As long as Joe, Gavin and the rest of the Maloof clan is involved, there’s still a chance this could all blow up.
But for now, it seems as if the Sacramento Kings are headed north to Seattle, abandoning a market that, despite its flaws, loved and supported them far better than they deserved.
It’s times like this when San Antonio, if it doesn’t already, should give heartfelt thanks for the wild success its only major-league team has enjoyed. Four championships and the NBA’s best winning percentage over the past 15 years, in a small, blue-collar market you typically need a connecting flight to reach?
What has happened here is nothing short of remarkable, an achievement never more apparent than times like this, with a sister city on the verge a losing a franchise through no real fault of its own.
It’s telling that two straight coaches, Brooklyn’s P.J. Carlesimo and Philadelphia’s Doug Collins, spoke with equal measures of envy and respect about just how unique the Spurs’ success has been during their recent visits to San Antonio. They ticked though the requirements to replicate what the Spurs have accomplished:
Draft a couple of all-time Hall of Famers within a close enough span that their careers overlap.
Have an owner who hires good people and stays out of the way. Have one of the best coaches in the game. Have a general manager whose patience and foresight matches that of the head coach. Do it in a town with no other competition, so your team can soak up all the attention and resources.
As Carlesimo finished his summation: Good luck with that.
Compare this with the woeful Kings. They figured out the last bit. But with the exception of their success in the early 00s, everything else has been a debacle.
Instead of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, they got Pervis Ellison and DeMarcus Cousins.
Instead of Gregg Popovich, they got 13 different coaches in 28 years.
Instead of a dignified, hands-off owner, they got a pack of debt-ridden carpet baggers.
Instead of a Memorial Day Miracle and four championships, they got a Game 7 meltdown and zero Finals appearances.
With so many factors that had to go just right for the Spurs to do what they’ve done during the Duncan era, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they, and not the Kings, could be relocating. Especially considering the Maloofs were a finalist to buy the Spurs in 1996, when they were edged by Peter Holt. An alternate history if they would have won:
* The Maloofs sack Popovich after the 6-8 start in 1998-99. The Spurs never recover in the resulting turmoil, and a potential dynasty is thwarted before it ever happens.
* With no championship to galvanize the city, a bond measure to build a new arena fails, leaving the Spurs stranded in the cavernous, inadequate Alamodome.
* Duncan bolts to join Grant Hill and Mickey Mouse in Orlando.
* The Maloofs hold out through a decade of mediocrity, flirting with multiple cities while fan discontent mounts. They finally sell out to Seattle in 2013, and just like that, San Antonio’s 40-year love affair with pro basketball is over.
This is how thin the line between success and failure can be in professional sports, particularly one as market-driven as the NBA. The Spurs, with an abundance of good fortune along the way, have skirted it masterfully.
That feat should never be taken for granted. Especially not while another town, comparable for so many ways, is about to pay the ultimate price for the gross mismanagement of its prize.
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