fans will be front and center when the 2013-14 season opens. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
The Kings announced that their Oct. 30 regular-season opener against the Nuggets, set for Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena, will be televised without commercials.
It's an unusual move, and one aimed at celebrating the return of the franchise after an attempted relocation to Seattle earlier this year. The game will be televised on Sacramento's "News10," with the broadcast being dubbed the "Long Live the Kings" opener. All that extra on-air time will be filled with shots, one would expect, of Kings fans enjoying a hard-fought and truly sweet victory.
"News10 has been a loyal and valuable partner for us, and we look forward to working with them again this year," Kings president Chris Granger said in a statement. "We are excited to offer the home opener commercial-free, and give our wonderful fans a peek into the arena experience on what is certain to be a special night."
Maria Barrs, News10's GM, added: “No one was more excited than we were about the decision to keep the Kings in Sacramento. This is a pivotal year, and a commercial-free opening game is a great chance for fans to tune-in and rediscover why Kings basketball is so exciting and so important to this community."
A blueprint for saving the Kings was always going to involve at least two phases. The first step: wrestle ownership control from the Maloofs, a family that needed -- but didn't necessarily want -- to sell the team, while also ginning up the resources to build a new area and simultaneously fending off all competitive offers and outside bids. Against some tough odds, all of that happened over the last nine months, leading to the second step: doing everything possible, as quickly as possible, to make the Maloofs a distant memory.
Everyone knew the first step would be extraordinarily difficult as the precariousness of the situation developed over a number of years. No one involved in the process could really afford the luxury of gauging just how hard the second step would be until the franchise's future in Sacramento was officially secured. Now that the Kings are on stable ground, new owner Vivek Ranadive can get to work on crafting his franchise's next era. So far, that has meant a new GM (Pete D'Alessandro) and a new coach (Michael Malone) but a fairly similar roster (enter Ben McLemore, exit Tyreke Evans, welcome back Carl Landry). Writing the next chapter, though, has as much to do with the franchise's perception off the court as it does with the team's talent.
The Maloofs drew criticism, most of it legitimate, on all sorts of front: Critics saw them as cheap, unprofessional, untrustworthy, fan-unfriendly and overly self-interested. All of those attacks, and the situations from which they arose, require undoing by Ranadive and company. Fully restoring the Kings brand is a process that will likely take years of making good on promises and treating paying customers with respect.
With that background in mind, it would be short-sighted to write off this opening-night plan as merely a novelty or a publicity stunt. Going outside the TV box on opening night offers a number of opportunities for the Kings. First, it gives the impression that the organization isn't totally consumed with pinching every last penny. Given that they play in an arena whose naming rights have been sold to a disgraced sports wristband manufacturer and a mattress retailer, that's a good thing. Second, it's a clear, celebratory olive branch to Kings fans, who were instrumental in keeping the organization in Sacramento despite years of tension and negative feelings toward ownership. Allowing the in-arena atmosphere, sure to be jubilant, to set the tone for the new season makes all the sense in the world from a fan relations standpoint. What better way to market the team to a wide television audience than by showcasing the fans and letting their passion tell the story?
And, really, it's time for some new images too. The enduring multimedia images from recent Kings seasons include the television broadcast breaking down in 2011 when it appeared the organization was going to relocate to Anaheim.
Last year, so much of what we saw from Sleep Train Arena, including fan-led "Here We Stay" rallies, was passion born of desperate times. The crowd's dedication was amazing but also unsettling given the circumstances that were, ultimately, out of their control.
Kings fans fought hard to keep their team last season. (Rocky Widner/National Basketball)
The intensity that comes with fighting off a home burglar isn't the same as the intensity at a New Year's Eve party. Last year's mood often felt like the former; the start of the 2013-14 season should be raucous, care-free and off-the-charts nuts like the latter. Capturing that new feeling -- and transmitting hours of unending streams of it -- is just about the perfect way to quickly put some real distance between the organization and its Maloofian past.
Video via YouTube user baseballfan358