Sunday Musings: With fate of Sacramento Kings in NBA’s hands, it’s time to reflect

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The waiting is unbearable.  Truly it is.

Days have turned into weeks.  Weeks have turned into months and for those of us who cover the Sacramento Kings or work for the team or even just live in Sacramento, it has become grueling.

On Wednesday, I packed my gear and prepared to head to the season finale.  I loaded my boys in the car to drop them off with grandma and we drove away from our house.  I was quiet, because I’ve been through this night before two years ago and I was mapping the evening out in my head.

My nine-year-old was sitting in the car next to me and quietly asked if he could go to the last game with me.  He knew the answer, but it never hurts to ask.

When I told him no, I was working the game, my son turned towards the window and started crying.  He knew this might be the last game ever in Sacramento and the reality of the evening sunk in to a new level.

As a member of the media, we aren’t allowed to be fans.  To be honest, the job has made this whole story easier in some respects.  It pulls you away from the emotion.  You are always chasing the story, digging for information and doing your best to report the next bit of this wild narrative that trickles out in the new 24-hour news cycle.

But my son is a Kings fan.  He can’t help but be one. He sees the back of his dad’s head in the bottom left corner of his TV screen during every home game.  He knows the players’ names and always asks me who won the game when he wakes up in the morning.

He likes to go Sleep Train and he likes waving at me from his seats while he stuffs his face with nachos and candy.  He has foam fingers and headbands and likes to chant “D-Fence”.

I wish I still had some of his innocence.

So after I dropped off my sons, I took a moment to reflect on my journey that I have had the privilege of living for the past three years as a beat blogger covering the Sacramento Kings.

Most people don’t know my story and for sake of time, I will give you the condensed version of my first season on the job.  You will have to wait for the book on the rest.

In August of 2010, I received an anonymous email asking me if I would like to take on a blog for a newly started network called Hardcourt Mayhem.  At first I said no, but at the prodding of long-time friend and director of Small Market, Big Heart, Tobin Halsey, I decided to take a leap.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the person who wrote me that initial email was an incredibly imaginative and resourceful 13-year-old by the name of Josh Dhani who lives in Indiana.

Sometimes in life you take a gamble and it pays off.  I said yes to an anonymous email from a 13-year-old Pacers fan and it changed my life.  He very well could have been a Nigerian Prince willing to give me $6.5 million, but he wasn’t and he helped open a door.

My initial blog was called The Purple Panjandrum, which even now I have a hard time explaining or even pronouncing to some people.

I am not a goal-setter, but with this adventure I made an exception.  I wanted to run a different type of blog.  I wanted to create a news source for Kings bloggers to pull from and I wanted to make it to media day.  If I could make it to media day, then I would up the ante and try to make it to training camp and maybe even a preseason game if everything went well.

I think I missed five practices that first season in total. But as a credentialed member of the media, I caught every minute of every game of the 2010-11 season.

A big thank you is still in order to Darrin May, Devin Blankenship and Chris Clark of the Kings media relations department for taking a chance on a green reporter/blogger who had never taken a single journalism course in his life.

It took all of three or four weeks for Zach Harper to come calling.  Zach was moving to Minnesota at the end of the season “to see about a girl” and I was his choice to take the reigns at Cowbell Kingdom.  How can you turn down an opportunity to join the TrueHoop Network?

That first season was magical.  The Kings were horrible, but Tyreke Evans was coming off his Rookie of the Year season and DeMarcus Cousins was an out-of-shape 19-year-old phenom with a chip on his shoulder.  Samuel Dalembert made me laugh and Darnell Jackson made me cry.

The highlight of that first season was watching Evans hoist that halfcourt shot at the buzzer to beat the Memphis Grizzlies.  I still remember leaning to the right with Zach as the ball flew through the air and found the net.

By December of that first season I had made a few friends and even ruffled a few feathers.  I had also developed a relationship with head coach Paul Westphal, which I still have to this day.

I remember sitting courtside doing a pre-game interview with Westphal one evening when Marv Albert and Jim Gray walked up and started a conversation with us.  It sounds like a good start to a joke – Paul Westphal, Marv Albert, Jim Gray  and me were sitting courtside.

Surreal.

It was a season of disappointments on the floor, but for me, it was a perfect training ground.  Can you imagine going from being a guy on a message board talking hoops to someone who has missed two games in three seasons?

Then in January 2011, news broke that the Maloofs negotiating to move the Kings to Anaheim.  I quickly learned not only how exhausting covering a team can be, but also how delicate one’s place in the NBA world was.

As the season wore on and the relocation saga heated up, there was no more time to worry about the stepping on toes.  We were in the middle of a four-alarm news story and the training wheels were gone.

It was in that season that basketball really lost value.  The Maloofs ran the lowest payroll in the league.  They actually traded for Marquis Daniels at the deadline to get above the salary floor.

The Kings finished the 2010-11 season 24-58 and came away with the seventh pick in the 2011 NBA draft.  Of the 16 players that dressed that season, seven didn’t play a single game in the league this year.

Basketball became secondary to the relocation storyline, but the Kings stayed.  And I got to keep doing this incredible job.

For three seasons, I have lived an NBA life.

I have interviewed every star imaginable.  I have had a run-in with the great Bill Walton, sat through a live David Stern interview and even made a documentary film.  I have survived a lockout and a relocation attempt; seen players traded and watched a coach get fired.

But most of all, I have made friends and had an experience of a lifetime.

It has been an incredible run, one that I hope to continue.  As we count down the days to the decision, I want to thank all of the people that make my experience unique every time I walk into the arena.

There is a family hiding in the walls of Sleep Train Arena.  A family that has makes each and every moment memorable for me and thousands of others.  A family that doesn’t deserve the pain and torment that they have endured for the last three seasons.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".