NEW ORLEANS — Isaiah Thomas doesn't want to see the city that has embraced him go through this.
The Kings point guard grew up in Tacoma, Wash., as a Seattle SuperSonics fan and remembers the team's final days there.
So when the news broke Monday that the Maloofs had agreed to sell a controlling interest in the Kings to Chris Hansen's Seattle-based group, Thomas reflected on what it was like to see the Sonics move to Oklahoma City in 2008 and how it felt as a fan.
“It was tough for the fans there,” he said. “I don't wish that on any city, especially for a team that's been there for a while. It's hard. For a city like Sacramento, where all they have is a basketball team, it's tough, so I feel for them.”
The Kings lost to the New Orleans Hornets 114-105 at New Orleans Arena, but the agreement to sell the franchise dominated the conversation.
The prospect of his current team turning into the team he once rooted for didn't enthrall Thomas.
It was in Sacramento where he went from the last pick in the 2011 draft to a fan favorite.
“It was hard,” Thomas recalled about the Sonics leaving. “At the same time, before they were leaving, you really didn't think about it too much. But then when they left, it was like everybody was lost in the city. You had football and baseball, but basketball was that thing in Seattle.”
This is the second time coach Keith Smart has been on a coaching staff during an ownership change. Smart was on Don Nelson's staff when the Warriors were sold in 2010 and was their coach for one season before being let go when the new owners hired Mark Jackson.
“You go from where you're hearing the rumors to where it's eventually going to happen,” Smart said. “Of course, there's so much conversation taking place between the players, their families, their kids, my kids. It happens. They're going to get saturated with so much coming at them, and you've got to get them to try and focus (on basketball).”
Smart said his approach to his job won't change.
“For the two hours we have to focus in a practice or in a game, we're out of the equation,” Smart said. “It's our families and possibly moving, kids in school and things like that and trying to keep the players focused.”
Rumors of the Kings relocating have persisted since 2011, when the Maloofs looked to move the team to Anaheim. More recently, they reportedly had discussed moving the franchise to Virginia Beach, Va.
It's been tough for the players to know what to believe. They learned about the deal like fans did, by seeing it on television or via social media.
“I really haven't had time to think about it, to be honest,” center DeMarcus Cousins said.
Hornets forward Ryan Anderson, who played at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, Calif., was disappointed by the news. He said he “can't imagine” the Kings not being in Sacramento.
“You know, it's a really tough thing to do to the city,” Anderson said. “Obviously, it's a business; that's the hardest part about it. But if we're just talking about emotions, it's really sad to think about it. And I know a lot of my friends and family are upset about it, too.”