

They've basically gone kind of well, broke. Their Las Vegas holdings have taken a right beating in the recession, they've had to sell their once cash-cow-ish New Mexico beer distributorship, their attempts to get a new arena in Sacramento have been California'd to death, and they've already been loaned $75 million by the NBA and also owe Sacramento a healthy chunk of keep-us-floating change.

In short, they need to either get out of Sacramento or sell. And no, you should not believe that Chris Webber and/or Charles Barkley are coming up with a single dime to save that team, not unless they pile the money on the top of the table like they do at poker tournaments and pile it so high that you can't see Ernie Johnson. They were, like we say at the Grange Hall, just funnin' y'all.

And now comes a rumor that they might not even have the 15 owner votes they need to get permission to move. Dr. Jerry Buss is leading the drive to keep the Kings out of Anaheim, since he neither wants his own LakersTV audience split up nor does he want Anaheim to get a team other than the Clippers, which he would dearly love to ship out of Staples Center at first light.

If it is true that the Maloofs can't move, they will have the delicate task of telling Sacramento that they didn't really mean to cheat, that it was just a harmless flirtation, that the sex really didn't mean anything, that they really loved the Capital all along -- all while both they and Sacramento know they're going to go to the club tonight and look for another girl (or boy, if you prefer).

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And if they can't get that girl (or boy, if you prefer) right away, they may have to use the old going-out-for-cigarettes ploy -- you know, leave, say you're coming back in 15 minutes and then never return.

Either way, they will have to sell their devotion to people who know they're lying. This, you can imagine, will be a very tough ticket to move.

Oh, they finished with the Lakers on Wednesday in Sacramento, and the building will be full of people begging them to stay, the desperate girlfriend (or boyfriend, if you prefer) to the end. And if it is true that they can't get out of town and have to return next year, Sacramento is more than likely prepared to make them crawl a bit as punishment for getting that wandering eye.

But this won't be a win for Sacramento. It will know it is on borrowed time. A new steady owner will want the same things the Maloofs wanted -- a free arena in downtown with the jewelry of free rent and all the parking and concessions money thrown in. In short, it will be a new relationship, but it isn't likely to be any less abusive.

Or they'll be stuck with the Maloofs and their wandering eyes, living the life of distrust and furtive movements that usually ends with someone siccing a lawyer on someone else.

The Maloofs' only strategy, frankly, is to cop to it all. "We're tapped out, kids. We do want to leave, yes. We need the money. But let's make the best of it while we're here, OK? We'll try not to bring the new girl (or boy, if you prefer) to our old special places if you promise not to lecture us at the top of your lungs in the mall when we're shopping, OK?"

Sacramento won't be any happier about it, but at least it won't feel like it has been lied to -- again. And it can subsist awhile longer on the fantasy that the Maloofs' staying is proof that the city still has the legs and the figure to turn men's (or women's, if you prefer) eyes.

Kind of makes you nostalgic for the good old days when franchises used to sneak out at midnight with moving vans idling in the driveway.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.


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