Sacramento Kings fans confused at first home game since arena deal's collapse

04/16/2012 12:00 AM

12/18/2012 12:09 AM

On a brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoon in Sacramento, the weather inside Power Balance Pavilion settled in cloudy with a 100 percent chance of continued uncertainty – leaving the basketball public with no clear picture on the future of the local professional team.

With the people in charge of working out a deal on the Kings' arena tangled up in chaos, how were the people who pay the bills and fill the seats supposed to react? How were they supposed to feel?

They didn't have a clue.

"Strange," is the way Kings fan and Here We Stay activist Kevin Fippin described his mood, the day the Kings put a seven-game losing streak to rest with a second-half comeback that beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 104-103.

"I honestly don't know how to feel at the moment," the 31-year-old Fippin said. "I'm still trying to figure it out."

Fippin wanted it known he was speaking only for himself. But conversations with 10 other fans suggested he spoke for the reported 16,012 who nearly filled Power Balance Pavilion two days after the Maloof brothers pulled out of a downtown arena deal with the city.

Those fans didn't know how to feel, either, or what to think. Some had predictions. Some took verbal shots at the owners – the Maloof brothers, who watched the game out of public view, in their private suite instead of their floor seats.

Some said, hey, it was great to be at the game Sunday, great to be a fan for the past quarter of a century. But if no deal gets done, they said, and the Kings wind up playing for some other fans in some other town, it doesn't mean they'll be breaking out the cyanide.

Dave Gauldin came down from Kingvale with his two boys, Tyler, 11, and Joe, 8. The kids play baseball. They all play golf. The three of them are really into motorcycles.

"We'd probably be out there riding our dirt bikes," Gauldin said, if they didn't come down the mountain for their first Kings game of the year. "Beautiful day for it."

The energy level started low, befitting an expectation for a club that came in with seven straight losses. Somnolence wafted through the upper deck as the Kings fell behind early and stayed seven to eight points down for most of the first half.

"Nobody seems too happy," said Chris Keefer, 34, of Grass Valley. "It seems like everybody's looking for some way to protest. I'm here to protest, but I don't know how to."

DeMarcus Cousins cranked up the pavilion juice in the third quarter with a two-handed, flying-down-the-middle-of-the-lane, throw-down dunk. It inspired the customers to get off their thunder sticks. It brought out the noisemakers, and the pounding rhythm built through the final seconds of the game, when Marcus Thornton scored on a 17-foot jumper to win it.

At courtside, the seats normally occupied by the Kings owners went Maloof-less Sunday. The brothers opted for higher ground, in their Suite 115. After the victory, they were spotted in the narrow Power Balance concourse high-fiving it with the fans.

It's unlikely that Art Mayorena of Plumas Lake was one of them. Before the game, he tipped beers in the parking lot with a couple of pals from Reno. He found the events of recent days "a little disheartening." He blamed the Maloofs for the uncertainty.

"If you agreed on something, stick with it," Maytorena said. "It sounds more and more like they don't want the team here. So the mood is definitely lowered, as far as excitement. I think that's pretty much the feeling for the whole area."

All Maria Oliver of Antelope wants is a commitment.

"You want to get full into it, to be a fan," the youth correctional counselor said. "Then you're waiting to see what's going to happen. You're just kind of like on the edge: Are they going to leave or are they going to stay? It's kind of disappointing for the fans, them not making a decision."

One Kings insider expressed disappointment over the failure to enact an arena deal. But TV announcer Grant Napear still thinks one will get done. Maybe it'll take place on a different timetable, but it will get done, the play-by-play man said.

"My prediction is we're still going to get a new building, but it's not going to be in 2015," Napear said in an interview before the game. "I know that right now everybody's upset, and everybody's frustrated, and everybody's pointing fingers. But I think everyone, including the city and the NBA and the ownership, have put too much work into it just to say, 'We're at a roadblock, so we're just not going to do anything.' I honestly think they're going to get it done, somehow, someway."

Kevin Fippin wore his Kings jersey branded with the slogan across its back that last year came to identify the successful effort last year to keep the team from leaving Sacramento for Anaheim.

"Here We Stay," it said.

He wasn't quite as optimistic as Napear, wasn't certain about anything. He has no idea what's going to happen and doesn't think anybody else does, either, not even the Maloofs.

"They might believe they do, but I don't think anybody actually does at this point," Fippin said. "I don't know if any of us know the facts, so the picture is not very clear. I would love to know more, but I don't know if any of us really do."


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