Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: NBA needs Kings-Warriors rivalry

Published: Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013 - 3:02 pm

OAKLAND – First of all, the Golden State Warriors have a great gig going. The powers-that-be have assembled a balanced and dynamic roster. Their young coach guided the club into the postseason for the first time in six years. Plans for a waterfront arena are progressing.

And the atmosphere in Oracle Arena has become almost Arcoesque. Almost.

If you were writing a scouting report about noise level and fan enthusiasm, Kings fans of the previous decade – with their earsplitting cheering and chanting, those irritating, iconic cowbells, and all that foot stomping – set the standard; earplugs were recommended and distributed free of charge.

"Oracle (arena) is the best in the league right now, but nothing like Arco during our run in the 2000s," former Kings guard and current ESPN analyst Jon Barry said Friday after working Game 3 of the Warriors-Nuggets series. "Sac is a special place. I'd love to see this other guy (the Vivek Ranadive group) buy the team. They could develop a helluva rivalry with the Warriors."

Maybe. Maybe not. On Monday, members of the league's finance/relocation committee will recommend whether their fellow owners should approve the Kings' relocation and sale to Seattle's Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer; oppose the move and urge the Maloofs to accept a competing bid from the Ranadive coalition; or propose a compromise that keeps the Kings in Sacramento and grants Seattle a franchise in the near future.

Again, no predictions. The Sacramento-Seattle matchup remains too close to call.

But Barry's points are tantalizing. An invigorated Kings-Warriors rivalry would further Northern California's reputation as a hotbed for professional basketball. And while the Kings fit together like two left sneakers, transformations don't have to take decades. Only 13 months ago, remember, Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob was booed mercilessly for trading Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut.

"I think the booing was premature," Lacob said with a grin Friday.

For the sake of argument, envision a possible future that would include these elements:

Meddling new-age owners

Players have their tattoos; owners have their bulging bank accounts. But if they're going to spend billions, they want to participate in the fun stuff – NBA drafts, trades, coaching hirings and firings.

"I believe ownership needs to be involved daily and directly," Lacob added.

And here's a fascinating subplot to Kings-Warriors: While Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber are tight pals and the chief shot-callers, the Warriors' vice chairman and No. 3 executive – and that would be the billionaire Ranadive – is itching to run his own organization. We will learn soon enough whether the Silicon Valley software tycoon and his financial allies are prepared to dig as deeply into their pockets as Lacob/Guber and Hansen/Ballmer.

Talent edge to Warriors

In spite of his issues – demeanor, temper, and aversion to the weight room – DeMarcus Cousins trumps the taller but increasingly injury-prone Bogut. And that's about it. Warriors starters Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes could all have been drafted by the Kings.

"Sacramento has a horrible collection of players," said Barry. "There is talent there, but together it doesn't work. None of the guys play defense. Isaiah Thomas is a backup. Jimmer (Fredette) needs to play in a different system. They need to make moves."

Cowbells, cozy confines

Both the Warriors and the Ranadive-led potential Kings investors have released beautiful renderings and detailed blueprints for new arenas. But with few exceptions, say, the Brooklyn Nets, franchises continue to blow that invaluable home-court advantage.

Before excessive ticket prices (too recently reduced to reflect the product), persistently poor transactions, and incessant relocation chatter sliced up the emotional guts of a famously loyal fan base, the energy of the home crowd enabled even the lesser-talented Kings teams to swipe five or six victories per season.

"We would have midweek games against the Grizzlies and you couldn't get a seat," said Barry. "In the playoffs, we'd be sitting in the locker room, and you could hear the stomping and the crowd at fever pitch. If you asked players in the league, they would have said Sac is the best.

"The Maloofs spent money when they first came to Sac, brought in Vlade (Divac), Webb (Chris Webber), and put together a helluva team. Man, I really hope these guys come through."


The 12 owners on the NBA's relocation/finance committee will make the recommendation on the future of the Kings:

• Peter Holt, Spurs (chairman of the board of governors)

• Micky Arison, Heat

• Clay Bennett, Thunder

• Jeanie Buss, Lakers

• James Dolan, Knicks

• Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics

• Ted Leonsis, Wizards

• Greg Miller, Jazz

• Robert Sarver, Suns

• Herb Simon, Pacers

• Larry Tanenbaum, Raptors

• Glen Taylor, Timberwolves

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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