Not only did OKC face a raucous crowd Thursday night at Power Balance Pavilion, the Thunder also had to endure a TNT sideshow.
That the Thunder's game at Sacramento would be nationally televised raised a few eyebrows when the schedule was first released, but a likely explanation came when TNT analyst and former Kings great Chris Webber was introduced to a sellout crowd between the first and second quarters.
Webber received a thunderous ovation and was presented a No. 4 black Kings jersey, which he promptly wore after repeatedly saluting the crowd. That was followed by video highlights of Webbers' playing days in Sacramento (1998-2005), which was followed by a video of him leading a “Go Sacramento” cheer.
The Thunder has quickly become one of the league's biggest drawing cards on the road.
The Kings have had three sellout crowds this season — the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls and the Thunder.
A gathering of 17,317 wore black T-shirts and snapped open their purple glow sticks during pre-game introductions. Fans were told they were about to be joined live on TNT, which wasn't true because the Lakers-Celtics actually was still in overtime.
KEEPING THE KINGS
In an effort to keep the Kings in town, Sacramento desperately is trying to secure funds for a new $387 million arena.
Having grown up nearby, Brooks has strong feelings about the Kings not leaving.
“Absolutely, I hope they do,” Brooks said. “Growing up in the Valley, you don't want to lose the Kings. They mean so much to the people, not only from this area, but from the area I grew up an hour away.”
During Thursday's morning shootaround, Thunder reserve Nick Collison was peppered with questions about when the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to OKC.
“I think the best thing a player can do is try to concentrate on basketball,” Collison said. “It is a little bit of a distraction. You'd like to have the future be a little clearer, I think. At the end of the day, as players we've got a pretty good job, it's to play ball for those two hours on the court. If you can focus on that, you're better off.”
As for the possibility of the NBA someday returning to Seattle, Collison said: “I understand this is a difficult situation for fans. Who knows? I had a great time in Seattle. I love the fans there and would like to see good things happen, but I also know that's probably a bad thing for someplace else. For me, I just let that play out for the businessmen, the politicians. Whatever happens is still going to happen.”
OKC closes out its five-game road trip with a 9:30 p.m. contest Friday at Utah. The Thunder was scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City around 2 a.m. Friday. OKC is off until it faces Utah again at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder plays at Houston on Wednesday and then returns for a five-game homestand before All-Star Weekend.
After a timeout midway through the first quarter, Kevin Durant noticed former NBA great and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson seated in the front row. They quickly shared a hug. … Eight OKC turnovers in the first quarter resulted in seven points for the Kings. Sacramento also had five second-chance points in the period, yet the Thunder trailed by just 23-19. … Seated on press row was Bob Condotta from the Seattle Times. … All 10 players who played for the Kings in the first half scored at least three points.
GET YOUR TICKETS
OKC coach Scott Brooks, who was raised roughly an hour to the south in Lathrop, Calif., receives an onslaught of ticket requests whenever the Thunder plays at Golden State or at Sacramento.
Thursday's game drew “40-some” requests. One fan was Brooks' 79-year-old mother, Lee.
Brooks spent Wednesday afternoon with his mother. “It was a great time,” he said.
Thunder guard James Harden, to SI.com on Tuesday if he thought he should be an All-Star reserve: “Oh yeah, definitely — yes, sir. I'm not confident, though. I can't control that. I'll just keep playing hard, winning basketball games and having fun with my guys.”
Brooks, reacting to Harden's non-selection on Thursday: “It's such a special, select group. It's 12 guys (per conference). There are always guys that will not make it and you can really argue for them, and I think James is definitely one of them. He's helped us build this team to a good early start with his play. He does everything."
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins hit his first four shots of the game but also drew his third personal foul with 3:23 left in the first period. Inexplicably, he remained in the game for three more possessions before he was able to leave the game with a stoppage in play with 2:29 left.
Credit the Thunder for quickly inbounding the ball after Cousins' third foul. However, why Kings coach Keith Smart left Cousins in the game after getting his second foul was uncertain. Cousins didn't play again until he started the second half.