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November 20, 2009 at 2:12 PM

WNBA loses another team: Sacramento Monarchs folded

Brunson.jpgImagine being Sacramento Monarchs forward Rebekkah Brunson (pictured right by WNBA). You log onto the computer today, sign into Twitter and see what your friends are tweeting about. One is that your WNBA team has folded.
“Girl I found out looking at ur tweet.. im floored right now.. mann,” Brunson (@twin1532) told former Monarchs center Chantelle Anderson via the social networking site at 11:34 this morning.
“I want to thank Sacramento for all the love!!! you have blessed us all,” Brunson entered in another entry. She was a member of the Monarchs’ 2005 championship team.
Monarchs general manager/coach John Whisenant broke the news to a Sacramento television station, stating the WNBA franchise was no longer part of the Sacramento Kings organization.
The Maloof brothers, Joe and Gavin, were dedicated owners who often attended games. They even spotted teams the past two years to play round-robin scrimmages in Las Vegas, staying at their posh hotel. But they also own the Kings, which are in financial trouble along with most of the NBA. The family is reportedly trying to move the Kings.
Turn on any game that LeBron and Kobe aren’t playing in and the empty seats are startling. It’s early — NBA attendance usually picks up in January. Yet, numbers are bad even for them. The Maloofs, who have been trying to get a new arena and have made bad decisions on the NBA end, are opting to focus on that end.
Whisenant said he was surprised at the decision.
“I am shocked!” he told the news station. “Joe and Gavin (Maloof) called me (Thursday) night and told me. I was kept in the dark like everyone else.
“It’s devastating for a lot of people in our organization and our players and fans. I really thought we were good for at least another year. This was really a surprise to me.”
The WNBA said investors from the Bay Area are looking to purchase the team. But a source could not confirm if it’s the same investors the league has been in discussions with for about four years. The Golden State Warriors have expressed passing interest, but have since nixed any idea of owning a WNBA team.
“The Bay Area has been a desirable market for the WNBA and the availability of the Monarchs provides an opportunity to move a well-known franchise and broaden its fan base within Northern California,” WNBA president Donna Orender said in a release. “Maloof Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Monarchs, has deemed it essential to focus all of its resources on the Sacramento Kings at this time. We understand this decision was a difficult one for them and appreciate the vision, leadership, and support of the Maloof family over the past 10 years.”
While the move looks bad, it’s really not. Especially if the WNBA is swift in securing investors for the Monarchs. And my guess, given the Maloof’s dedication, is that the league will because they didn’t seem like the type of people to ditch the women.
But since 2003, when independent owners were allowed to purchase WNBA teams, there has been movement within the WNBA. So, Detroit moving to Tulsa, Houston folding, Atlanta adding another investor and Indiana being for sale shouldn’t raise much concern.
The economy played a massive part. Yet, the fact that there are still people willing to buy-in is good. At least that’s what you’ll hear from Orender.
The WNBA owners haven’t met to discuss the changes. They’ll convene the first week of December and, if an owner has been found for the Monarchs, they’ll decide changes in conferences for Minnesota or Tulsa. The Lynx are rumored to want to be in the East.
But there isn’t much time. The league typically has it’s schedule out by the second week of January. If a deal with a new Bay Area investor is close, they may budge. But, if an agreement is way off, you’ll see the league drop down to 12 teams. And Tulsa would be in the West.
If there’s a need for a dispersal draft, that would be late December. Same free agent rules would aply.
“Everyone in this business environment … you have to do what has to be done,” Joe Maloof told the Sacramento Bee. “Our focus is to turn the Kings around, and to do that, we have to put all our efforts and good salespeople on the Kings.”



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