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Kings receive celebratory welcome in opener

Posted Oct 30, 2013 10:49 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings launched their new era in their old home.

With new ownership and a new coach and a renewed commitment to Sacramento, the Kings had a celebratory opening to their season Wednesday night.

After years of uncertainty about their future in Sacramento, the Kings are once again fully entrenched in California's capital city to the delight of their fans who grew tired of the old ownership led by the Maloof family.

New owner Vivek Ranadive repeated his commitment to have a new arena built in Sacramento by October 2016 as he opened a season fans here didn't know would happen until he bought the team last May and ended talk of a possible move to Seattle.

"I wanted to thank all of you and the fans," Ranadive said before the game against the Denver Nuggets. "Thanks to you, we're here in Sacramento and we're here to stay."

Ranadive, the TIBCO Software chairman, officially bought the team in May and committed to keeping the franchise in Sacramento.

He held a pregame news conference with new minority owner Shaquille O'Neal, a former Kings antagonist during his time with the Lakers when the franchise's had fierce postseason battles and now a big backer of the team he once called "the Queens"

O'Neal now predicts that a team that won 28 games last season will make the make the playoffs this year under first-year coach Mike Malone.

"We want to get it back to those days and I'm glad to be part of this process," O'Neal said.

The opener had a party feel with fans all wearing purple t-shirts saying "Long Live the Sacramento Kings." There was a purple carpet outside the arena where celebrities were greeted as they arrived.

"It's amazing how different it feels this season. It's like the team has been reborn - new ownership, new coach, committed players, and a new arena being built downtown," said Sofia Gutierrez of Sacramento, who wore a purple scarf and other purple attire. "I'm so thankful that the people of Sacramento and Mayor Kevin Johnson rallied around the Kings and fought so hard to prevent the team from moving to Seattle. It would have broken my heart to see the Kings leave."

Among those cheered were NBA Commissioner David Stern. Stern was at the first game in Sacramento in 1985 and played a part in keeping the team here when the league denied the Kings permission to sell to a group that planned to move the franchise to Seattle.

"This is as good as it gets," Stern said. "I feel as if I'm in a city with an expansion team that's welcoming us. That's how good it feels."

The fans felt the same way.

Dressed in a "Forever Purple" T-shirt, Frank Campbell of Sacramento was ecstatic to be at the game. He was born the same year the Kings arrived in Sacramento.

"I've loved the Kings since the day I was born," Campbell said. "This means to world to me and my family. Without the Kings, this city has nothing in the way of pro sports. They are the main draw in Sacramento, I thought they were as good a gone last year - no chance of them staying. It was devastating to me. It doesn't get any better than this being here tonight."

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