Is there enough room in L.A. for three NBA teams?

432217.jpg

Is there enough room in L.A. for three NBA teams?

March 31, 2011
KINGS PAGE KINGSVIDEO

ANAHEIM (AP) The five-county Los Angeles metropolitan area already has two NBA teams, two baseball teams, two pro hockey teams, two major collegiate sports programs and dozens of minor athletic endeavors for a laid-back, West Coast population that doesn't obsess over sports in the first place.So why are the Sacramento Kings so eager to crash this already packed party by moving to Anaheim?Because much more than freeways separate Orange County and Los Angeles, according to Anaheim's mayor. Because the sprawling Southland has more than enough population and wealth to take an even larger role in the national sports scene, according to demographics experts - even some who never went to college."It's L.A., and people love basketball in Southern California," said Kobe Bryant, who lives on the Orange County coast. "It would be great to have a team here."Bryant spoke before the theoretical possibility of an NBA team moving to Anaheim became an imminent reality. Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof appear determined to relocate to Honda Center in the fall, with a majority vote of the NBA's owners looming as the biggest remaining obstacle.If it happens, the Los Angeles area's roughly 18 million residents will have three teams in the same pro sport - the transcendent Lakers, the star-crossed Clippers, and a well-traveled franchise likely to be christened the Anaheim Royals, reclaiming the nickname from their 1940s genesis in Rochester, N.Y.The New York City area's three NHL teams for 19 million people have the only comparable arrangement in North America. Some don't see how it can work, with Lakers coach Phil Jackson calling the prospect "ridiculous," but those with their fingers on the pulses and wallets of Orange County residents largely agree with the Maloofs, who declined to comment for this story."As we all know, Orange County is different," Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said Tuesday after announcing Anaheim would approve 75 million in lease-revenue bonds to entice the Kings. "You go up to L.A. for a game, it can take you two hours. This is a different place, a different population. ... Orange County is 3 million people. If you add people from the Inland Empire, north San Diego County, that's millions more, maybe 5-6 million. It's a big area. We've been trying to get an NBA team in Orange County for 20 years."Indeed, Orange County alone has more than twice the population of Sacramento County, with a per-capita income more than 20 percent higher. It's larger than current NBA markets such as Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee.Although the Kings draw their fans from throughout Northern California in a population base of roughly 2 million, the Royals could market themselves north to Riverside County and south to San Diego County - which hasn't had an NBA team since the Clippers left in 1984 - further expanding their footprint to more than 5 million people outside Los Angeles.But can Orange County be separated from Los Angeles, as Tait and others insist? Most people in Anaheim say it can.Given Los Angeles' traffic, a drive from San Diego to Anaheim sometimes takes just about as long as a drive from Orange County to Staples Center, San Diego native Luke Walton noted. Anaheim boosters also cite demographic shifts that have long shown the Los Angeles area's population shifting to the south and east.In a measure of the Kings' belief in Anaheim, AEG President Tim Leiweke said his sports conglomerate would love to move the Kings back to Kansas City and the 3 12-year-old Sprint Center operated by his company."But they won't talk to us," Leiweke said. "I think you can pretty well assume they're going to Anaheim. I think that's a foregone conclusion. Anaheim is 4 million people, Orange County, and so I understand why they think that."I know they see that as the land of dreams. I think they are inspired by being part of the Hollywood scene. But Orange County is not Hollywood, and what they're going to learn pretty quickly is it's the most competitive marketplace in the United States today, and it's going to get even more competitive in the future. I think it's unfortunate that they're not taking a look at a place like Kansas City. But they're not."And it's easy for people of means to enjoy a good life in Orange County. Just ask the NHL's Anaheim Ducks or baseball's Los Angeles Angels, who invariably cite the balmy weather, 42 miles of coastline, nine beaches and countless upscale amenities in the area in their decisions to stay with or sign with an Anaheim team.Bobby Ryan, the Ducks' high-scoring right wing and a New Jersey native, cited Orange County as a major reason he signed a new five-year contract to stay in Anaheim last fall."I can't imagine any better place to live and play," said Ryan, who lives in tony Newport Beach. "Look around: You're 13 miles from the water. I've fallen in love with the area completely, and a lot of guys do. I'm sure being in Orange County would be a huge positive to any Sacramento Kings or any NBA free agents, there's no doubt. You can definitely sell it to guys."The city-owned Honda Center was built in 1993 with the intention of housing two pro teams. The Vancouver Grizzlies considered moving there in 2001, and the Clippers played a handful of games in Anaheim every season from 1994-99, always drawing larger average crowds than in the outdated Sports Arena and considering a permanent move before owner Donald Sterling elected to live in the Lakers' shadow at Staples Center.The Ducks have sold out just four home games this season, yet Honda Center never looks half-empty, as the Kings' home, formerly known as Arco Arena, frequently has been over the past three seasons.Although buzz around the KingsRoyals built slowly in recent weeks, adding fuel to the saturation theory, interest appears to be picking up. Dozens of fans and businesspeople attended the dry City Council meeting approving the bonds - and with almost no promotion, 500 fans put their names on a waiting list for season tickets 24 hours after Honda Center announced it this week."I'm confident an NBA team in Orange County will do very well," Tait said. "L.A. and Orange County are far apart. Anyone who lives here knows that. We will fill the stands when the NBA comes to Honda Center, believe me."

