SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings got back to the basketball portion of their ever-spinning world Thursday night. Kind of.
Yes, they played for the first time since news broke that the owners, the Maloof family, were deep in negotiations to sell to a group that would move the team to Seattle. And, yes, 14,011 showed to Sleep Train Arena to watch, a good crowd for a mid-week game against a bad team, and those fans did bring noise in the continued delicate split of supporting the team while sticking their Maloof voodoo dolls full of pins. DeMarcus Cousins even got ejected, this time for a flagrant foul, and just try finding a greater sign of normalcy.
But Seattle was unavoidably everywhere before and after. Maybe during as well, with the hand-made signs brought in by fans urging the Kings to stay or even for the Maloofs to sell to the citizens of Sacramento a la the Packers in Green Bay. It is one of several ideas that has been mentioned the last couple days as a solution.
Definitely during the 117-112 overtime loss to the Mavericks, actually. It was impossible not to notice the irony that two of the five Kings on the court the final seconds were Tacoma native and University of Washington product Isaiah Thomas and Seattle native Aaron Brooks. Thomas was even the reason the night lasted into an extra period, thanks to a 25-foot bank with 9.1 seconds remaining for a 101-101 game.
The before was a candid Keith Smart. The Kings coach was asked 90 minutes prior to tipoff whether the relocation talk could become a distraction, whether the sale is complete and moving is inevitable or talks on the deal at a reported $500 million linger and the future remains an uncertainty. He did not hesitate.
“It’s going to get there,” Smart said matter-of-factly of the distraction. “I’m going to have it from my side — my family, my kids, everything. We all are going to have it. But we have to, at a moment, block out everything and focus on the task at hand. As soon as we get away from the two hours of practice, hour of shootaround, two hours of game time, then we’re going to go back to reality. And reality is going to ask, ‘What are you hearing?’ and all those things there. We have to answer those questions from our friends, family and everyone because everyone will be a little concerned.
“What we’ll preach is, ‘Do what you need to do in that time frame, but as we get ourselves back into the environment where we have to practice, workout, stay on top of what it is that you’re supposed to be doing and we’ll deal with all that as it goes day by day.’ It’s definitely going to be a distraction. Obviously yesterday (when news of the potential sale first broke) was. But we’re pros. We’ve got to figure out a way how to separate the two and then get ready to play.”
Brooks, sitting alone at his locker, trying to find the right words. The Kings in Sacramento would be nice. Playing point guard in his hometown would be nice.
“It’s a lose-lose,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta lose.”
A difficult spot.
“Yeah,” Brooks said. “Very difficult.”