Sacramento Kings phone home

Ten bucks. That was the going rate for a game ticket last week between two bargain-basement basketball teams: the woeful Washington Wizards and, of course, the Sacramento Kings.

Other than the price, there was little reason for anyone to head out to the arena on a cold weekday evening in Washington, D.C. Sacramento Kings fans, however, had one possible sweetener, or bitter-sweetener, in this case.

Depending on how the Sacramento City Council votes soon, with the team’s future as up in the air as a DeMarcus Cousins’ free throw, it may have been one of the Kings’ many farewell games representing Sacramento as a major-league town.

True, the matchup featured two last-place teams in their respective divisions—teams that haven’t been in sniffing distance of the playoffs in recent years.

Even so, a long way from home, a handful of faithful Kings fans turned out in D.C., decked out in their purple and black. An informal count on the concourse at halftime, in fact, yielded about 20 fans in Sacramento Kings jerseys, hats and jackets. They were outnumbered, of course, by hardy—or possibly foolhardy—Wizards fans dressed in red and blue, and even some outfitted in Brigham Young University blue (presumably for Kings’ rookie Jimmer Fredette).

But still, the Kings’ fans were there, cheering on. Sacramento’s lone major-league team and finding common ground through their hometown colors.

“I hope they stay. They help put Sacramento on the map,” said one fan wearing a Kings’ cap, while waiting in line at the concession stand.

Added another man behind him in line in a Sacramento jersey, “They kind of let people know Sacramento is out there.”

Well, that’s one way of putting it.

Meanwhile, over at a condiments station, another fan, this one dressed head-to-toe in purple, waited patiently for a little mustard.

“They’ve treated my grandson real well, been real supportive,” Herb Scott said of Sacramento fans.

“Which is good, since he is a terrific kid,” he added of his grandson Donte Greene.

Unfortunately for Scott, Greene didn’t play in the Kings’ 115-107 victory, one in which the team steadily cruised by the Wizards for a win in front of a two-thirds empty arena.

And while the Verizon Center, a.k.a. the Phone Booth, may have been mostly vacant, the Sacramento City Council may want to note that the real action occurred outside the venue.

There, in a once dead and blighted neighborhood that underwent revitalization after the city’s arena was built 15 years ago, the streets were lively and well-lit. Here, Washingtonians packed neighboring bars and restaurants in what has become a hip and gentrified part of town.

Instead of $10 spent on a game ticket, they laid down money on mojitos and pitchers of craft beer. For them, last call happened sometime after midnight.

Meanwhile, for Sacramento fans across the street at the Verizon Center, last call for their team happens this month, with the shot clock quickly winding down.