FanPost

The Sacramento Campaign Part One: A Cake of Good Feeling Frosted With Dread

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Note 1: This post is criminally late, and I won't even make excuses. This game happened two and a half months ago, and I'd hoped to write this within the week following. I'm sorry for my tardiness.

Note 2: This is my 100th post (43 FanPosts, 57 FanShots (remember those?)) on Canis Hoopus, and I held off posting anything in the interim because I wanted to dedicate the milestone to this weekend in Sacramento. It was epic.

Note 3: It was my birthday on Wednesday, and somehow that motivated me to get it together and make some final decisions on this beast of a post.

Note 4: This post narrates through the end of the game. The events that happened later that night and the next day, as well as some final thoughts, will arrive in my 101st post on CH.

Note 5: Because I know some might not care about anything other than the game, I've placed headers at the beginning of each of the four segments, which are THE BEGINNING, INSIDE THE ARENA, THE GAME, and AFTER THE GAME. This is to help you skip ahead if you'd like.

For context:

Dr_Teh's report card from the next day

The Four-Letter recap

bsg007's experience from March of 2012:

Part 1

Part 2

THE BEGINNING

Dateline: March 1, 2014, Zero-Dark-Thirty

Location: Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport, Humphrey Terminal

I already hadn't slept in about twenty-four hours, my usual insomnia and anxiety heightened by thoughts of flying. Not the actual flying part, but meeting departure times, and hoping that arrivals would happen as planned, and that security lines and distant terminals and other unidentified obstacles didn't have me missing flights.

I was fueled by two pots of black coffee, exhausted but wired. My body felt like electricity ran through it, like a nine-volt battery sat just under my brain. My vision seemed just a touch distorted. Shimmering a bit.

1176375_10203804745539644_4278663946051890672_n_medium

(Wait--does that say H8?, via fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net)

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(Yes. Yes, it does. I swear I supported the No H8 campaign!, via scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net)

The first flight went fine. Our arrival was timely, and I got to my departure terminal with time to spare. Exhale again. But my phone battery is almost dead. AAAAAGH! Turn it off! I'll have calls to make when I get to Sacramento! Tighten up again.

The second flight went fine, too. We took off about twenty minutes late, but the pilots made up the time in the air.

My next worry was making sure I found Boss10. Airports tend to be pretty simple in their exit possibilities, so it wasn't a big worry. I'm a worrier, though, so I worried. I needn't have. As I rode the escalator down, I scanned the floor below. I caught sight of Boss with a big grin on his face, as you can imagine. Actually, you don't have to imagine: it looked like this:

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via scontent-a.xx.fbcdn.net

It's a super-short drive from the airport to Boss's place, and we drove past Sleep Train Arena on the way. The sky was overcast and it drizzled the whole weekend. I didn't care. When I left Minneapolis that morning the temperature was -17. It stayed in the mid- to upper-fifties in Sacramento the whole time I was there. The trip would have been worth it just for that.

Seriously. I went from this:

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via scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net

To this:

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via scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net

Three things about Boss's apartment:

  1. He has a comfortable couch.
  2. He stocks his refrigerator with excellent beer.
  3. His closet contains a ridiculous amount of Wolves gear. Jerseys, warmups, ballcaps--it takes up about a third of a large closet. He had to think hard to decide what to wear to the game that night.

After we dropped off my stuff at the apartment, we went to get lunch at a place called the Virgin Sturgeon. It's a cool restaurant on the river. Not "on the river" like most places--this place is actually floating. We had to walk a gangplank to get inside. Not too many vegetarian options, but the huevos rancheros were great. At first I didn't think I'd be able to order off of the breakfast menu, because I was having serious trouble keeping track of time. Not only had I not slept in about 30 hours, it was about 1:30 pm Twin Cities time. Boss had a salad, as we planned to meet people at a restaurant for dinner before the game. I'll note, too, that this the last time I was able to snatch the check all weekend (and I almost broke the waitress's finger doing it).

We went back to the apartment for a while to wait for the meeting time. The plan was this: Boss's brother was going to drive us to the meeting-place, and then join us with a few other guys a bit later. Boss opened a couple Plinys and we were just hanging out and talking shit about CHers (kidding) when Boss's brother said he needed to take us to the place now--he had things to do. Conundrum! We'd just started our Plinys, and this is a beer to be sipped and savored. But we had to leave.

