Hey Tahoe: How about those Kings? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hey Tahoe: How about those Kings?

Column by Steve Yingling, Tribune Sports Editor

What do the Sacramento Kings have to do for a little local appeal and respect? Play an exhibition game in Tahoe? Convince flashy rookie point guard Jason Williams to hold a clinic at South Tahoe High?

Sacramento did more than hand over the NBA’s laughingstock label to the Los Angeles Clippers and Vancouver Grizzlies this season. They have quickly become the most promising young team in the NBA.

For the second time in their 13-year history in Sacramento, the Kings posted a winning record. Albeit, it was a short season, but their 27-23 regular-season mark for a team hastily assembled after the NBA lockout is truly remarkable.

Their reward was a first-round playoff matchup with the Utah Jazz, the championship runner-up the past two years. Not an ideal draw for qualifying for the playoffs for the second time in four years, but something to build upon.

Even though our tiny resort town is located a mere two hours from the metropolitan home city of the Kings, rarely do you see area kids and adults wearing Kings’ T-shirts, hats and jerseys? Do they have them tucked away on the bottom of their dresser drawers? Are they ashamed to wear them in public?

Not likely.

Local sports apparrel retailers carry very little Kings clothing because there just isn’t enough interest.

“We carry a couple of hats and customers can order things,” said Al Scott, owner of NFAl’s in Horizon Casino Resort. “The only interest we’ve had expressed at all about the Kings is for Jason Williams. As far as the Kings as a team, there’s been very little interest.”

Of course, Scott, being a 13-year shop veteran, knows that can change almost overnight.

“I’m sure people will go crazy if they upset Utah because the Jazz are the odds-on favorite to win the NBA championships, but I don’t see it happening,” said Scott, citing the Utah’s 30-point blowout in Game 1 Saturday night.

Subscribers rarely call into the Tribune to chat about the Kings or praise or critique our coverage of the franchise. Does this mean no one follows them? Should we be running more articles on the Lakers and Jazz?

None of our local radio stations carry the Kings’ games or give away tickets to their home dates.

Considering that the Kings are the closest professional franchise to Tahoe, like them or not, they are our team.

Starting the season with a free exhibition with the Golden State Warriors was a nice gesture by the Kings to win back fans after a lengthy lockout. Sensing that the small towns outside Sacramento were being overlooked, the Kings marketing and ticket sales departments intensified their efforts to reach a new fan base.

In fact, South Lake Tahoe is part of a Kings’ group sales project scheduled for the off-season.

“We actually will be making a concerted effort on that area for next season. Playing a criticial part in that will be if the Kings continue to play well and put a good product on the court,” said Barry Gibson, director of ticket sales for the Kings.

Not that the Kings’ need a new fan base. With a winning record; talented young stars like Williams, Chris Webber and Corliss Williamson; and a loyal fan base, the franchise appears healthy under the new ownership of the Maloof family.

Even in all their lean years Sacramentans have enthusiastically supported the Kings. Now that the Kings are elevating their play, tickets are becoming harder to find.

Don’t bother traveling to Sacramento on Wednesday unless you want to pay a scalper’s price. They’ve sold out for Game 3 and 4 (if it’s played). Besides, you should already have the playoff tickets in hand, along with your Kings hat and T-shirt, if you’re a true Kings fan.

But don’t be ashamed. There’s still time to convert your allegiance. Fans today are a lot like the free agent players that have infiltrated professional sports: They usually find the winners.

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