SANTA BARBARA Social media were flooded Thursday night and Friday with well-wishes from former and current Kings players and employees for one of the team's best-known fans.
Barbara Rust, known as the "Sign Lady," was diagnosed with breast cancer Thursday, according to a tweet from her husband, Niko. Fans, players and employees quickly responded using the hashtag #LoveForSignLady, with Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and former team members Tyreke Evans, Thomas Robinson and Bobby Jackson among those posting messages.
"She's the heart and soul of the Kings," forward Jason Thompson said. "She's been there since Day One. She's been there through the glory days; she's been there through the bad days and the present."
Rust's colorful signs in section 120 can't be missed, and Thompson said it doesn't take long for a player to become accustomed to looking in the stands for the newest sign.
"Some of the things she comes up with, slogans and nicknames , " said Thompson. "She has a great heart. All you can do is pray for her being healthy. We want to see her at Sleep Train Arena as soon as possible."
One starter set Kings coach Michael Malone said the obvious: DeMarcus Cousins will start at center. The other four spots are still up for grabs.
"I can't say anybody is head and shoulders above anyone else," Malone said.
Carl Landry, Patrick Patterson and Thompson are vying to start at power forward. Luc Mbah a Moute and John Salmons are the leaders at small forward. Marcus Thornton and rookie Ben McLemore are battling to start at shooting guard, and Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas are competing at point guard. The coach said Jimmer Fredette could play at point and shooting guard, and Travis Outlaw at small and power forward.
Malone praised rookie point guard Ray McCallum.
"Ray McCallum is quietly having one of the best training camps here," Malone said. "He's playing terrific for us, playing aggressive."
Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.