HANG TIME WEST – The Maloof brothers showed at Power Balance Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, which is saying something. Most tracking the Sacramento arena debacle would have given long odds on Joe or Gavin attending another game this season, especially the way they stayed out of view after their plan to move to Anaheim became public late in 2010-11. But there they were for the Kings-Trail Blazers matinee.
The Maloofs watched from their suite with security stationed outside, rather than the front-row center-court seats they used, in some coincidence, while being celebrated as conquering heroes after reaching an agreement to build a new arena and keep the team in town. Same thing through the years – very visible with the winning times, noticeably scarce through the drought that followed.
The Maloofs get it. They get they are unpopular, and that is a particularly difficult thing for Joe and Gavin, nice people who would have been better served through the years if they would, or could, be more cutthroat with business decisions. They are good cop while someone else, maybe another executive and more recently brother George, played the heavy.
Joe and Gavin, the most visible members of the family that owns the team, understand the level of contempt for the family name in the Sacramento area, though no one can truly measure the depths of the distaste. Not without drilling to the inner core of the Earth. It’s why they considered attending the 2010-11 finale but eventually thought better and stayed away from what could have been the last Kings game in town, and it’s why they showed Sunday (but didn’t really).
Would something physical have happened either time? Probably not. But why take the chance. The best-case scenario – the best case – would have been a sideshow, with a lot of boos and maybe some uncomfortable chants and the brothers pretending to focus on the game as the venom rained down. This was better, the way energetic crowds both times appreciated the effort of a team still far from any playoff hope.
Venom there is, though. From listening to talk radio to reading the e-mails and tweets, the Maloofs have deservedly been turned into piñatas for the bungled handling by agreeing to the arena deal, getting everyone excited for the future, and then ripping hearts out with the decision to back out of the deal. It’s their right to not like the deal, of course. But not in that order.
The most popular people in the city exactly 10 years ago as the Kings went on a march that led to the Western Conference finals had lost it all as the bad decisions and lottery appearances piled up. They recaptured the good feelings with the arena agreement in an Orlando hotel room during All-Star weekend. They were back on the good side of fans, finally. And then it took but a few weeks to hand it all back, to a worse place than ever.
Sunday afternoon against the Trail Blazers was the Maloof’s attempt to show fans they are still committed to a Sacramento future, no matter how many in town are convinced otherwise. The brothers chose to attend, and maybe take some verbal abuse from the customers close to their luxury box, when they could have stayed away. That’s their message.
It’s just that it was one-sided. The fans never got to deliver their message in return.