Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Johnson’

The Sacramento Deadline That Isn’t


HANG TIME WEST – In the latest twist that wasn’t, the Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday that the Maloof family, owners of the Kings, has given Sacramento leaders until 5 p.m. Friday to submit a written backup offer to buy the team in the event the NBA turns down Seattle. What the Bee does not report is what happens if mayor Kevin Johnson and potential owners Mark Mastrov, Vivek Ranadive et al miss the deadline.


Love the chess move by the Maloofs, presumably in coordination, or at least in consultation, with the Seattle group. Put another item on Sacramento’s plate to deal with while playing catch up, sometimes awkwardly, in the final days before a possible vote by the Board of Governors. It is also the latest clear sign the Maloofs are digging in and willing to show their teeth. But there’s no there there.

The people of Sacramento have a lot to worry about in keeping the Kings, but this so-called deadline is not one of them. Johnson probably knows it, too.

All the scenario does is underline what was reported here before: The city and the current owners may again have to deal with each other. Anyone who thinks the league can force an immediate sale to a Sacramento group if the Seattle deal is voted down, the popular perception in some circles, is living a lie.

If the Board of Governors denies Seattle – if – the Kings stay in Sacramento, no matter who is owner. The vote on Seattle relocation is essentially a vote on whether the league believes in a future in the California capital. The Maloofs can keep the team, the Maloofs can sell to someone who isn’t plotting a midnight run out of town, but Johnson gets the result he wanted. It might not be with the owners he wants, but Sacramento still has the NBA under that scenario, and that is the bottom-line monster victory.

The deadline itself, though, is a negotiating tactic. If it is missed, it will not signify a permanent end to negotiations. It might not even signify an end for the month if the governors turn down Seattle. (If Seattle is approved, of course, everything else becomes moot.)

It is no shock that the Maloofs are re-asserting control of the ownership situation in the event the team stays. My previous reports stand: If Seattle is voted down, they remain the owners. The league cannot dictate a sale to the group currently in place and waiting for a chance. The Maloofs could easily wait a month or so to see what other billionaire wants to offer up, and then decide on a sale. They could go into next season, as uncomfortable as that would be with 3,000 people in the stands. The latter is unlikely, but far from impossible.

The unavoidable truth is that the Maloofs and Sacramento will still need each if Seattle is denied. If the Maloofs want to get the prorated equivalent of the biggest sale in NBA history for their shares, deadlines have to be dropped or negotations have to be started with new parties. If Sacramento wants someone else to own the team, they have to go through the Maloofs. As always.

It is no coincidence that Johnson has become much more complimentary toward the Maloofs over time. KJ told me he is simply trying to give the family due credit for the many positives they brought to the city, a reminder that was long overdue but unpopular to note in town, but it looks an awful lot like a schmooze job. The Maloofs are emotional, which has been one of their best attributes and also a problem area, and making nice could go a long way.

Johnson had a telling response when asked about the story about the deadline, about why the Maloofs would give such an ultimatum. He could have belittled the strategy or laughed at how little it means, and he might have in the past. This time, the mayor wisely took a pass.

“You would have to ask them,” he said.

It is worth noting some family members have also said nice things about how Johnson has led the comeback. The sides will be able to at least talk if it comes to that, whether about moving forward together or finalizing a sale to new owners. Just as importantly, they will be able to talk even if no offer is submitted by Friday at 5 p.m.

KJ: Maloofs ‘Probably Prefer’ Kings In Sacramento

HANG TIME WEST – The Maloof family, disliked beyond measure in Sacramento for the way they have run the Kings on and off the court and ultimately for putting the city on the brink of losing the team to Seattle, have received support from the most unlikely of sources: mayor Kevin Johnson.

Johnson has recently gone out of his way to be complementary toward the Maloofs, notably at his State of the City address and most recently at Tuesday’s city council meeting that included approving the non-binding agreement with private investors to build a downtown arena. It was impossible to miss because Johnson could have easily avoided mentioning the Kings’ owners both times without coming off as unusual. It was especially impossible to miss because the Maloofs’ disgust for Johnson is a major reason, and perhaps the No. 1 reason, they never told Sacramento officials the team was for sale.

But, Johnson told, he has remained in contact with the family, there are no hard feelings, and Kumbaya. Group hugs all around.

Oh, and the Maloofs want the Kings to stay in Sacramento.

(You just can’t make this stuff up.)

The recent obvious change of tone toward the Maloofs – including announcing Ron Burkle, likewise not on the family’s Christmas card list, as heading the arena project rather than part of the proposed ownership group – smacks of Johnson trying to mend fences, just in case. The Board of Governors will vote on the sale and relocation to Seattle as part of the April 18-19 meeting in New York, Sacramento has put together a strong counter-offer and wants to be in position if the BOG turns down Seattle in favor of the California capital.

