Struggling Franchises on Different Paths

On April 11, New Jersey Nets shooting guard Sasha Vujacic drained a 23-foot three pointer with 10 seconds left, tying the game at 103 in front of a paid attendance of 13,853 (more like 8,000) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Following a timeout, Bobcats point guard, D.J. Augustin dribbled up the court with little resistance, used a Boris Diaw pick to create just enough space for a game-winning 18-foot fadeaway jumper with 1.1 seconds left. Nets lose 105-103. It was their last home game of the season.

That same night, former All-star point guard and current Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson attended the  Sacramento Kings’ penultimate home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Kings fell to the Thunder 120-112 behind Kevin Durant’s 32 points. Days later, Johnson flew to New York City to meet with the NBA Board of Governors with the hopes of keeping the Kings in Sacramento.

The clock is ticking for Kevin Johnson

Tasked with staving off relocation, Johnson worked tirelessly this summer, gathering support and funding for the Kings’ 2011-2012 season. He quickly secured $10 million in corporate sponsorship money, financial proof that the Kings still had support from their city. Johnson’s efforts paid off as the Maloofs agreed to give the city of Sacramento one more year to come up with a plan for a new arena and entertainment complex. The Maloofs demanded Johnson solidify plans and funding for a new arena in Sacramento or the team moves to another city, presumably Anaheim.

“The mayor of Sacramento has told the NBA relocation committee that he will have a plan for a new arena within a year,” Joe Maloof told the Associated Press. “If not, the team will be relocated to another city.”

As we approach day 150 of the NBA lockout, Johnson continues to push forward with plans for a new sports and entertainment center in the capital of California. In an issued statement, Johnson reiterated that the arena would be more than just a basketball stadium, but a job-creating entertainment complex.

“While like many others we hope that the NBA and the players are able to come to an agreement, our focus has always been that this facility is more than just a professional basketball arena but rather, similar to what has taken place in Kansas City, an entertainment and sports complex that will generate economic activity and create jobs.” via the Sacramento Bee.

Still, a canceled season will kill any momentum gathered by Johnson’s best efforts. NBA columnist Scott Howard-Cooper on Grant Napeer’s podcast admired the daily pep-rallies by Kings fans as the Maloof’s threats to move their team grew louder and louder in the media near the end of last season. 

“The team almost left and the people said wait a minute, we like them again, we want them to stay,” Cooper said. “All the rallies around town and all the excitement of the team staying, it energized people in the city.”

Johnson hopes to have architectural and financial plans lined up by January, but the lack of a season will temper the fans’ support for the Kings. The timing could not have been worse. NBA greed, fan frustration and America’s overall apathy toward the lockout could potentially derail Johnson’s efforts.
Brooklyn awaits the Barclays Center

Speaking of apathy, the lockout threatens to prematurely end the Nets “reign” in north Jersey. Somebody should probably inform north Jersey. The Nets are scheduled to move to Brooklyn — with prized point guard Deron Williams leading the charge — and play in the Barclays Center, the centerpiece of the proposed $2.5 billion commercial and residential development project, starting in the 2012-2013 season. But unlike the Kings, who desperately want the lockout to end for the sake of their city, Nets ownership would probably not mind if the lockout lingers just a little bit longer.

According to, the Nets are just one of five NBA teams that would actually lose LESS money by having a locked out season. Couple that with the Nets marketing team already working on creating a new Brooklyn fanbase, (“Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready” is their team slogan), and it becomes abundantly clear the team has mentally moved on.

As Mayor Johnson fights for additional funds for a new arena in the midst of a lockout with no end in sight, in city with a 12.4% unemployment rate, the Nets simply sit and back and watch as the NBA calendar turns. A palace awaiting their arrival.

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