Long viva the Kings?

Opening night at Arco Arena, where the Maloofs rolled the dice

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—until it inevitably makes its way to Sacramento, where it mutates into a cringe-inducing bastardization of what purportedly are “good times, brah” some 1,000 miles southeast.

That’s right: Maloof Sports and “Entertainment” took a stab at making over the Kings at last Wednesday’s solid but scrappy home-opener win over the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies, but the result, in a word: FAIL. It’s like the Maloofs want Sacramentans to hate live basketball. It’s like they want to shake off fans and move to … oh.

MS&E made a lot of tweaks to the Sacramento NBA experience, the most obvious, and flagrant, being the live band that performed during players’ introductions and at halftime. It was a surefire buzzkill, one that many argue single-handedly brought down the 1980s: buttrock, by way of Rev Theory, Maloof Music act and Girls Gone Wild Rocks America tour alum. They performed atop a riser in section 120, which overtook some 75 unsold lower-level seats. Announcer Scott Moak introduced the players and Rev rocked—"Give ’em hell, yeah!” And pretty much every fan sat agape, confused. “Where’s my order of metal riffage and 20-something ladies in 12-year-olds’ gymwear?”

Don’t blame fans for being dumbfounded: This attempt at freshening up a years-old game-opening ritual was as dry and unpalatable as the falafel at Arco’s new shawarma concession. And very Maloofian: Remember their tactless ridicule of Detroit at that home opener a few seasons back? I guess, in a way, this was an improvement.

Fortunately for the Maloofs, Sacramentans still enjoy basketball. But, unfortunately for Sacramentans, your 2008 Kings play a different brand of hoops, one that involves dubious half-court offense and questionable defensive effort. And Kings president Geoff Petrie knows this: He stood at the courtside-tunnel entrance, left hand on chin, watching Beno Udrih repeatedly waste the 24-second clock before scrambling and dishing to, of all people, Mikki Moore for 15-footers. Yikes.

Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson, who was courtside, must have been at a lack of words to describe coach Reggie Theus’ offensive game plan. I’ll give it a stab: Take your best player, one Kevin Martin, isolate him corner-baseline and never get him involved. Or maybe K-Mart’s not assertive enough? Or maybe he needs Brad Miller. Damn stoners.

Anyway, K.J., a former Phoenix Suns point guard, left at the half after receiving an honorary jersey. At least he showed up (read: Udrih).

All things considered, though, it was a decent game. Sure, turnovers are in this year, as are blown leads (again) and ill-advised Theus timeouts during breakaways. But on a positive note, Jason Thompson, the Kings 22-year-old first-round pick out of Rider University, is a monster: Fierce and exuberant with great hands and footwork in the paint, he stands out on the Kings like cannabis in a daisy garden. He’s dope—and if he’s not starting at the four by December, then, well …

Maybe K.J. can suit up?