Opening night in the NBA is a time of hope for fans, a tease of what might be, for better or worse. "We've had it all," said Jerry Reynolds, who has been there for all of them as a coach, executive or TV broadcaster since the Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985. "Sometimes you get excited, and then the season goes down the drain. The (1999) opener was a special one because you could tell we had something special." A closer look at five memorable Kings home openers:
HELLO, BIG TIME
OCT. 25, 1985
Clippers 108, Kings 104
What happened: Coaches and players called the atmosphere at the Kings' bandbox gym, later known as Arco Arena I, a "circus." Traffic clogged the roads, staffers in tuxedos attempted to help people find parking, and a string quartet played in the parking lot. The 10,333-seat temporary arena rocked. Despite 24 points by Reggie Theus, the Clippers prevailed, led by Derek Smith's 36 points.
Epilogue: The Kings qualified for the playoffs despite a 37-45 record but lost three straight games to Houston in the best-of-five opening-round series. Kings executives were so impressed by Smith's performance they traded for him despite a balky knee, setting the franchise back years.
THE RUSSELL REGRET
NOV. 6, 1987
Kings 134, Warriors 106
What happened: When Bill Russell, the stoic, often surly Hall of Famer, walked onto the floor before coaching his first game in 10 years, photographers surrounded him but stopped when a grinning assistant coach Reynolds jumped in front and started posing. Otis Thorpe scored 29 of his 31 points in the final three quarters to lead the Kings. A chemical spill in Berkeley held up traffic for hours, and the Warriors' bus arrived just 45 minutes before the tip, the minimum before a cancellation.
Epilogue: Russell flopped as a coach and was fired with a 17-41 record, kicked upstairs to management. Reynolds took over for his second stint as head coach. Russell was relieved of all duties in late 1989 after the team went 57-127 under his coaching/management watch.
ARCO II DEBUTS
NOV. 8, 1988
SuperSonics 97, Kings 75
What happened: Arco Arena II, as it was initially known, had an initial capacity of 16,517 (later expanded to 17,317). As he was for the first Arco opening, NBA Commissioner David Stern was on hand, and he called Arco "a first-class facility, as good as any in the league." Owner Gregg Lukenbill insisted the floor around the seats be made of plywood like the old arena to make for loud stamping. He vowed to make Arco "the Disneyland of sports complexes anywhere in the world." Joe Kleine epitomized the Kings' woeful effort, though, with an air ball from the low post on the first possession. The Kings were booed at halftime, down 52-36. Said coach Reynolds: "I don't blame them for booing. I would have booed, too."
Epilogue: The Kings finished 27-55 but won the NBA draft lottery. Finally, a break? The Kings missed badly with Pervis Ellison.
J-WILL + C-WEBB = FUN
FEB. 7, 1999
Kings 109, Grizzlies 87
What happened: After the lockout, the Kings opened the season with a new coach, Rick Adelman, and some new players, including Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and Jason Williams. Webber had 25 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and nine blocks, and Williams dazzled with no-look passes.
Epilogue: The Kings reached the playoffs, starting a run of eight straight appearances.
OCT. 29, 2003
Kings 106, Cavaliers 92
What happened: LeBron James, 18, made a spectacular NBA debut with 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists for the Cavaliers. Stojakovic scored 22 points for the Kings. Adelman, after fielding two inquiries after the game: "Any more questions? No? Good. You guys want to get to the Cleveland locker room."
Epilogue: The Kings lost to Minnesota in seven games in the Western Conference semifinals.