Brad Miller, who played for the Kings from 2003 to 2009, sat in the Maloofs’ courtside seats. He also came with his 6-year-old daughter, Aniston.
“Felt I had to be here,” said Miller, stayed late to shoot baskets as arena workers cleaned up.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, in full cheerleader-in-chief mode, also sat in a courtside seat. He fist-bumped “Slamson,” the team’s lion mascot, as players took the court. He said at halftime he feels confidents about Sacramento’s bid to keep the Kings.
“I think the advantage has to go to the home team. We’re an incumbent,” Johnson said. “We have fans here, still filling up Sleep Train Arena.”
Others couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.
Gary Gerould has been Sacramento’s radio play-by-play announcer since the Kings moved from Kansas City in 1985. He hopes to continue for several more years, but only if the team stays because his family lives in Northern California.
He sat down in the morning and did the math on games he has missed during his career. In his 28 seasons in Sacramento, the 72-year-old Gerould has called 2,198 games _ including preseason and playoffs _ by his count.
Wednesday night might have been his last.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Gerould said. “Two years ago, I was absolutely convinced this team was gone. There was not a doubt in my mind. Now there’s at least a ray of hope.”
The Maloofs have had a signed agreement since January to a group that wants to buy the Kings, move them to Seattle and rebrand them the SuperSonics _ who left the Pacific Northwest for Oklahoma City in 2008. Led by Johnson, Sacramento has fought back over to make the sale and relocation of the Kings a real debate.
Johnson streamlined an arena financing plan through the Sacramento City Council and assembled his own group, which submitted a written offer to the league Tuesday night. The NBA’s joint committee assigned to give a recommendation between the two offers convened again Wednesday in New York.
The annual meeting of the league’s Board of Governors, consisting of all 30 owners, is Thursday and Friday. NBA Commissioner David Stern said a decision is unlikely until at least May, leading to all the uncertainty in Sacramento’s season finale for everybody involved again.
“For the most part, it’s a shame that every year I’ve been here you get the same type of questions and it’s the same situation at the end of the season _ is this going to be our last game here?” said Kings forward Jason Thompson, who was among the players who came back on the court to thank fans two years ago in what felt like goodbye. “It’s a tough situation for the players and for the fans who spend money to watch games. It’s just a tough situation.”
The arena parking lot was packed with TV trucks. Radio stations also set up booths along with businesses touting promotions. The Maloofs never surfaced.
When Smart walked of the locker room before the game and saw a half-dozen TV cameras and another dozen reporters, he joked, “What is this, the NBA Finals?”