Monday night, the Sacramento Kings took the floor for game three of their NBA Summer League season in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, 564 miles west, thousands of fans filed into the state of the art Golden 1 Center to watch their polarizing young stars take on the long-time rival Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite a groin injury sidelining the Lakers’ rookie sensation Lonzo Ball, spoiling what was to be the first of many much anticipated matchups between Ball and the Kings’ rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento fans were not short of energy and enthusiasm.
Lines of people surrounded the downtown arena over an hour before the doors opened, and the anticipation continued to build despite the game being delayed by over half an hour.
If there was any doubt that the Sacramento faithful weren’t completely behind the Kings’ youth movement, it’s now gone.
Fans were eager to share their praise and excitement for this off-season and the future of the franchise.
Season ticket holder Yogi Polanco expressed his satisfaction with Kings General Manager Vlade Divac, “I was optimistic but after (this off-season) I think he made some good decisions and made a lot of changes that are positive, compared to the last couple of seasons.”
Divac was criticised by many, including Sacramento Kings fans, for his trading of all-star DeMarcus Cousins last season. However, after a strong draft and the signing of George Hill, Zach Randolph, and fan-favorite Vince Carter, the critics are starting to come around.
“I look at Vlade the same way I look at Reggie McKenzie (General Manager of the Oakland Raiders)” said fan Wayne Long, “He took over a struggling franchise that didn’t have a lot going for it and there were definitely bumps in the road at first. Now it seems as though his vision is much more clear.”
After pulling the plug on a desperate attempt to win the eighth seed in the West, and end the Sacramento playoff drought of over a decade, Divac and the Kings have made their direction clear.
Fueled by the promising talent of De’Aaron Fox and returning young players like Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield, the franchise has their eyes set on a very bright future.
Kings fans have shown their fair share of patience, and appear willing to wait a little more after the latest acquisitions.
Longtime fan Adhnan Khan told 1140, “I expect continued growth. Improve on last season. I really like the moves, drafting De’Aaron Fox and the other three rookies. Also we added some solid veteran leadership in Zach Randolph, George Hill, and Vince Carter. They can contribute right away but also help mentor these rookies.”
Fans also recognized the help Divac recruited to his front office as a major reason for the moves. Active Sacramento Kings fan and community member Mike Barnbaum said, “The basketball operations brass of Luke Bornn, Scott Perry, Vlade Divac and Mike Bratz really put their heads together and made some great decisions. I am very happy with the results.”
There is still a long way to go, and frustrating times ahead for Kings fans, who caught a glimpse of the coming struggles after the Kings fell behind by 28 points early in the 2nd half. However, they also saw a sample of the light at the end of the tunnel, as Buddy Hield and Frank Mason III led the Kings back to a lead late in the game.
Ultimately, Sacramento fell short, losing 95-92 to Los Angeles, but fans left encouraged by the hustle, determination, and potential of their young roster.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our young talent having a lot of fun and getting some wins” Polanco said when asked about this upcoming season.
With training camp not far off, and the start of the regular season just months away, there is plenty to be excited about in Sacramento.
A lot of unknowns surround this roster, how well the young players will develop or if the veterans were worth the lucrative contracts.
But one thing’s for sure, the Kings fan base will show up, be loud, and have their presence be felt no matter the result. Just ask the ten thousand.