We slammed those Plinys. Hooooo.

So we rode to the restaurant--a pretty typical restaurant/bar, but not like the chains I know--and sat at the bar. We ordered some more beers and, eventually, food. Boss wound up having a weird conversation with a crazy lady and her husband that was both entertaining and disturbing. A little later he had a conversation with a couple of young ladies. In case it hadn't been clear from his years of commenting on Canis, Boss is a cool, open, and personable guy.

Shortly after the other guys showed up, we finished our drinks and headed for Sleep Train Arena. It was another short drive, and--get this--parking is free and plentiful! That's a nice touch. While we waited for YoLeo and another of Boss's friends, I scanned the crowd. Our Wolves gear earned us some funny looks, but nobody gave us a hard time. That was kind of disappointing. The crowd moved much more casually than I usually see outside of Target Center, but maybe that was because the temperature was above zero. After a little while of no sign of the two latecomers, we left their tickets at will-call and went inside.

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via scontent-a-ord.xx.fbcdn.net

Sorry for all of the profile perspective photos. Me not good with camera.

INSIDE THE ARENA

Getting to our seats was easier in Sleep Train than it generally is at Target Center--no procession of aimless, shuffling people or endless series of escalators. We quickly got to where we belonged (first row on the right end of the press tables and close to the left end of the Wolves' bench--seriously amazing seats), and saw Jim Peterson and Dave Benz doing the pregame broadcast at the near side of center court. The rest of the group arrived, and YoLeo passed out the Fatheads. It was awesome.

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(Another picture of the Fatheads, in case you already forgot what they looked like, via scontent-b.xx.fbcdn.net)

Early on, Marney Gellner walked past us, and we all cheerfully greeted her. She looked really wary of us and moved on after a minute or two of . . . I guess I'll call it "conversation." I don't blame her, really. We were already pretty charged up.

It didn't take long for us to have our first encounter with security. The space between our seats and the courtside barrier was about six feet, and we'd been ranging freely forward and back. Soon the previously genial security guy was there pointing at our seats and almost yelling, "Your seats are back there, and you need to stay back there!" One over-eager security episode down, and three to go.

When the pregame was breaking down at center court, JPete walked past, and Boss shouted out to him. JPete knows him by name. Boss introduced me by my CH handle, and JPete recognized that, too (confirmation to me that he's a reader here). We chatted with JPete for a bit and he posed for some photos with us.

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via fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net

1743514_10203272412191643_1859339078_n_medium

via scontent-a.xx.fbcdn.net

And shortly after that, a FoxSportsNorth camera dude wanted a shot of us posing with the Fatheads:

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(Us posing for the FSN camera, via fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net)

It didn't take long for us to have our second encounter with security. We were in between run-ins with local broadcast celebrities when a second security guard approached. Those guys wear sharp suits in Sacramento--not police uniforms like in Target Center. Anyway, this guy opened up with a friendly greeting, "Love the pictures, guys, but you can't have the sticks." He meant the paint sticks that YoLeo had (wisely) attached to the Fatheads so we could display them more easily. I guess he figured if the Wolves started doing poorly we'd lash out and break the sticks and start stabbing random Kings fans. Or, if the Kings started doing poorly we'd have a way to defend ourselves from the throng. Eh. We removed the sticks and handed our weapons over. Two over-eager security episodes down--two to go.

While the Wolves were on the court warming up, Ricky was stretching at the scorers' table. YoLeo asked if Ricky would sign our Fatheads. Ricky said, "After the game." He looked like he meant it.

He never came back after the game. Why, Ricky? WHYYYYY?

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via scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net

Aw, I can't be mad at'cha.

THE GAME

To say I was stoked for this game would be a serious understatement. It was announced that Nikola Pekovic would be in the starting lineup for the first time after missing thirteen games with an Achilles injury. Boss had just gifted me a badass Pek jersey, and I was courtside with a couple of my favorite CHers and we all had Fatheads to taunt the Kings fans with. Pek was allegedly on a minutes restriction (20 minutes), but he was starting. I was ecstatic.

