The Kings played what was likely their final game in Sacramento last night, and it ended in a 116-108 overtime loss to the Lakers. The finality of the night, along with a sell-out crowd that showed the kind of affection and made the kind of noise you'd never find at the Staples Center 400 miles south, produced some teary moments in Arco Arena. Witness team announcers Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napear delivering a final sign-off as the crowd chants their names: "We'll try to make it off the air," Grant said.
Kings fans had a rough year, what with the 24 wins and what with the fact that the only time the team made headlines was when its owners openly flirted with another city. The move to Anaheim now seems inevitable.
Last night, fans were visibly anguished, but at least they have the benefit of a nation's sympathy — everyone remembers how much fun those early-aught Kings teams were — and of a major rallying point: As is usually the case when a team leaves a city, an evil rich man is to blame. In Sacramento, there are two evil rich men — billionaire brothers Joe and Gavin Maloof, along with the rest of their family — and on the other side is a scorned mayor who happens to be a former NBA All-Star, Kevin Johnson. It's not hard to tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys" in this fight, but the sad reality is that the fight was probably over when it started.
Both Johnson and the Maloofs were in Manhattan today, making their respective cases to the league owners. Johnson flew out after the first half last night, while the Maloofs seemed to have made an earlier trip — there were reportedly Lakers fans sitting in their usual seats during the Kings' finale. George of the Maloofs made the family's first public comments about the prospective move today, to say that he and his brother planned on presenting the pros and cons of both Sacramento and Anaheim to the owners.
"If the owners are comfortable with it, we'll take the next step," Maloof said. "We'll put in an application [to relocate] on Monday if things are right."
The league higher-ups are known to have lost all hope for Arco, and possibly for the market it exists in, and Sacramentans are preparing for life sans Kings — but not without delivering a painful share of terribly sad eulogies to their last-place team.
"It's just Sacramento pride," Timothy Henderson told the Sacramento Bee. "If we lose the Kings, we lose a little bit of ourselves."
Ow. For now, at least, they've only lost to the Lakers. So let's blame Kobe.