So, the block party was a great idea. The Kings should do this more often. A lot more often. Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn, who was among the local politicians, civic leaders and business types who attended the NBA Lottery festivities late Tuesday afternoon in midtown, reminisced about how the local franchise often held functions near the city center when the late Joe Serna was mayor in the 1990s.
"Joe was into all this stuff," said Cohn. "He loved (engaging) the Kings in the city. I'm glad to see it happening again."
People in the streets. People in the pubs. People in the restaurants. The large screen TV angled in the intersection of Capitol and 18th. Very, very cool. The energy was palpable, and even though the Kings only secured the No.5 pick in the upcoming draft, the fans seemed to swallow their disappointment and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
So why now? Why skip a decade? Though Kings types won't say so publicly, several complained that recently departed business president John Thomas was a chronic impediment to these types of events. If a team sponsor wasn't involved, so the story goes, Thomas wasn't interested. Incoming business president Matina Kolokotronis, by contrast, spent the evening chatting just inside Zocalo's, chatting with fans, season ticket holders, team employees and media members. "Isn't this incredible?" asked the McGeorge Law School graduate and longtime Sacramento resident. "We need to bring the team back into the community, and that's what we're doing. This is just the beginning."
Maloof family matriarch Colleen Maloof, who has a wonderful, wry sense of humor, cracked, "It's a little hot, but this is wonderful. How many people do you think are here anyway?"
Wiz celebrate after all that suffering
It would be hard not to be happy for Irene Pollin, the widow of the late Washington Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin. She lost her husband in November, endured the Gilbert Arenas gun/locker room nonsense, is in the process of relinquishing control to the incoming Ted Leonsis ... and then gets lucky and wins the Lottery. Wow. Upon his death, Abe Pollin was the league's longest-tenured owner, and a close friend of NBA Commissioner David Stern. He also was among the most loyal and progressive of executives: Former Wizards president Susan O'Malley was a high-ranking executive decades before Jeanie Buss took over the Lakers business operations. Besides all that, Pollin's loyalty to his former player/coach Wes Unseld is legendary.
A few final thoughts on the Lottery, playoffs, Kings, NBA ...
- Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov became the latest billionaire to be humbled by NBA events. Assuming his league-worst club would win the Lottery, he envisioned drafting John Wall and, with a Brooklyn arena on the horizon, offering the most attractive destination for LeBron James. Well, he'll learn. The Maloofs. Mark Cuban. Remember Howard Schultz in Seattle? How long did he last? Five years? James Dolan. The late Pollin. The late Bill Davidson. Even Jerry Buss has taken his lickings, pretty much getting excoriated for firing Phil Jackson after championship seasons with Shaq and Kobe. No one escapes the wrath of NBA ownership.
- And by the way: Prokhorov better study his NBA history. Before projecting the Nets as the league's first "global" franchise, he needs to be briefed about the Kings teams of Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, and Hedo Turkoglu, the San Antonio Spurs of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the Warriors ... the Jazz .... the Rockets. (As a Brooklyn native, love the idea of a spanking new arena in my old neighborhood, though).
- Poor Tyreke Evans. His reaction when Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver revealed that the Kings would be selecting fifth? Priceless. He is the genuine, real deal, that kid.
- It's also not hard to understand why Paul Westphal remains so popular despite the team's disappointing season. He is bright, thoughtful, funny, accommodating to fans and media members alike, and for someone who was such an incredible player, seemingly without ego. He spent the evening mingling with fans, talking with journalists, spinning the results in the most possible manner imaginable. Very classy individual.
- I came home and watched a replay of Celtics-Magic Game 2, and couldn't help but wondering: Do the Magic miss Hedo, or what? Before he left Orlando, stiffed Portland, signed with Toronto and allowed himself to get out of shape (physically and mentally), the popular one-time King was a huge contributor to the Magic's postseason surge a year ago with his playmaking, shotmaking, three-point shooting, and uncanny knack for feeding the post. Think Dwight Howard might agree....
- Orlando's J.J. Redick could help the Kings ...
- Further evidence of the volatile economic times and dramatic turnover within league ownership circles: One of the late Pistons' owner Bill Davidson's longest-tenured and most respected employees, media director Matt Dobek, was let go a few days ago. The team is up for sale, the on-court product has deteriorated, and even franchise icon Joe Dumars is said to be worried about his future.