Though still early in his first season coaching in Sacramento, Dave Joerger wanted to make sure that all the Kings’ newcomers grasped the significance of the first regular-season game at the Golden 1 Center.
“Sometimes the newer players don’t really feel the history, so we try to link back to that,” Joerger said before Thursday’s home opener. “We’ve had former players around … so we can get that feel of the glory days, and the passion that’s here, and what this moment tonight really does stand for.”
Among the members of the early-2000s “glory days” teams in attendance Thursday were current front-office members Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie (doing TV analysis), Bobby Jackson and Chris Webber, taking a rest from his TNT responsibilities. Their presence was not lost on some of the younger Kings.
“Just being around all those great players that paved the way for this organization – those are the guys that really started it, so it’s a great feeling,” said rookie Malachi Richardson. “With this being a new arena and the start of a new journey for our team, things haven’t gone our way the past few years, but everyone’s looking forward to changing it.”
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Guard Garrett Temple, a sixth-year veteran, said he noticed the presence of former Kings players such as Mike Bibby and Brad Miller starting in training camp.
“I’ve noticed having winners around,” Temple said. “Guys are picking their brains. I’ve asked Peja and Doug some questions just about their routines and things of that nature.
“I asked (Stojakovic) about the shooting drills that he did. He told me basically when you shoot in a drill, shoot to make a certain amount in a row or out of 10. Don’t shoot just to shoot. I’ve been doing that anyway, but to hear one of the greatest shooters of all time tell you that means you’re on the right track.”
Homecoming king – Webber sounded enamored of the Kings’ new home, even though as he spoke with reporters before the game he said he hadn’t actually seen the floor yet.
“I think after everything I’ve seen, it’s just a given that the arena’s going to be beautiful,” Webber said.
That included the Kings’ new practice facility. Webber said the old facility in Natomas was actually “one of the nicest in the league.”
“This, I don’t want to say destroys that one, but this is beautiful,” Webber said.
Webber, whose No. 4 jersey was retired by the Kings in 2009, said Thursday marked his first time attending a game as a fan since that night. Asked to describe the occasion in a word, he said: “Pride.”
“I think most people would have given up and maybe this wouldn’t have happened,” he said of the team’s brushes with relocation. “I just hope the fans take a moment to pat themselves on the back. Because without their support, no one makes an investment unless they know people are going to come.”
Title shift – Asked about seeing former teammates such as Divac and Stojakovic now in management roles, Webber, who has worked as an analyst for TNT since 2008, said pursuing a front-office job has “crossed my mind, it definitely has.”
In fact, Webber said he actually interviewed for a front-office job with the Kings. He indicated it was the job that went to Divac, who was named the Kings’ vice president of basketball and franchise operations in March 2015.
Webber said he has confidence in Divac to turn around a franchise that has recorded 10 consecutive losing seasons.
“Vlade is not only one of my closest friends, but probably one of the people I trust the most, ever,” Webber said. “That’s trusting his work ethic, trusting his dedication, trusting his passion. He knows the game. He was a very unselfish player. He can bring back that type of chemistry.
“It’s just going to be fun watching him – and getting free tickets from him.”