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Waiting for the decision: Kings' likely departure has fans sad and angry

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Newcastle native Mike Takayama is trying to look on the bright side of the fact that the basketball team he’s devoted hundreds of nights to over the past 25 years is likely leaving Sacramento. Auburn’s Jerry Fisher is slowly coming to grips with the scenario that could send his beloved Kings to enemy territory in Southern California. Some fans are sad, others are mad and a few are holding out hope that the Sacramento Kings could return to the capital city following Wednesday night’s season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers. Takayama has been there from the start. He entered a lottery for season tickets in 1985 — the same year he began coaching basketball as an assistant at Del Oro High School — and he’s held onto them through thick and thin. He admits his interest in the team has waned a bit in recent seasons, but he will still be saddened to see the team go. “It’s really too bad for the city and the people who have supported them throughout this whole time,” Takayama said. “We’ve done a great job supporting the team and the team has added a lot to the city. But from my standpoint, you also understand it’s a business. “I’ve been resigned to the fact that they’re gone. I’ve spent somewhere around $10,000 each year for season tickets, so I guess the bright side is, now I can spend that money on something else.” Joe and Gavin Maloof, the Kings’ majority owners, filed an extension last month on the deadline for the team to explore its location options. The owners will attend the board of governors meeting this week and they must reveal their intentions for the team by April 18. The Kings’ days in Sacramento have been numbered since plans for a new arena at Cal Expo were trashed in September, 2010. Reports of talks with Anaheim and plans for the Kings’ relocation to the Honda Center have escalated as the season has progressed. Though the owners still have obstacles they will have to clear to move the team, Sacramento fans are losing hope. “It’s tragic,” said Fisher, sports coordinator for the Auburn Recreation District. “That’s our team.” Each year for the past decade, Fisher has taken groups of ARD basketball players to Kings games. The kids get a chance to play hoops on the Kings’ floor and then enjoy a barbecue outside the arena before settling in for a live NBA game. Fisher said many parents comment that the ARD outings are memories that they cherish for years. “I just took a group to the Philadelphia game last month,” Fisher said. “That might be the last time we go. I don’t know what we will do. Take a bus down to Oakland (for a Warriors game)?” Before playing basketball at an open gym session Friday, Auburn’s Ed Arnold voiced his frustration with the Kings’ ownership and also lamented that fans wouldn’t get to see the young team develop in Sacramento. “At our house we’ve separated our love for the players, whom we hope develop and do well, from the Maloofs,” Arnold said. “We can’t root for the Anaheim Royals (one proposed name if the Kings move) but I think in a few years they’re going to be really good. (Rookie center) DeMarcus Cousins is the real deal.” Former Kings season ticket holder Duane Lewis shared those sentiments. “It just stinks that they’re starting to play well and come around and then they’re going to move,” Lewis said. Some in Kings Nation are holding onto slivers of hope that Sacramento can keep its only major sports franchise. A group called, “Here We Build,” organized a rally last week in Sacramento that drew around 200 fans. The campaign has garnered more than $400,000 in pledges within less than a month. Folsom’s Robin Clary could not attend the rally due to her busy schedule as a piano teacher. But she has donated to the “Here We Build” cause and refuses to give up on the team she fell in love with over 10 years ago after attending her first Sacramento playoff game. “I think it’s a very, very slim chance they’ll stay, but this whole ‘Here We Build’ campaign makes us feel like at least we’re doing something,” Clary said. “I know people in Anaheim and they’re saying the people there don’t really want the Kings, it’s just the owner of the (Honda Center) and the politicians. Up here it’s the people who want to keep the team and the politicians can’t get it done.” The Kings’ departure would not only leave an entertainment void for sports fans in the region. It would also leave NBA followers in limbo as to where their support will fall. “To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll be an Anaheim fan,” Clary said. “I don’t know if I’ll be too hurt, or not. I might get over it. When I see these players, I really connect with them.” Takayama holds no ill will toward the Kings, or their owners. In recent months his attention has been focused on the Del Oro girls basketball team, which he guided to a runner-up finish in the CIF Northern California playoffs. With a son in high school and a job of his own, the Kings have become less of a priority. “It’s been tough to get away to Kings games because I’ve gotten accustomed to enjoying high school sports,” Takayama said. “I don’t think my allegiance will follow them down to SoCal. I’ll look in the sports section once in a while and see how they’re doing. But honestly, lately, I’ve enjoyed watching girls basketball as much as I have Kings games.” Reach Todd Mordhorst at toddm@goldcountrymedia.com.