Team awaits fans' reaction after announcement of sale

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 - 6:18 pm

Once again, Kings players are dealing with the possibility that this could be their last season in Sacramento.

This year, however, is quite different.

The Maloofs, owners of the Kings, have reached a deal to sell controlling interest in the franchise to hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, who would then file for relocation to move the franchise to Seattle.

Tonight's game against the Phoenix Suns is the first at Sleep Train Arena since the Maloofs, Hansen and the NBA confirmed the agreement, the first step in the process that requires approval by the league.

When reports of the negotiations surfaced this month, signs that were pro-Sacramento and anti-Seattle and anti-Maloof could be seen sprinkled throughout the arena. With an agreement in place, there figures to be a bigger statement made by fans tonight.

The players and coaches, however, expect fans to do what they've done throughout the relocation saga of recent seasons.

"The last time we heard something like this (there was support for the team)," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "Obviously this is different, but I think the fans are still going to give the support to the basketball team on the floor like they have all year long. And that's all we can control, but it's going to be a different situation now."

Tonight's game also comes one day after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said 20 local investors had committed $1 million each in a bid to purchase the team. Johnson said he hopes to announce later this week the "whales" who would be the major investors.

"We go out and people ask us are we staying, are we leaving, but we're just like them," guard Tyreke Evans said. "We have no clue. We just go out there and play. Nobody wants to see the Kings leave, so it's a tough situation for the fans."

When a move to Anaheim appeared all but certain in 2011, more fans came out to support the team, even with the Kings in the midst of another losing season.

"We're still going to come out and play our game, and hopefully the fans still come out and watch us," Evans said.

The Kings have played better at home recently, winning six of their last nine, including the last two.

And with a six-game trip starting Saturday, the Kings need to play well tonight and Friday against Oklahoma City.

"My focus and our team focus is to get on the floor and play as hard as we can," Smart said. "Let's get back into the win column and try to get us a nice win and build on that to get ready for our next game."

Evans said from the moment he arrived in Sacramento the fans have been supportive.

"It's tough to see the fans kind of upset," Evans said.

The Kings expect the energy to be high in the arena and on the court when they take the court against the Suns.

"They support us 100 percent," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "I wouldn't count them out with the support that they give us."

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