Placer to Kings: Goodbye or good riddance?

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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While the name still says Sacramento Kings, many of the team’s players have made their home in the gated, upscale communities dotting the foothills of Placer County. And for the neighbors of a Chris Webber or a Jason Williams, that proximity has provided an across-the-fence glimpse into the world of pro basketball stars – some of it good and some of it not so good. Kings players Duane Causwell, Ron Artest, Bobby Jackson, Kevin Martin, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Peja Stojakovic, as well as coaches Eddie Jordan and Rick Adleman, have also owned homes in Southern Placer County. Geoff Petrie, Kings president, and Jackson currently live in Granite Bay, which has been a favorite with players over the past two decades. But the time clock is now ticking down on the Kings’ stay in Cowtown, with the team playing what could be its final game in Sacramento Wednesday. Mike Gilbert, a resident in the private Los Lagos community off Auburn Folsom Road, said Causwell, a King from 1990 to 1997, Webber and Williams all lived within the subdivision’s gates during their playing days. “This is probably one of the few times when there are no Kings living here,” Gilbert said Wednesday. “It’s been quite beneficial for Los Lagos over the years property-value wise, with lots of publicity.” Players generally kept to themselves but Gilbert said he always appreciated Webber’s warmth. “He was very open, very nice as a neighbor,” Gilbert said. “He was very nice to talk to at the grocery store. It seems he didn’t let the ups and down carry over into his public relations.” Kathy Gire said Webber actually owned two homes in Los Lagos and appeared to enjoy the community. He could be spotted walking his dogs and once created a stir when his Hummer slammed into a mailbox pillar early one morning, she said. Gire said Williams’ time at Los Lagos wasn’t as pleasant, with his home turned into an ongoing party location. A penchant for speeding created safety concerns for many residents, she added. “He wasn’t a good neighbor – he was pretty much a loose cannon,” Gire said. “And that’s about all I can say.” Gire said she doesn’t feel Los Lagos residents – given past experiences with Kings players – would be as welcoming in the future. “We do have rules here and sometimes we’ve seen an odd sense of entitlement,” Gire said. “And that wouldn’t just be a Kings player. It would be any athlete who has a sense of feeling special.” Gire said it won’t break her heart if the Kings pull up stakes and move to Anaheim. She followed the team because of her Cincinnati roots. One of the Kings’ earlier incarnations before coming to Sacramento were as the Cincinnati Royals. In recent years, even that connection has been strained by under-achieving teams. “People have taken to say ‘Are the Kings losing tonight?’” she said. “Meaning ‘Are they playing?’” The Kings haven’t made it easy for Placer County residents to love their sports-star neighbors – never reaching an NBA finals while Artest ran afoul of Placer County law enforcement for animal cruelty at his Loomis home and Martin recently gave up his Rocklin house to foreclosure. Alan Hoskin, a Granite Bay limousine driver who lives in Loomis, said he has no problem with the Kings leaving. “Good riddance,” Hoskin said. “I’ve met the Maloofs and driven them before. But I’m not fond of them. I have no problem with them leaving.” Hoskin said he’s driven Kings fans to games but he doesn’t think the loss of the team will have a big impact on his business. From a personal point of view, Hoskin said Kings ticket prices were too high for the average family. “Whenever I’ve been able to afford to go to a Kings game, I’ve had to choose which child to take,” he said. Gilbert said that the impending departure of the Kings from Sacramento would be extremely detrimental to the regional economy. “But I also understand because it comes down to a business decision,” he said. And when the team leaves, or a player is traded or signs with another city, they generally leave and don’t return, Gilbert said. “Where they are is where the club is,” he said. “To retain a house where they last were doesn’t make sense. Their allegiance is to the last place they played.” Hawks restaurant on Douglas Boulevard in Granite Bay has experienced the buzz of a King arriving on several occasions, said owner Molly Hawks. “The other guests recognize them and always get excited,” Hawks said. “From the fanfare aspect it’s sad to see them go. And when they’ve been guests here, they’ve always been delightful.”