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via fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net

The first quarter worried me. Pek had two points on one shot and a turnover in just under seven minutes. No rebounds. Eep. On the other hand, DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson had two fouls apiece in their first-quarter stints.

Kevin Love was solid in the first, and Ricky and Brew weren't great. The surprise was Kevin Martin. At some point in the second quarter, Boss turned to me and said, "K-Mart's missing everything! He's missed about five open threes!" That was my impression, too. So much for the eye test. Martin did miss all three 3-point attempts in the first half, but he was 7 for 11 in the half for 19 points--14 of those in the first quarter.

10299071_10203804809021231_6476634215436466636_n_medium

(Stealth ballin'., via fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net)

The real worry in the first quarter (and eventually the second) was Rudy Gay. It felt like he couldn't miss. Brewer missed some assignments, but Gay hit contested shots, too. He finished the first quarter 5 for 6 for 12 points in just under ten minutes.

923506_10203272428592053_668662278_n_medium

via scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net

Come on, Corey! Get it together!

Ultimately, the good guys finished the quarter down one, 31-30.

The second quarter had even more back-and-forth, with the teams trading the lead four times, and neither leading by more than five points. Rudy Gay once again led the Kings with 10 points in the quarter, but Pek countered with eight of his own on 4-of-6 shooting and adding three rebounds, two of which were offensive boards. At this point, Pek had played fifteen minutes, and with the score so tight, it seemed like a benching (however justifiable) could seriously hamper the Wolves' ability to win the game. At halftime, Love had 9 points on 1-for-6 shooting (and hitting 6 of 8 FTA) and had collected six rebounds.

The quarter ended with the Kings up three, 56-53.

We were pretty nervous going into halftime, and had some notable interactions (including meeting dropstep) that I'll describe after the game recap.

The Wolves opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run, and soon after that had an 11-0 run. This is where the Wolves took control, with the starters all opening the half and all of them contributing. They were down 56-53 at the start of the quarter, tied the score less than a minute in, and about seven minutes later led 77-62. By the end of his shift, Pek had played about 22 minutes. Boss caught Marney's eye and yelled, "What about Pek's minutes restriction?" Marney shrugged. Then he asked, "Will he play any more?" Marney paused a second and gave a slow, frowning nod. I was encouraged.

We finally had our third security episode. Since the start of the game, we'd had a burly security guy with an earpiece sitting right in front of us, facing the scorer's table. He didn't move much during the game, except during time outs when he'd go stand on the court. During the third quarter, Boss yelled something that involved the word "shit." Security Guy looked up and said, "Hey! Watch your language!" Oh, okay, Miss Manners. Three security guard encounters down and one to go.

To say that we were excited at this point is, again, a huge understatement. I couldn't believe my voice was still working.

End of three: Wolves lead 84-70, a lead they would never relinquish (not that we didn't still worry).

One reason why we worried in the fourth quarter was because Adelman started the bench. Not a single starter. The results were predictable. Roomba scored zero of his zero points, ShaMu contributed two missed free throws, and Dante missed a shot and committed two fouls. Bud and JJ combined for 4-9 shooting for eight points. Things were getting tense.

The Kings cut the Wolves' lead in half before Adelman made substitutions at 8:33. Love, Brewer, and Martin came in for Bud, ShaMu, and Roomba. Still no Pek . . . was his minutes restriction going to keep him out? Still no Ricky. Well, that was kind of understandable, since to that point of the game he had only hit one shot and Adelman was deep into his habit of inexplicably playing JJ over Ricky. We howled about it anyway.

Pek finally entered the game with 6:35 left. PEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!! I hadn't lost my voice yet, but I had lost my mind. The Kings were within ten, and it would stay that way for a while.

Ricky finally came in with 5:13. RIIIIIIICKYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!! We were still up ten, and I had a cake of good feeling frosted with dread.

There was a great sequence at 3:32 that almost gave me a heart attack. Pek went up for a dunk and Cousins blocked it. Clean block . . . but Love got the loose ball, and when the Kings bigs went to guard him Love shuffled the ball to an unguarded Pek who put it down hard. PEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Kings were still making a game of it, and the score was 97-95 Wolves with a minute and a half to go. Love missed a jumper! AAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!!!!!!! Pek gets the offensive board! ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod . . . And Cousins fouls him! Pek calmly sinks both free throws while I'm about to vomit my lungs out.

