The scene at Power Balance Pavilion earlier tonight was pretty crazy for obvious reasons: The Kings were hosting the Utah Jazz less about 36 hours after a tentative private-public agreement was reached on a new downtown sports arena. The proposal will be submitted to the City Council for approval next Tuesday. Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is a lock as one of the five affirmative votes needed, arrived after the weekly council meeting ended, and then worked the oversized room (arena) like a politician.
He walked down the sidelines from his courtside seat and hugged Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. He walked back to the Maloofs again a few minutes later, accompanied by council members Angelique Ashby and Jay Schenirer. He also brought former vice-mayor Jimmie Yee over to the Maloofs - the same Yee who cast the deciding vote that secured the loan to former Kings owner Jim Thomas in 1997 - and then spent time in one of the suites, mingling with other business and city leaders who have been involved in the arena effort.
And, at least twice that I counted, KJ jumped to his feet and applauded spectacular plays by rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas.
A few other notes:
* I caught up with Joe and Gavin Maloof up in their suite before the game, and they were both visibly exhausted, but elated. Joe Maloof said he spent so much time in the negotiations in Orlando that he never even got to the Amway Center for any of the All-Star Weekend events. "Gavin has been there, and he says it's incredible," said Joe. If the deal is approved next week, he plans a return trip to Orlando to tour the arena widely regarded as the standard for modern arenas.
* Gavin Maloof said he received hundreds of congratulatory texts when the agreement was brokered on Monday, including from unlikely sources. "I even got some from Anaheim," he said, laughing. He also has been asked about choking up when he addressed the media in Orlando shortly after the deal was announced. "I was so happy," he said, "and I just lost it. I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. We loved this place. We never wanted to go anyplace else, we really didn't."
Asked how the deal was finalized, Gavin said, "(David) Stern wanted it. We wanted it. Everybody stretched. AEG gave more. We gave more. I'm still (laugh) in a state of shock, though. Hopefully I can sleep in tomorrow."
* Once again, DeMarcus Cousins showed off his phenomenal hands. He repeatedly beat everyone to loose balls and long rebounds, including one particularly impressive one-handed, off-balance grab in the closing minutes. His conditioning also seemed surprisingly decent considering he stayed to enjoy the festivities in Orlando (he was in the Rising Stars game on Friday) and didn't return to Sacramento until early Monday
* The diminutive Thomas, who has quickly emerged as a fan favorite, said he hopes his hometown Seattle gets another NBA franchise, but was pulling for the Kings to remain in Sacramento. "Seattle deserves another team," he said, "but the Kings belong here. I'm so happy it looks like it's working out."
* I will be discussing the Kings, the arena situation, the local sports landscape, etc., on our live chat Wednesday at noon.