NEW ORLEANS — Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart said Monday’s news that the team’s ownership has reached an agreement to sell the team to a Seattle group was “a blow,” even though it has been anticipated for weeks.
The sale is up for approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors in April, but that is considered a formality.
“It’s a tough thing for our team, our organization, the people who have been putting in a lot of time,” Smart, a Baton Rouge native in his second year with the Kings, said before his team played the Hornets at New Orleans Arena. “We feel for the fans that have been there for us, but this is the nature of the businesses. From a coach’s standpoint, I’ve got to get this team ready to play night in and night out. The players have a great ability to put situations like this aside and play the game without letting it affect them.”
Nonetheless, Smart looked subdued and even said he was appreciative when the line of questioning switched to basketball. Former LSU star Marcus Thornton’s expression became much more serious when the subject changed from basketball to the sale, though he seemed to echo Smart.
“It’s out of our control; there’s nothing we can do about it,” Smart said. “We just come to play.”
The move comes although the Kings have been known to have strong attendance, even with the team not usually enjoying a lot of success.
“The fans have been great,” Thornton said. “They’ve been loyal. Good season, bad season, they’ve been there. I know that hurts them, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Smart said such news could serve as a distraction.
“You go from where you’re hearing a rumor to where it’s eventually going to happen,” he said. “There will be so much conversation between the players, their families, their friends, their kids, my kids. They are going to get saturated with so much coming at them, they’ve got to focus.
“For the two hours that we’re going to function, whether at practice or the games, we’re out of the equation. It’s with our families and friends that we have to deal with the other things, possible moves, kids in school and all those other things.”
Hornets power forward Ryan Anderson, a native of Sacramento, said he can’t fathom not having the Kings in that city.
“It was really sad news, as a guy growing up in Sacramento during the era (late 1990s, early 2000s) when they were one of the best teams in the NBA, and just so exciting to watch and that crowd,” he said. “You know, the crowd still remains strong; that fan base remains very strong.
“It’s a really tough thing for the city. It’s a business, but if you’re just talking about emotions, it’s really, really sad. It’s a sad feeling to know that I won’t be going back there to play games.”
Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008, when the SuperSonics were bought by a group that moved the team to Oklahoma City and named it the Thunder.
Hornets coach Monty Williams remembers when there were rumors of the possible sale of the Hornets before Saints owner Tom Benson bought the team last year.
“Anytime you lose a city, you lose a fan base,” he said. “As a fan, you never want to see a city lose a team, no matter what the sport is.”