A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. – Wayne Gretzky.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky knew that anticipation was the key to success in his game. Small guards in pro basketball know their longevity in the league depends on reading the court and knowing how plays will develop and where players will be.
I imagine 6-foot-1 Kevin Johnson, who spent 13 years in the NBA, must have been a master at rapidly anticipating what was going to unfold and taking advantage of his smarts. He averaged 9.1 assists per game over his career in addition to scoring 17.9 points a game. He was a three-time NBA All-Star. He stood tall in a game of giants.
Given this stellar background, I have to wonder why Johnson, who as mayor of Sacramento likes to jet around the country and play with the big boys, failed to see what was coming from Seattle. How is it possible that Johnson is a day late and millions of dollars short in trying to counter a Seattle group’s offer to buy the Kings?
Johnson apparently couldn’t think big after he failed to get the Maloofs to embrace a deal for a downtown arena. He couldn’t see that the Maloofs, despite their denials, would indeed sell the team if the right offer came their way.
Instead of preparing for such an eventuality by assembling his band of local developers and recruiting outside billionaires, Johnson nursed his wounds and told the Maloofs to give him a call sometime. Meanwhile, the big boys in a major league city up north got their game together and made their slam-dunk pitch.
Now, we have the spectacle of Sacramento’s mayor desperately seeking a financial rescue from billionaires who must wonder about his ability to play in the big leagues. Johnson has lost the initiative and any meaningful negotiating position he might have had by being first in the door.
If the Maloofs really do want to keep the Kings in Sacramento, they can wave a $525 million offer in Johnson’s face and push him to raid the public treasury for far more than the $255 million he planned to give away earlier this year.
Perhaps the mayor should take up over-40 basketball and display his diminished vision in the proper arena.