Mullin sees potential Warriors-Cavs trilogy Finals going six games, but...

Mullin sees potential Warriors-Cavs trilogy Finals going six games, but...

As the defending champion Cavaliers are one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals, the consensus is they will meet the Warriors there and, moreover, that Part III of the trilogy promises to be the most compelling yet.

Chris Mullin is not so sure.

The Hall of Fame forward and current St. John's head coach, a guest Wednesday on the NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Podcast, perceives a reasonable chance of sweeping the series.

“I’m going on the record saying 4-2, just because maybe I want to see six games,” Mullin said. “I would not be surprised if it’s 4-1 or 4-zero. I think they’re that good.”

Recalling how the Warriors started sluggishly after a one-week layoff ahead of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs, Mullin conceded there could be some rust but probably not enough to invite a loss.

“I don’t want to lay any . . . pressure, but the Warriors, to me, this team that we’re watching is going to go down in history as one of the best teams of all time,” he said. “I believe that. I think they will stay together and that’s we’re probably going to see four Hall of Fame players that have played together and have dominated and become a dynasty. That’s what we’re going to look back on.

“There’s just a huge disparity between them and the rest of the league -- and not just the Cavaliers. But there’s a huge disparity between them and the Cavaliers. “

The Warriors defeated Cleveland in six games to win the championship in 2015, but the Cavaliers recovered from a 3-1 deficit to take the rematch last June.

Though both teams have made substantive changes, Mullin is more impressed with what the Warriors have done, including the addition of four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant to a nucleus that included All-Stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Mullin pointed out that the losses of Andrew Bogut, along with subtractions to their fabled depth and chemistry, led some to wonder if the Warriors might lose the magic of the previous two seasons. He also understands that point of view.

“But as I see it now,” he said, “I think they’re deeper and have better chemistry than they did last year when they won 73 games.”

It’s not that Mullin gives the Cavaliers, who have won 11 of 12 games in these playoffs, zero chance to win the series. It is just, in his view, very slim. “Cleveland, they’ve got really good people,” he said. “Their talent, I’m not discounting at all. LeBron and Kyrie and Kevin Love, these guys are great, great players.

“I feel like the Warriors are just a notch above everybody. I really believe that.”

 

Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A

Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A

CHICAGO -- The Giants wanted Christian Arroyo to force his way up to the big leagues. Chris Shaw isn't exactly in the same boat, but he is now at the same level where Arroyo was to start the year. 

Shaw, the top power-hitting prospect in the organization, was promoted from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday morning. General manager Bobby Evans said Shaw, a first baseman in his first couple of years in the minors, will continue his recent outfield work. Shaw had been playing left field in Richmond and he will be the primary left fielder in Sacramento.

"He's put himself in a position where the next test is the Triple-A level," Evans said. "He was starting to get to the point where he was ready for the next challenge."

It is unlikely that Shaw gets promoted again this season because the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. Arroyo, on the other hand, would have been added after this season anyway. Austin Slater, who also needs to be added at some point in 2017, is more likely to earn a September call-up. The Giants do, however, leave the door open for prospects to force the issue. 

The 23-year-old Shaw was the 31st overall pick in the 2015 draft. He hit 12 homers in 46 games in rookie ball and then slugged 16 in 72 games for the San Jose Giants, earning a promotion late in 2016. Shaw had five more homers in two months with the Flying Squirrels and he opened up this year with six in 133 at-bats. 

In three minor league seasons, Shaw is batting .277 with a .350 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage. He has 39 homers in 813 professional at-bats, along with 59 doubles and four triples. In 37 games this season, Shaw has 26 strikeouts and 18 walks.

"He controls the strike zone and he's got a fairly decent eye," Evans said. "He strikes out a relatively low percentage of the time and has a pretty good walk rate for a power guy."

Shaw played quite a bit in the outfield at Boston College but he was a first baseman in the minors until this season. With Brandon Belt locked in at first at the big league level, the Giants started giving Shaw starts in left field. Before leaving Richmond, Shaw made 18 starts in the outfield, totaling 158 innings. 

Listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Shaw would be big in left, even by the Giants' standards. In the past, scouts -- who admitted they had only seen him at first -- insisted he probably can't handle the position, but the Giants disagree. Shaw is said to have the footwork to handle left, but he's working on getting comfortable with throws. 

"He played a lot of outfield in college, pretty close to 100 games, mostly in right field," Evans said. "We'd like to give him as much time as possible to get comfortable.  We discussed (the outfield) this spring and we made a more conscious decision to get him out there (in left). That was a discussion from the time he was drafted."