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The Kings have been having a roller coaster season.
The team is undeniably better than last year, but its recent monthlong collapse has left it with a 18-35 record. This tally has been accompanied off-court by injuries, trade rumors, and uncertainty about a new arena and the Kings' future in Sacramento.
While it's a turbulent time to be a Kings fan, most fans who attended Tuesday's home game remained optimistic and excited about the future.
"They're pretty good," William Yu said. "They're making a lot of progress," added the 38-year-old engineer.
"They play all the way, and they're fun to watch," warehouse operator Jerry Sudderberg said.
Much of the optimism centers around the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award, Tyreke Evans, and the development of Kevin Martin. Evans has been a welcome surprise, averaging 20.3 points per game and anchoring the team with his performance. Martin, who is back after being injured and missing more than 30 games, has struggled somewhat since his return. He is just starting to show flashes of his former high-scoring self.
Diane Goodman, a counselor and 24-year resident of Sacramento, said both players are key to the team's success.
"Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin, if they work together, could be a pretty formidable backcourt," she said.
"Don't worry about Kevin, he'll get back in his groove," said light rail operator Ishmael Haqq, 40. "He's a shooter, it's what he does. We love him. Don't go anywhere, K-Mart!"
Throughout the season, there has been much talk and a big push for a new arena for the Kings. The perception of Arco Arena, where the team plays now, seems to be that it's outdated. It was built in 1988, has the second-smallest seating capacity in the NBA and is one of the oldest arenas in use.
To address the issue, Mayor Kevin Johnson has assembled an arena task force; seven proposals for a new arena have been pitched. Johnson said he wants a task-force recommendation by March, which coincides with the NBA application deadline for relocating a team. The last team to relocate was the Seattle SuperSonics, which became the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2008-2009 season.
Most of the fans appear to be in favor of a downtown arena.
"Hell yeah, I would go a downtown arena," said Haqq. "Arco Arena is OK, but it's served its purpose. We need to move on now."
"They deserve a new arena," said Rhonda Sudderberg, a Sacramento resident of 20 years.
"I like Arco Arena, but I think that putting a new arena downtown is important," Yu said. "This building is outdated."
Longtime Kings fan Debra Nyland-Jarvis has worked in economic development for more than 30 years. She said that the proposal involving a three-way land swap, which is backed by the NBA, is best. The three-way land swap is a proposal that would have the state sell Cal Expo to private developers, move the state fairgrounds to Natomas, and build a new arena in the railyards in downtown Sacramento.
"The deal with the three-way land swap makes awesome economic sense," she said. "Sacramento has been trying to revitalize downtown for decades." Nyland-Jarvis referred to the Pepsi Center in Denver, saying that it perked up that city's downtown.
Not all fans were enthusiastic about a new arena, including Nyland-Jarvis' husband, Lowell Jarvis.
"I think this one is fine," he said.
Retail worker Kyle Bradley, 23, agreed.
"I like the arena where it's at right now. I don't know if moving it downtown would be any better or any worse," he said. "I don't really see what the point would be."
Despite how fans feel about a new arena and last year's season, the worst in franchise history, optimism reigns. Haqq best summed up Sacramento's relationship with the Kings.
"We love them."