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News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

June 23, 2011
Draft party time: Kings fans go crazy for Jimmer

By Miles Bennett-Smith
mbennett-smith@sacbee.com

The Bee joined fans and players at three of the seven Kings draft parties tonight. Here's how the night unfolded. Upload your Kings fan photos here.

7 p.m.: Jimmer's not the only prize on draft night

Over at Bisla's Sports Bar on Folsom Boulevard, the Kings draft party had everything you might imagine: about 15 televisions all carrying the same ESPN feed of the NBA draft, deafening noise and 70 or so patrons packed into the main bar, all sporting Kings memorabilia.

Ame Mathis of Citrus Heights watched the draft with two friends, all dressed in Kings gear. Mathis was thrilled with the Kings' first round pick, BYU's senior guard Jimmer Fredette. "I was just beside myself when I found out. My son is at home, and he was doing cartwheels. It's the coolest thing, Jimmer is the one people are going to want to come and see."

While most in the crowd seemed to agree, some had their doubts about what the Kings management has in the works.

Particularly troubling for Kings fan Thomas Gagen was the trade of veteran point guard Beno Udrih for former King John Salmons, which also meant that the Kings essentially moved down three spots in the draft.

"All of the uncertainty really puts back the fear that the Maloofs are trying to pull something over on us, something bad," Gagen said.

Sacramento's Anthony Bertacchi was concerned that there might have been a better pick available than Fredette, who he acknowledged can shoot and could make for a nice pairing with guard Tyreke Evans.

Kings forward Donte Greene, who signed autographs and met fans at the bar, is part of the nucleus of players that is among the youngest in the league. He said he was eager to meet Fredette, let alone play with him.

"I've never even met him, but I'm excited to get to play with him and see how things turn out," Greene said. "Tyreke's probably really excited, and it'll be interesting to see how everything fits together."

With local sports radio personality "Carmichael Dave" working the crowd, raffling off tickets and bobbleheads, many people were more concerned with the prizes and trivia questions than with the Kings' draft pick.

Many fans at Bisla's were not worried about the Kings' potential flight to Anaheim, still a possibility after the NBA granted a one-year window for the Kings to explore a new arena deal.

Mathis summed up the optimism when she said, "In my heart of hearts, I know we are going to get an arena deal done. That's all secondary tonight."

6 p.m.: Crowd at Mix goes crazy for Jimmer

The central Kings draft party was at Mix Downtown, where about 100 fans -- and one Tyreke Evans -- congregated alongside many in the Kings organization, including president of business operations Matina Kolokotronis. They watched on TV as David Stern took to the microphone and announced that the Sacramento Kings had selected ... Bismack Biyombo?

The pick was met with angry cries and more than a few laughs, as fans who hadn't heard the news about the Kings trade with Charlotte and Milwaukee reacted to the center from the Democratic of the Congo. Biyombo will suit up for the Milwaukee Bucks when the trade is finalized.

When the Bucks were on the clock with the No. 10 pick, fans had figured out that this was indeed the Kings' player of the future.

When the Jimmer himself (BYU guard Jimmer Fredette) flashed a smile and strode to the stage, most of the Kings fans at Mix were enthusiastic about Geoff Petrie's selection.

"At first I was kinda confused," said Sacramento resident Johnn Szeto, "because Beno had been our most consistent shooter. But when we picked Jimmer, it made sense, and I'm pretty excited."

Fredette averaged 29 points and four assists per game last season, leading the Cougars on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March. No one questions his shooting ability; he was a 40 percent 3-point shooter in college. But there have been those who doubt how well he can play defense against NBA guards that will likely be bigger than his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.

Michael Fong was one of those watching the draft at the Mix and acknowledged the knocks on Jimmer's defense, "He better learn defense, or he'll find the bench quickly."

But the festive atmosphere and loud music at the bar, which projected ESPN's draft coverage onto an entire wall, seemed to drown out most of the concerns. Fans embraced the Great Falls, NY, native, who has consistently proven critics wrong.

"I love Jimmer," Carmichael's John Palaca said. "Everyone on the team is young, and that's a key. Demarcus, Tyreke, they've only been around a couple years, and I think they will all gel together well."

Tyreke Evans himself was at Mix for the Kings' pick. While he was his usual quiet self, he said he was looking forward to playing alongside the 22-year-old Jimmer.

"It's gonna be a good one-two punch," Evans said. "We'll have to wait until training camp to see where each of us likes the ball, and it's still up in the air if he plays the point and I play the two, or he plays the two and I have the ball. But he's a great player, he can shoot, pass, score, do it all."

4:30 p.m.: Kings fans put their trust in Petrie

With just minutes remaining before the start of the NBA draft on Thursday, Sacramento Kings fans gathered at Oshima's Sushi in Natomas for one of seven official draft parties.

How did the crowd feel about the Kings picking 10th?

UConn's guard Kemba Walker seemed to be the name on most people's lips, but BYU's Jimmer Fredette had plenty of fans, as did San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard. The Bee's Jason Jones predicted Leonard would go to the Kings.

But there was plenty of confusion, too, with many in the crowd unsure about the Kings' reported trade -- point guard Beno Udrih to the Milwaukee Bucks for swingman John Salmons. Salmons, traded away by the Kings during the 2008-09 season, has a large contract and could potentially clutter the roster with combo guards.

Longtime Kings fan Frank Mahon hoped that today is the day the Kings will finally clarify the situation at the point.

"We need a really good point guard," Mahon said. "There is no doubt about it. We have to get some talent, and it's about time we made a move after all we've had to deal with given the arena situation."

What didn't seem to be in question was the trust fans put in general manager Geoff Petrie.

Barbara Rust, who carries multiple signs to every home game she attends and has earned the nickname "Sign Lady," said she hopes the team gets Walker. But she learned her lesson two years ago, she said, when she came into the draft with one player on her mind and was unsure what to think when Tyreke Evans was taken with the No. 4 pick.

"I totally trust Geoff Petrie to do what's best for the team and the organization," Rust said. "I come to this kind of event to bond with other Kings fans and show my support, and I'm thrilled to be here at all after what we went through."

Evans himself arrived at the event a little before the draft began and talked to Kings announcer Grant Napear.

The former Rookie of the Year seemed to be unaware of the trade for Salmons, but said, "It's really out of our hands."

Evans, rumored to be a good friend of Walker, wouldn't speculate on who the Kings should draft, noting that he was looking forward to playing with anyone.



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