Kings make a habit of picking small markets for exhibition games

Sacramento Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof really enjoyed sucking up to the Carano family during Thursday's press conference at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino. It was as obvious as Chris Webber disappearing against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Championship.

Remember, Mike Bibby, Houdini got a rebound late in the game.

Maloof was in Reno to promote Sacramento's Oct. 10 exhibition game against the Utah Jazz at Lawlor Events Center, sandwiched around visits to local gambling establishments, most likely owned by a Carano, and perhaps some wholesome family entertainment at the Wild Orchid. Maybe even Maloof, who became the youngest owner in NBA history in 1980 when he took over the Houston Rockets at the age of 24, got to experience the giant sling shot at the Reno Hilton.

Considering where Maloof had to promote last year's exhibition game, it makes sense he latched on to the Carano family as tightly as Webber is with his sticking to his story he couldn't buy a Happy Meal in college for $280,000.

The Kings played the Portland Trailblazers last year at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Bend, Ore, a town half the size of Carson City and with a McDonald's (only one) which charges only $3.49 for Happy Meal.

"There's nothing and then all of sudden Bend," media relations director Troy Hanson said when describing the team's reaction when approaching the high desert town in central Oregon. "When we were landing, the players and everybody were like 'Oh, my God.' They didn't know what to expect. But it turned out to be a really good time."

A packed crowd of almost 10,000 watched the game, which left half of the town empty. Maloof can thank Wayne Cooper, the Kings' Vice President of basketball operations who's also in charge of preseason scheduling, for scheduling a game in Reno again for the first time since 1996.

"I know we have a lot of fans here," said Cooper, who played 14 years in the NBA. "We have three different home games. So we go out and find different venues. We want to reward the fans who can't a ticket to a home game in the regular season. Reno's the best kept secret."

The Kings have played games in Stockton and Davis, two markets near Sacramento with residents that have as good a chance to get tickets to a regular season game than 99.45 percent of Sacramento residents do. The Kings have had close to 130 straight sell outs the past few years. The year Gavin Maloof and his brother, Jeff, took over things in Sacramento, Arco Arena only had two sellouts.

Cooper said there are only 1,500 tickets left for the Thursday night game at Lawlor. But if you think you can hold off and just get some season tickets for Kings' games in the future, think again. There is a five year waiting list for season tickets and the Kings don't offer six-pack or weekend packages anymore. I guess Sacramento has gotten too good, which would've been an unbelievable statement 10 years ago, when we were under the direction of the 'other' President Bush.

"We've come a long way in the last four years. We have everything but Shaq," Gavin said. "Reno is the perfect environment for the Kings and our organization. This gives us an opportunity to showcase our players. We hope to come back here many times in the future. It's a treat to be here. We love this city, we love this area."

Gavin forgot to mention, "I love this area, I love the Caranos. I hate Bend."


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