It really is tough to imagine such a dramatic change in public perception than the one the Maloof family has undergone in their time as owners of the Sacramento Kings.
Remember when the family bought the team in 1999 and immediately infused new life into the franchise? Gavin and Joe’s energy was infectious. Yes, their courtside celebrations were often obnoxious, but it still was really cool to see owners who were so passionate and connected to their team, and so willing to do whatever it took to win.
I remember watching Mike Bibby’s stellar performances in the playoffs against the Lakers in 2002. Gavin was interviewed on national TV after one of the games and asked about Bibby’s future with the team with his contract up. He cut the reporter off and said, “We’re going to sign him!”
I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s awesome.” As a Sacramento native, I swelled with pride knowing that these new owners of the Kings were intent on putting and keeping the Kings on the NBA map, cowbells and all.
And sign Bibby they did, to a mega seven-year, $80.5 million deal. They also spent huge dollars to keep Chris Webber and the rest of the core of that team together for the greatest stretch in Sacramento Kings history.
But all good things come to an end.
Fast forward to today. What a sad state of affairs. They trade away the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson, during his rookie season in a salary dump? They got the Houston Rockets to kick in $1 million and the salaries of the three players they got ($6.5 million) are cheaper than those they gave away ($10 million).
But come on? The Maloofs’ days of owning the team are almost up, whether they go to Seattle or stay here. Are they really hurting that badly for cash that they can’t ride it out for the rest of the season?
Robinson is reportedly only the fifth top-5 lottery pick in NBA history to be traded during his rookie season. I’m sure if you asked the Maloofs, they’d say Robinson wasn’t meeting expectations and they like the prospects of Patrick Patterson teaming up with DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, or some similar blah, blah, blah.
But of course the Maloofs have completely disappeared from the public spotlight, their courtside seats long since abandoned.
I’d like to ask George, Gavin and Joe why they didn’t give a Sacramento group the chance to buy the team. After a series of bad business deals, you have to admit they did pretty well for themselves this time, getting the Seattle group to value the Kings at $525 million. But doesn’t Sacramento deserve better?
I think we do. The Maloofs’ time certainly is up in Sacramento. I just hope that the same won’t be said about the Kings.