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."

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.