This is the last season for the building now known as Sleep Train Arena, but when Chris Webber was a King, it was Arco Arena, and there was no other building like it in the NBA. The Kings were among the NBA’s elite teams, and Webber was the star.
Webber returned to the building Thursday as a color analyst for TNT’s telecast of the Kings’ game against the New York Knicks. The former forward said he has too many memories from playing in Sacramento to pick a favorite but that the fans played a vital role in his time here.
“Arco is nothing but a shell without the fans,” Webber said. “And I thank the fans for making it a home.”
Webber, whose jersey hangs in the rafters at Sleep Train Arena, got a standing ovation before the second quarter as the video board showed a highlight reel from his Kings days and then cut to Webber sitting courtside.
Some wonder if the Kings will be able to duplicate the atmosphere of one of the league’s oldest arenas at their new home. Webber said he doesn’t anticipate any problems creating a home-court advantage at Golden 1 Center because the fan base will stay the same.
“That’s why I think the next arena will be great,” Webber said. “It could be a prettier shell, it could have more bells and whistles, but if it doesn’t have Arco fans in it, it’s nothing but a hollow building.”
High praise – Before seeing Kristaps Porzingis play in person for the first time, Kings coach George Karl was already buying the excitement surrounding the Knicks’ 20-year-old rookie from Latvia.
“After 20-something games, I think it would be between two big guys for Rookie of the Year, between him and the kid in Minnesota (Karl Anthony-Towns),” Karl said. “Right now, (Porzingis) seems to have more polish, more confidence to his game. He definitely has a lot of weapons. He’s very intriguing.”
Porzingis is listed at 7-foot-3 – one Knicks official said he stands 7-foot-1 in socks – but has displayed unusual range and shooting touch for his size. Some have compared him to Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. Scott Roth, Porzingis’ coach last year in Spain and an assistant in Dallas when Nowitzki entered the league, thinks the comparison actually favors Porzingis.
“He shoots the ball as well or better than Dirk with probably more range and is a better athlete than Dirk,” Roth wrote in an email to The Bee. “He has a great post-up game, which will show over time and is as skilled as any big to come into the (NBA) in many, many years.”
The Knicks selected Porzingis fourth overall in last June’s draft, two slots before Sacramento. Kings officials thought enough of Porzingis that they aggressively tried to trade up to get him.
“Our guys loved him,” Karl said. “(Assistant general manager) Michael Bratz, I think, probably would’ve taken him No. 1.”
Sir Charles – Before calling Thursday’s game as part of TNT’s broadcast crew, Charles Barkley said he spent much of the day visiting Sacramento’s Mustard Seed School, an emergency school for children of homeless families and a charitable cause for Barkley.
“I love that place,” Barkley said before the game. “I had lunch with the kids, just hung around. I think I’m going to be back there again sometime in the next couple months.”
In 2013, the Hall of Famer raised $67,000 for Mustard Seed in a celebrity appearance on the TV game show “The Price Is Right.”
Williams returns – The Kings would have liked to retain free agent Derrick Williams last summer had circumstances allowed. But with Vlade Divac looking to overhaul and Omri Casspi being the priority among reserve forwards, Williams found a new home with the Knicks.
“I liked it here in Sac,” said Williams, who averaged 8.3 points last season for the Kings. “I really felt like the last 30 games with George Karl were great for me, great for my career – as well as the new things they’re putting in the city, the new arena.
“I had no complaints. It’s just new opportunities came about, and I was all for it.”
Matt Kawahara: 916-321-1015, @matthewkawahara