The Kings' overtime loss to the Lakers earlier tonight started later than usual and ended with a few thousand fans lingering at Power Balance Pavilion (it's still Arco Arena to me) in a pretty remarkable scene. With everyone in the SRO crowd aware of the circumstances, namely, that the Maloofs are meeting with the the Board of Governors Thursday in an attempt to relocate to Anaheim, the atmosphere before, during and particularly after the overtime loss was emotional, raucous, often tearful. Numerous fans were seen crying, especially during the aftermath. Here are a few interesting tidbits that occurred after deadline:
A few thousand fans lingered in the arena for about 45 minutes, chanting "Here We Stay" and "Sac-RA-men-to." The commotion carried into the tunnel area outside the visitors locker room, where Phil Jackson was conducting his postgame interview. With his familiar half-smile, half-smirk, Jackson acknowledged the chants and again praised the fans. At one point, a curious assistant coach (and one-time Kings coaching candidate) Brian Shaw moved into the tunnel area and asked, "What are they saying?" Told that it was the "Sacramento" chant, he smiled, and nodded.
Led by Donte Greene, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi, Pooh Jeter, Francisco Garcia and Marcus Thornton - hope I'm not missing anyone here - came back onto the court after the game to celebrate the fans. Greene and Garcia took the microphone, while Thompson, who signed autographs for a long time before the game, ran courtside, high-fiving and hugging fans. Garcia looked like he was ready to cry a number of times.
Former Kings star Ron Artest, who wasn't in the mood to chat much after the game, nonetheless asked, "Are they really leaving? Is it true?" Derek Fisher - who also happens to be president of the Players Association - was overhead asking Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson the same question as the two talked briefly just before tipoff. Johnson left during the opening half to fly to New York, where he is scheduled to address the league's owners on Thursday, if nothing else, to press the region's case for a franchise.
Longtime Kings favorite Bobby Jackson, who works on Geoff Petrie's staff, was among those who stayed around afterward, signing autographs, posing for pictures, reminiscing. "I just know Sacramento deserves an NBA team," he said. "I understand the business side of it, too. We knew we needed an arena a long time, so if you're a businessman, I understand that. But I'm 50-50. Sacramento deserves a basketball team."
Switching loyalties ...
A visibly affected Paul Westphal, a Southern California native and former USC star, walked onto the court, raised his arms and applauded the crowd immediately after the final buzzer. He didn't even wait for the after-party. Then, about 20 minutes later, the second-year Kings coach came back out and blew kisses to the crowd. He applauded the fans again and, as he walked back towrd the locker room, even jumped to high-five a fan leaning over the railing. Regardless of the fact that he maintains his permanent residence in Southern California, Westphal really seems to be struggling with this whole relocation situation. He was unusually subdued during his postgame session following Monday's loss to Oklahoma City, and after the Lakers game, spoke openly about his feelings and at times struggled to maintain his composure.
"What a night," he said. "A lot of emotions flying around out there and I'm not poetic enough to come near capturing them all. But I'll just say, we felt the love ... Sacramento. I was very proud of our team, very proud of the progress we have made this year. I'm really sorry the season is over." Following a long pause, he added, forcefully: "We felt it (emotion), too. We felt the whole area. It was an incredible thing to be a part of. Every one of us, the only regret we have at all is that we didn't find a way to pull it out ... We really felt it tonight. We know through the ups and downs, this area has supported this team ... That's what it's all about. Getting caught up in the atmosphere.
Watching men cry ....
I came home and watched a replay of the game, and as I had been told by a few people at the arena, Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napear almost lost it emotionally during the closing segment of their telecast. After playing a tape of Westphal's postgame remarks, Napear inhales deeply then says, " Whew. We'll try to make it off the air." Reynolds, who has been with the Kings since they moved to Sacramento in 1985, wiped his brow and sniffed several times, his eyes watering. Napear, who also appeared to tear up, hung around afterward, but Reynolds was nowhere to be seen. I can figure out why. JR got all choked up when his Monarchs won the WNBA Championship in 2005. I assume he just couldn't handle what was probably the Kings' last game in Sac ... No Petrie sightings afterward, either. The Kings' increasingly reclusive basketball president was in his usual spot in the tunnel during the game, but nowhere to be seen afterward.
About the Board of Governors ....
I continue to hear that Jerry Buss' attempts to block the Kings' move to Anaheim is gaining traction with his fellow owners. Buss is the old lion of the NBA, and as as owner of the Lakers, wields tremendous influence with his colleagues. Two things are happening: (1) The owners are increasingly concerned about the Maloofs' longterm financial stability and (2) No one seems thrilled about the Anaheim destination. As one high-ranking NBA source reminded me more than a year ago, there just aren't a lot of desirable markets remaining for NBA franchises. Southern California is crowded. Seattle doesn't have a building. Kansas City has the sparkling Sprint Center but has too much competition with the Chiefs, Royals and college sports. Las Vegas scares everyone (and has no building). And with a potential lockout looming? The Board of Governors meeting should be interesting.
YouTube: Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds sign off after Kings season finale