The Kings are preparing to play host to the “King” for the first time this season.
When LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers visit Golden 1 Center on Saturday for the first time this season, it will be James’ first game in Sacramento with a Western Conference club.
It will be a much different scene than his first regular-season NBA game, when an 18-year-old James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 106-92 to the Kings at Arco Arena on Oct. 29, 2003.
Now, teams led by James are 20-9 against the Kings, including a 9-5 record in Sacramento.
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“He’s great,” Kings rookie forward Harry Giles III said when asked about James during the preseason. “He’s one of the ambassadors of the league ... represents himself well on and off the court and a great family guy. He’s somebody you strive to be like.”
This isn’t the first time the Kings will see James in purple and gold. The teams met at Staples Center for a preseason game, won 128-123 by the hosts. In nearly 16 first-half minutes, James had 18 points, four assists and three rebounds before resting the second half.
Speaking of rest, the Lakers should have plenty of it heading into Saturday’s game. Los Angeles last played Wednesday, when they beat the same Timberwolves team Sacramento defeated Friday night.
As for the Kings (7-5), they will face the Lakers (5-6) to cap their third back-to-back of the season. This will be the only time both games are played at home. In all, Sacramento has 14 instances in 2018-19 in which the team plays on consecutive days.
So far, that hasn’t been a problem for the Kings. They won both games on the back end of the back-to-back, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies at home on Oct. 24 and the Orlando Magic on Oct. 30.
Expect a fast game. Entering Friday, the Kings and Lakers ranked second and third, respectively, in pace. The Atlanta Hawks – a team the Kings beat Nov. 1 and the Lakers face Sunday – remains No. 1, as they were when Sacramento visited State Farm Arena.
Fan interest in Kings-Lakers matchups continues to be high, as evidenced by fans at Golden 1 Center on Friday night. Near the end of the Kings’ victory, an announcement for Saturday’s game drew a considerable amount of boos from the crowd.
“Bring those boos tomorrow night!” the announcer said.
There were also faint chants of “Beat L.A.” heard during the closing minutes of Sacramento’s 121-110 win over Minnesota.
Ticket-sale sites also show a spike in interest. On Friday afternoon, Tick Pick showed prices for Saturday’s matchup averaging about three times more than Friday’s game and fivefold over Monday’s contest against the San Antonio Spurs.
The “get-in” price for the Lakers game fluctuated between $119 and $132 early Friday afternoon. Tickets for the Timberwolves game ranged between $35 and $46.
The get-in price represents the “cheapest tickets available for each particular game,” according to Branded PR’s Jonathan Gluskin, who added that the Lakers game is pricier “given its significantly higher demand on the secondary market.”
StubHub had Lakers tickets “from $99” while prices for the Timberwolves were “from $28.”
The interest in the Lakers isn’t coming just from the fans. Just before Halloween, the Kings poked fun at their Southern California rivals on social media.
Fans were asked on Instagram “Which is worse?” between candy corn and the Lakers. The post had more than 57,000 likes and 4,100 comments as of Friday afternoon.
If Sacramento can improve to 3-0 this season in the second game of back-to-backs, it’ll be a sweet victory against a team many Kings fans love to hate.