And then the most amazing thing happened. The Kings came down the court, Cousins got decent position and started to go up for a hook shot. Ricky pokes the ball away and Pek snatches it out of the air. Ricky brings the ball up, steps inside the line, passes it to Martin. Ricky steps back, Martin passes (!) back to Ricky and the Unicorn doesn't even hesitate to rise up for the three . . . and it goes in!

At this point, all of the air went out of the building . . . except in the CH section. We flipped out. I may even have screamed to Ricky a little. We were hugging and yelling and waving the Fatheads. I'm surprised nobody threw anything at us.

1907566_10203272461072865_834196773_n_medium

(I can't remember who captured this, but I'll edit to reflect credit. via fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net)

That was the game, really. The Kings had nothing left, and their fans didn't know how to respond. Sacramento got two Isaiah Thomas free throws, but the Wolves extended the lead up to the buzzer, with FTs by Kevins Martin and Love.

923506_10203272432832159_1414387790_n_medium

(This was actually in the first half. Whatever. via fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net)

Final score: Wolves 108, Kings 97. And Pek played 28 awesome minutes. So much for trying to restrict him.

AFTER THE GAME

During halftime we had a chance to talk to Marney again, and this time she realized we weren't dangerously crazy. Just harmlessly crazy. So after the game, this happened.

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via scontent-a-ord.xx.fbcdn.net

In that picture, Boss is having an intense conversation with JPete about actual basketball stuff. Boss is a much more serious fan of the technical parts of the game than I am. Probably everybody on CH is, though. Benz stopped by long enough to make a crack about JPete's wife while Boss was asking about the balance of criticizing the organization while also being an employee of the company. JPete said that nobody in the organization tells him what to say. Benz said, "Except his wife."

Hilarious.

We also met YoLeo's girlfriend, who was watching the game from a different vantage point.

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via fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net

She's the one on the left in the Pek T-shirt. She's cool.

Our fourth brush with security happened well after the game. We'd been lingering near our seats for a while, hoping some of the players would come out and sign things (Ricky! You promised!). Eventually security pushed us away because there was going to be a publicity event with a bunch of kids (stupid kids). We took our time going up the stairs anyway.

The concourse was nearly empty as we walked back to our exit. Suddenly, Boss glanced through a doorway toward the court and said something like, "Hey, that's Pek!" and then he darted through the doorway. I followed slowly (I'm kind of a timid person), and saw Pek, in civilian clothes, walking away from a group of people on the court and toward the tunnel right under where we were.

Boss yelled, "Pek! Will you sign my jersey?" Pek made a gesture that indicated he'd be willing, and he started angling toward Boss.

Then a security guy (oh, how I hate them) yelled, "You can't be here! You need to leave!" Glances were exchanged in several directions.

"You need to leave!"

Pek looked at Boss, shrugged, and walked into the tunnel.

Flynning over-eager security guards.

The Promised Halftime Encounters

At halftime we walked up to the concourse, leaving our Fatheads on our seats in the hope that no Kings fans would take the opportunity to molest them. Boss had arranged to meet dropstep at a place, so we went to that place and met dropstep. It turns out he's a good guy with a dry sense of humor. It's no wonder he's a CHer. We had a beer vendor guy take our picture:

10338250_10203804813421341_6750352401416877022_n_medium

(Boss, me, YoLeo, and dropstep, via scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net)

So we were hanging around talking (long enough that we all missed the first couple minutes of the third quarter) when a guy approaches us and said, "Are you the guys with the Fatheads?"

Finally, we were going to take some heat! Awesome!

When we confirmed we were, indeed, the Fatheads, he said, "That's awesome! We were just in Denver last week doing the same thing!" He went on a bit about how he liked seeing enthusiastic fans, and we all wished each other well, and he and his friends moved on.

We went back to chatting amongst ourselves, and a few minutes later a short, chubby guy in a Cousins jersey walked up and said, "Hey, are you the guy with the Pek Fathead?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Fuck you." And he walked away. I laughed pretty hard. Finally I'd taken some flak.

And on that note, I'll end this part of the story. The next part won't include much in the way of the game, or even of the Wolves. But here's a tease:

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via fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net

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