The Sacramento Kings may have ranked 28th out of 30 NBA teams in attendance during the 2011-12 season, but a couple of factors need to be considered as we judge that particular statistic. For one, the Kings stunk — starting off the season with an embarrassing battle of wills between ex-coach Paul Westphal and starting center DeMarcus Cousins, one that eventually led to Westphal's dismissal. The team only won a third of its games, and the raw attendance figures don't take into account that the team still nearly filled up its relatively small home arena even as the team's owners were criticized for pulling a fast one on Sacramento civic leaders in their unending attempts at taking the team away from the state capital.
So when Kings fans hear the good news of a great player and great person, in the form of Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, being added to the team's roster? They come out in droves. Real droves — like, filling the second floor of a mall droves. Watch the video:
Robinson is expected to fit right in next to Cousins, as the two talented bigs form an interior core that Kings fans hope will remind them of the production (if not the means of getting to that production) that they saw Vlade Divac and Chris Webber contribute over a decade ago.
Robinson, you might not be aware, has gone through quite a bit personally in the last two years, so his ascension and welcoming into the Kings' family has to be doing great things for a spirit that could have been irreparably harmed by the losses he had to endure in his penultimate season at Kansas. ESPN's Tom Friend documented what could have been a series of crushing blows to the big man:
He dialed Lisa's cellphone, but she didn't pick up. "Oh man, I don't know what's going on," Marcus said. Thomas' eyes were watering, and the twins were starting to tear up. He dialed his mom's home phone, and Jayla answered. She told him that Lisa had had a heart attack. Their mother was dead.
Thomas dropped his phone, sobbing. In less than a month, he had lost both maternal grandparents and his mother. The twins called Angel, who, when hearing the news, yelled, "Oh my god." She immediately left for Thomas' apartment and phoned Self on the way. The coach started weeping. "He was crying, I was crying," Angel says. "I said, 'Coach, we gotta get ourselves together. Because we both got to walk through that door and be there with that kid.'"
They found Thomas slumped on his bed, surrounded by teammates. When Self entered the bedroom, the players cleared, and the coach asked Thomas: "What can I do to help? Is there anybody you need to talk to tonight?" Thomas had been sobbing uncontrollably. But he stopped, dry-heaved and looked up at Self. "Coach, you don't understand. I don't have anybody. All I have is my sister. All I have is Jayla."
Jayla, if you'll recall, was the precocious 9-year-old sister that more than held her own in a nationally televised interview on ESPN last week, after Robinson was taken fifth overall by Sacramento. Robinson did much the same soon after being selected by the Kings, and was an ebullient presence in his first meeting with the notoriously loyal Kings fans.
This is some good news. For Robinson, his new team, and his new home. We just, like Kings fans, want that "home" to find a way to stay in Sacramento.
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