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  • HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

    As the face on his sign shows, John Willett of Sacramento says he was saddened to hear reports of a potential Kings sale and move to Seattle.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    José Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com A sign displayed by Adriana Ortiz of Elk Grove suggests that the Kings are more than entertainment in Sacramento. Fans at Thursday's game were hopeful a local group would emerge and buy the team.

Potential Kings move? Fans have been through this before

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:09 am

Before the Kings played the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, Sacramento fan John Willett stood courtside at Sleep Train Arena holding a small hand-drawn sign that read, "Here We Stay."

"I heard they wanted us to chant this before the game," said Willett, 61, of Sacramento. "I thought it'd be appropriate to make this."

There were no such chants before the Kings' first game since reports broke Wednesday that team ownership may be discussing a sale that would move the team to Seattle. Most crowd calls during the first half were for "De-fense!" In the fourth quarter, a "Here We Stay" chant bubbled up and then subsided.

"I wasn't shocked to hear it, but I was saddened to hear it," Willett said of the news reports. "You've just got to sit and wait and see what happens.

"We're pawns, huh? We're just pawns."

The words on Willett's sign were a rallying cry among Sacramento fans during the 2010-11 season, when the team's owners, the Maloof family, considered a potential move to Anaheim that ultimately didn't materialize.

Willett said this feels different.

"It felt more positive then toward them staying than this time," Willett said.

What does he think will happen?

"I think we might lose them," he said. "We might lose them."

Of a dozen people interviewed before Thursday's game, a small cross-section of the announced crowd of 14,011, most said they were upset by the newest wave of uncertainty surrounding the Kings' future. Some said they are resigned to a move. Others held out hope that a deal will be struck to keep the team in Sacramento, its home since 1985.

Vince Scheidt, 45, who attended the game with his son Skyler, 13, was of both minds. Scheidt said he's "hoping something will happen and the owners will change their minds so the Kings can stay here." But he said he thinks a move is "probably going to happen."

"With Anaheim, I kind of was still 50-50 on, were they leaving or not," said Scheidt, of Fresno. "This being the second or third time around being talked about, now it's continued to happen more and more, it feels more of a real possibility that way."

Rich and Gina Downing of El Dorado Hills agreed they don't want the Kings to leave but differed on whether a move is imminent.

"Who knows?" Rich said. "Don't know what to believe."

"I have a feeling they will (leave), for some reason," Gina said. "I've just got that feeling. They identified the billionaire guy who wants to buy the team."

Mike Jauron of Auburn was more optimistic. He echoed statements made Wednesday by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who said there are potential bidders interested in buying the Kings and keeping the team in Sacramento.

"It's exciting that it could open it up to a local group," Jauron said. "It's an opportunity for new blood."

Season-ticket holder Jag Uppal, 33, of Roseville said he was going to try to ignore all talk of a potential move until he hears something definite.

"That's the time that I'll worry about that," Uppal said. "Right now, what I can do is enjoy what I paid for."

A Kings spokesman declined comment on whether reports of talks of a potential sale might affect attendance.

James Frazier, 23, of Sacramento showed up Thursday night with his mom, Karen Roth, 48, and brought a sign. It was a collage of pictures of Kings teams and players over the years. Over a picture of co-owners Gavin, Joe and George Maloof there was drawn an X.

"I understand the business standpoint of it," Frazier said. "But from a fan's standpoint, it's heartbreaking, that's all."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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