DeMar DeRozan

Kings' DeRozan jackpot marks promising beginning for Sacramento

NBC Universal, Inc.

In 106-degree weather on a beaming July evening, Kings fans paraded around the DoCo area just outside Golden 1 Center.

When the doors finally opened for the Kings’ California Classic game against the Chinese National Team on Saturday, so did fans’ eyes, ears and hearts.

There had been buzz around the city for more than 24 hours about the potential of landing a big-name star, but being a Kings fan means constantly having your guard up when it comes to any and all NBA rumors.

The “I’m hearing” and “so and so is expected to" -isms have lost value in recent years around the 916, with players such as Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Khris Middleton, Jarrett Allen and Andre Iguodala being the what-ifs that quickly became the what-could-have-beens.

But Saturday marked a new era in Sacramento. It was different this time, and you could feel it. 

Due to it being a summer league game, the upper decks inside Golden 1 Center were closed off. But Kings fans didn’t care that it was “just” a summer league game in early July against a non-NBA team. Because it wasn’t.

The entire lower bowl was full. Full of passionate, anxious and jittery fans. The murmurs overpowered the shoe squeaks on the hardwood. The looks of yearning and hope took over fans’ faces. No purple lasers were shooting out of the Sacramento sky that night, but the amount of energy inside the building could have been enough to radiate a beam straight to Mars.

The awareness around the arena reached a new level. Some fans noticed and shared on social media that Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, who was sitting courtside for the Charlotte Hornets-San Antonio Spurs game going on before Sacramento’s game, suddenly was missing from his seat.

And then, it happened. The notification happened.

The Kings reportedly acquired DeMar DeRozan via a sign-and-trade deal with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs. An NBA superstar was joining Sacramento – willingly.

The blockbuster move first was reported by top NBA insiders Shams Charania and Adrian Wojnarowski, but the seemingly official confirmation came through the building just a few moments later.

They actually did it. Ranadivé did it. Kings general manager Monte McNair and assistant GM Wes Wilcox did it. And Kings fans – at last – got to celebrate an offseason victory.

McNair walked out to the court to roaring “Monte! Monte!” chants while signing autographs. A general manager received a thunderous ovation from fans at a summer league game.

The emotion – the excitement – couldn’t be held back from a fan base that has been patient for decades. A fan base that repeatedly has been told “no.” A fan base that finally – finally – was chosen.

DeRozan hit the open market this offseason after 15 seasons with stints in Toronto, San Antonio and Chicago. Sacramento had shown interest in the 34-year-old forward for weeks, but so did top-market teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. Not to mention Los Angeles is home for the six-time NBA All-Star.

But he chose the Kings. He chose Sacramento over SoCal and South Beach. He chose to play with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis over LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard.

And Kings fans repaid him the best way they know how.

Just as the Kings game was about to tip off, the Golden 1 Center crowd erupted in cheers -- and as much as they love their Kings basketball, it wasn't for the jump ball that was about to take place.

Enter Ranadivé, his daughter Anjali, and the man of the hour -- and the offseason -- DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan was welcomed to Sacramento with a standing ovation, just a hint at what he can expect from the passionate fan base in a basketball-loving city over the next few years.

Ranadivé sat next to DeRozan, assumingly relieved, with a smile on his face during the game, but the Kings weren't done cooking for the night. It was announced later that free-agent guard Jordan McLaughlin agreed to a one-year deal with Sacramento, per his agent Greg Lawrence.

All this was just a few hours after a press conference was underway to officially announce the re-signing of Malik Monk, who, like DeRozan, chose the Kings by declining to make more money elsewhere in free agency.

The Kings dominated Team China on Day 1 of the California Classic, but they won so much more Saturday night.

It marked a new beginning for Kings basketball. A team that once was the laughingstock of the NBA is now a destination of interest to top free agents around the league.

After years and years of coming up short, the Kings’ brass finally hit the jackpot with a big-name star, but even more, it's becoming evident to those beyond the Sacramento region of what's building in the state's capital.

It is a special time for Sacramento basketball, and the community -- from the stress to the "yes!" Saturday night -- proved exactly that.

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