Photos Loading
previous next
  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Sisters Jessica and Janice Escoto take in the draft party at Sleep Train Arena. An estimated crowd of 2,300 attended the event.

  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive told the fans at Sleep Train Arena they are "No. 1" and thanked them for their support.

Kings fans in celebratory mood

Published: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013 - 10:50 pm

This time, it wasn't a wake.

Thursday's NBA draft party inside Sleep Train Arena was a stark contrast to the morbid feeling during the April 17 season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers, amid fears the Kings were headed to Seattle.

This setting featured fans decked in Kings garb, munching popcorn, cheering every time NBA Commissioner David Stern announced a pick, the images televised on several monitors placed on the floor and on the overhead screen.

And they erupted when the Kings selected Ben McLemore with the No. 7 overall pick, never mind that many of the estimated 2,300 on hand weren't exactly sure who the 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Kansas is or what he can provide.

There was plenty to celebrate.

"It's just great to have this team here," said Francisco Padilla, a state employee sitting next to 6-year-old son Julian and wife Jackie. "This is our escape here, our team. We got four season tickets because we're excited about the future. We're all in."

A lot of fans share Padilla's enthusiasm.

Kings ticket sales vice president Phil Horn said Thursday that, according to the NBA office, the Kings led all 30 teams with new and full season-ticket packages. He didn't disclose the number, but what is known is if there is a constant with the Kings' fan base since the franchise moved west in 1985, it's this: Give them something to root for, and they'll roar.

The loudest ovation Thursday night was for new Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive. He told the crowd, "I just want to say that you guys are No. 1, and I'm very, very proud and happy to announce that, in terms of new ticket sales, guess who's No. 1? You guys – the Kings. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Ranadive has said he wants to make the Kings a global brand. It already is, according to Michael and Sandy Dillon. The longtime Kings fans recently vacationed in Italy and were amazed by the amount of people who stopped to talk to them about Sacramento's NBA team, tipped off by their Kings hats.

"It was amazing," said Michael Dillon, a retired psychologist. "People care everywhere. We were half season-ticket holders last year, and now we're full season-ticket holders because we see it as a real investment into the future of this team and city."

Former Kings guard Mike Bibby and current guard Isaiah Thomas also were applauded as they spoke to the crowd. Both later described Kings fans as "special."

Fans talked about how they haven't just invested money in the team in terms of tickets and merchandise. There's also a great deal of emotional investment.

"The Kings are the most recognized brand this city has," team senior vice president Craig Amazeen said. "This means everything to people here."

Said Sacramento native and Kings public address announcer Scott Moak, Thursday's emcee at Sleep Train, "Sometimes this city suffers from an identity crisis. We're an hour away from Napa, an hour away from Tahoe, an hour to the City or the beaches. The Kings help us become a national player. That's why all this matters."

Ranadive hosted a crew of Kings minority owners in the team's dressing room. John Kehriotis, whose family has owned 12.2 percent of the the team for 20 years, was sporting a Kings hat bearing his name on the side.

"It's the beginning of a new era, and it's fresh," Kehriotis said. "The old saying is the groom sleeps well when it's new. We have a new groom, and it feels good."

Grant Napear has provided Kings radio and TV work for 25 years. He wept after what he feared was his final Kings broadcast two years ago, and in this past season finale, he shared the same empty feeling as countless others.

"This is like bringing a new baby into the world," Napear said of the new era. "It didn't matter who the Kings picked today. The fact that the team is here, the fact that the battle to keep this team is over, is a victory."

Jerry Reynolds has seen every Kings draft in the Sacramento era as a coach or executive. This time he worked the microphone with Moak and Napear on the floor, no longer director of player personnel under the new management.

"This fan base," Reynolds said, "give them a glimmer of hope, and that's all they want, and they'll be great. They've got more than a glimmer. This team means so much to this city."

MEET THE NEWEST KINGS

BEN McLEMORE

• Height: 6-5

• Weight: 195

• Age: 20

• Selected: No. 7 overall

• Position: Shooting guard

• College: Kansas

• Fast fact: McLemore set Kansas freshman records in scoring (589 points) and free-throw percentage (87 percent).

• 2012-13 statistics: 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists.

• Comment: McLemore is one of the draft's premier shooters and gives the Kings more size and athleticism in their backcourt.

RAY McCALLUM

• Height: 6-2

• Weight: 191

• Age: 22

• Selected: No. 36 overall

• Position: Point guard

• College: Detroit

• Fast fact: McCallum, a McDonald's All-American, chose to play for his father, Ray Sr., at Detroit rather than attend a big school.

• 2012-13 statistics: 18.7 points, 4.5 assists, 1.9 steals.

• Comment: McCallum adds much-needed size at point guard. He joins a crowded backcourt that figures to change before the season starts.

– Jason Jones

Follow on Joe Davidson @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN1320.net

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Buy
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads
Make:

Model:

Price Range:
to
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older

TODAY'S CIRCULARS