The wise and powerful Paul Flannery took you through the talent situation for the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. The sale of the team by the Maloof family to Vivek Ranadivé and friends will be officially announced on Friday. It's unclear how much of a lag there will be between that announcement and NBA Board of Governors approval of the purchase. Traditionally, personnel moves and the like have been put on hold in that interim. (The Warriors did execute a deal in 2010 for David Lee months before the man believed to be behind it, Joe Lacob, received BOG approval, though.)
But the Kings' transformation extends way beyond the court. Every piece of the franchise has been in a holding pattern since 2008 (in some aspects, even longer). In 2008-09, the Kings won just 19 games ... and had ticket prices in the top five in the league. After some subsequent changes on the business side of the franchise, the Kings still have top-ten ticket prices for a team with the second-longest playoff drought in the league. And while Kings employees have done the best job they can, it has been hard. There's no money and no interest from the bosses to make the fan experience the best it can possibly be. The Maloofs lost interest long ago.
It's weird, too, because a big part of the Maloofs' beginning in Sacramento was that they put a ton of effort into improving the fan experience, something that has become increasingly important with the advent of regional sports networks that carry every single game and high-def TVs. The Maloofs saw ways to give their fans more value. As the team improved rapidly, peaking in 2002 with a berth in the Western Conference Finals, the Maloofs began to milk that extra value with higher ticket prices. When the steam ran out of the team, those tickets stayed expensive. When the Maloofs' fortune went up in smoke due to the bursting of the real estate bubble and the banking crisis, fan service became an afterthought. That's why attendance fell off a cliff: poor value, poor product, no attempt to fix it.
That all changes now. Ranadivé has led the Golden State Warriors' efforts to improve in-arena fan service, and his software company Tibco is basically devoted to keeping clients two seconds ahead of real-time. He and Mark Mastrov, another partner in the team, have discussed making the new Kings arena cutting-edge in terms of fan experience. But there are some pretty simple things they can do at Sleep Train Arena over the next three years to make fans show up, pay up and smile. Like, you know, making sure all the bathrooms are in operation.
The basketball operations of the Kings has been in dire straits. Geoff Petrie actually predates the Maloofs in Sacramento. The family never fired or hired a general manager. Petrie's small staff has also remained mostly unchanged, with the exception of the recent additions of his son Mike and former King Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The Kings are not currently a SportsVU team, and this intrepid blogger (who has covered the team closely since 2005) just learned a month ago that Petrie does actually quietly have a stats guy. If Petrie manages to keep his job (his contract expires at the end of June), he'll have far more resources and input from his bosses. If Petrie is replaced, the Kings' new GM will step into a front office being rapidly upgraded with all the newest tools of the trade. Either way, the basketball operations of the Kings will go from dark ages to new age in no time flat.
But one of the most important factors in this takeover is that it will inspire fans to come back. Back in 1985, thousands of fans camped overnight to get single-game tickets -- the waiting list for season tickets was years long, so if you weren't lucky enough to have seats or know someone willing to sell, you got in through single-game tickets released just before the season. (Or you dealt with scalpers in the pre-StubHub world.) Sacramento sold out every Kings game from 1985 to 1997. The team's record during that streak: 359-625. Once the Maloofs (and Chris Webber and Rick Adelman and Vlade Divac) took over, another eight-year sellout streak began, only to end with the confluence of disasters described above.
A new sellout streak begins this fall with it a new era of Sacramento Kings basketball. So get your jokes in now. They are about to become far less accurate.