Kings fans let emotions out, maybe one last time


Kings fans let emotions out, maybe one last time


SACRAMENTO (AP) The cowbells rang loud and proud again.For one, perhaps final time, a faithful following once considered among the best in American professional sports came together Wednesday night to cheer their beloved Sacramento Kings against the rival Los Angeles Lakers.For one night, doom and gloom were trumped by hope and happiness. For one night, the team's possible move to Anaheim was brushed aside to show what made Sacramento so great.They came with signs that read, "We Love You!" and "Take My Life. But Not My Kings." And the optimism reverberated in the echoes of those trademark cowbells and in the purple-painted faces who came to remember the glory days.
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"It feels like old times," said Kings fan Patrick Sullivan, 26, sitting in upper deck. "The atmosphere would be so awesome if the reason behind it wasn't so sad."A standing-room only crowd packed things beyond the 17,317-seat capacity, and many arrived well before tipoff. They chanted "Here We Stay!" and "Save Our Kings!"Some were covered in body paint, others wore Kings jerseys going back a decade and a few even donned gold crowns atop their heads. A video montage for "Fan Appreciation Night" was shown before tipoff.And when the lights went dim and players were introduced, every one - fans, ushers, vendors, players, coaches, even police officers - stood and delivered a roar so loud that the building best known as Arco Arena shook to its core."On behalf of all my teammates, coaches and everyone in the organization, thank you," Kings forward Donte Greene told the crowd for the season finale. "You guys are the best fans in the world."Not everyone was kind.There were derogatory chants and angry posters toward Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who were not in attendance, let alone in their usual courtside seats for this one. Instead, fans with Lakers attire sat in the Maloof's seats.On the other side of the broadcast table, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez sat courtside. Outside, there was even a small patch of fans wearing black and reading a eulogy outside the arena, recounting all the great players and victories throughout the years.For most, though, it was one last chance to reflect.Brian Martin and his wife, Chris, have lived in Sacramento since 1984 and have gone to games since the Kings moved from Kansas City in 1985. Of all the highlights they've witnessed, their favorite came when former Kings fan-favorite Bobby Jackson flew into the crowd next to them diving for a loose ball."A woman leaned over and just smiled and then kissed Bobby on top of his head," said Chris, who was wearing Jackson's old Kings jersey. "That was just so adorable."Soon, memories might be all that's left.It seems the only thing stopping the Kings from moving is a block by NBA owners. The Maloofs are scheduled to make a pitch at the NBA Board of Governors meeting that begins Thursday in New York to move the franchise to Anaheim next season, and no franchise has ever been denied permission to relocate in the 27 years under Commissioner David Stern.Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson - a former NBA All-Star - and Anaheim officials also will attend the meeting to plead their cities' cases. The Maloofs have until Monday to officially file for permission to relocate, and a vote would likely come within weeks of that request.All that's needed for approval is a simple majority."I've been in a lot of games where there's not much time on the clock, and somehow we managed to come away with a win," said Johnson, who was at the Kings' finale before leaving after the first quarter to catch a flight to New York."So it's not over yet."Even the hated Lakers were sympathetic of the Kings.Lakers coach Phil Jackson - the man behind the Lakers' 2002 Western Conference finals victory over the Kings in Game 7 in Sacramento, the one who labeled the city "cow town" and soaked up every snicker and verbal jab at Kings fans for years - felt for those at the finale."I'll never forget those cowbells," said Jackson, who might've heard more ringing than anybody ever behind the visitors' bench. "I was OK with them, because I always knew fans would get tired. But when they started with the electric ones that had batteries, those really killed you."Not even those closest to the Kings know their future for certain.Gary Gerould has been Sacramento's radio play-by-play announcer since the inaugural season, and he said the team has given him no indication if he will be their announcer in Anaheim should they leave. With his family in Northern California - his wife, several children and grandchildren - Gerould probably wouldn't move to Anaheim, anyway.In 26 seasons calling Kings games, the 70-year-old has only missed five games. Wednesday night was his 2,058th Kings game - including preseason and playoffs - by his count.And perhaps his last."I'm no different than anyone in this organization," Gerould said. "None of us knows what might happen. How I will fill that void after doing this for so many years? I honestly don't know."

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers


Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — A 2-1 victory Saturday night at Dodger Stadium all but assured that the Giants will not lose 100 games. They still could, sure, because any sort of downslide is possible in this 2017 season, but they would really have to finish with some sort of ugly stretch. 

Still, it’s been a long season, so it was no surprise when Madison Bumgarner admitted to some sleepless nights since Opening Day. As for Saturday night …

“It’s going to be much easier to go to sleep tonight, because we won,” Bumgarner said.

The big lefty did the heavy lifting, throwing 7 2/3 dominant innings and offering one more reminder that his shoulder is 100 percent fine after a season-halting dirt bike accident. Bumgarner topped out at 93.5 mph, and even though Bruce Bochy thought Dodger Stadium might have had a hot gun on this night, the swings told the story of a good fastball. Bumgarner said this was as good as he has felt in a while. 

“He did look strong,” Bochy said. “He did have really good stuff tonight. It was really crisp.”

It was the kind of night that reminds you that, for all their issues, the Giants will start 2018 with a leg up on many others. They have Madison Bumgarner and you don’t, and that should lead to plenty of good over the course of 32 or 33 starts. 

“I think it’s good for the club to know, hey, he’s back,” Bochy said. “This is the kind of ball we can play.”

It was the brand Bochy appreciates: A strong start, a good bullpen, strong defense, and just enough offense. That’s how the Giants will win in 2018, if they are to do so, which bodes well for the man at the center of Saturday’s offense. The Giants plan to move Denard Span to left field and acquire a new center fielder, but they still lack depth in the organization, and Gorkys Hernandez has made it clear he would like to stick around. He had three hits — including two doubles — and a walk, scoring both Giants runs. 

After a slow start that almost got him released, Hernandez took off over the summer, providing a high average and sparkling defense at three spots. A left wrist tendon issue has slowed him in September, but he surprised the staff by being available for the final two weeks of games, and he said he’ll play through the end of the year before considering any rehab options 

“He certainly has made a statement,” Bochy said. “He’s one of our better athletes. He can play anywhere in the outfield, and what’s impressive is how he’s come on with the bat. A kid like this that plays defense the way he can, and shows he can do some things with the bat, he’s in the mix.”

Hernandez said he loves playing in San Francisco. He intends to spend his offseason getting healthy at his home in Scottsdale before competing for an outfield job. 

“Every time Bochy puts me in the lineup I’m trying to show everyone that I can be here and that I can be part of this team for a long time,” he said.