If Sacramento beats Seattle, all the Sacramento group has done is stopped the move. It still has to buy the team and the Maloofs can turn the screws and inflate the price tag. The Maloofs can even keep the team. There is essentially no chance that happens, but consider the number of developments that have already occurred no one saw coming. At the very least, the Maloofs could drag negotiations into summer and still get out Monopoly-money rich before having to hide out another season.

Sacramento may still need to make nice with the family. There is the recent evidence that Johnson has, after the mayor and his top aides wrongly let earlier arena negotiations get personal when they should have understood the Maloofs are very emotional. But the mayor said that is not the case.

“No,” Johnson told “We’re just talking about the facts, and the facts are this: They have been a huge part of this community, they gave a significant amount of philanthropy back to this community, they kept the team here for 10-plus years, which is great. It didn’t end the ideal way. I’ve talked to and communicated with them since then. There are no hard feelings. We wish them the best. They wish us the best as a community.

“We think at the end of the day, if the price that they were going to get is similar to Sacramento, they would probably prefer to have the team in Sacramento. They certainly can’t say that. But I know they have an affinity for Sacramento and I believe very strongly that this is the way the story is supposed to end at the end of the day. They’ve been good to our community. We’re just thankful for that.”

No hard feelings? Seriously?

“They didn’t have to put in their deal that they can accept the backup offer,” Johnson said. “If there was no backup offer, we wouldn’t be able to do anything. There’s a backup offer because ultimately the NBA approves or disapproves a deal. By them being able to accept a backup offer, it keeps a community like Sacramento in play. If not, I have no idea what we’d be able to do. A silver lining in everything.”

Johnson is right to note the Maloofs’ positive impact around the region, a fact now quickly overlooked. No matter how much heat the family has taken, and will forever take, they poured big bucks into the market as well.

But to suggest the Maloofs want the Kings to end up in Sacramento, not Seattle, is the purest sign of all that KJ is schmoozing. If the Maloofs really wanted that, they could have made it happen. At the very least, they could have alerted Sacramento that the team was for sale, allowing a clean start rather than forcing the city to play catch-up to an excellent bid. The Maloofs did not do that because they wanted to jab a finger in the chests of Johnson and top aides who crossed the line by dealing with the family like dealing with North Korea. The mayor is trying to do something about that mistake now.

Sacramento Approves Arena Deal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The comeback bid to keep the Kings cleared another benchmark Tuesday as the city council approved a deal with private investors to build a downtown arena as a centerpiece of hopes to convince NBA owners to vote down the sale and relocation of the only major-league franchise in town.

The outcome, by a 7-2 margin at a City Hall meeting with several hundred people in attendance in the council chamber and an overflow area, had been expected. Once the predictable became official, Sacramento had the final major piece to present to the league at an April 3 meeting in New York: a deep-pocket ownership group and agreement on a $448-million dollar arena.

A group from Seattle has a purchase agreement with the current Kings owners, the Maloof family, with the intention of moving the team to Washington state next season, probably as the second coming of the SuperSonics. Sacramento, trying to close the deficit on the proactive and organized Seattle effort ever since being caught flat-footed with news the Maloofs were close to selling, has put together a package that local leaders believe shows the city will continue to support the NBA at a high level. The choice between two attractive bids will be made when the Board of Governors gathers April 18-19 in New York.

“We’ve done our part,” an energized Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said afterward. “What we did today by making a 7-2 vote, our audience was the Sacramento community, A, because we protected the tax payer and stayed true to our core tenant. Our other audience were NBA owners. They ultimately are the ones who make the decision. We didn’t want a 5-4 vote. We didn’t want a 6-3 vote. We wanted a minimum 7-2 vote because that would send a very strong message that this community is going to do whatever it takes, elected and otherwise, to build a brand new arena downtown. That’s our competitive advantage. That’s certainty. It is in their hands right now …

“The NBA has never, ever in the history of the NBA – it would be unprecedented to rip a team out from a city who’ve done everything that was expected of them. We’ve done everything possible. They need to know that you cannot take our team away from us. We did our part and we did it in a responsible way, and I’m really proud of our community.”

This is the second time in as many seasons the Sacramento city council has approved a non-binding arena deal. The nine-member body voted in favor in 2012, shortly after league executives brokered a compromise between Johnson and the Maloofs at All-Star weekend in Orlando, only to have the owners back out in a shocking development. The proposed arena in the 2013 plan is in a different location than before, though very close to the 2012 agreement.

Johnson said he e-mailed commissioner David Stern from the dais immediately after the 7-2 vote.

Deal Reached On Sacramento Arena


The city of Sacramento moved a step closer to a showdown with Seattle by reaching agreement Saturday with private investors to build a downtown arena, mayor Kevin Johnson announced, an important part of the bid to keep the Kings.

The deal with Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, the original lead investors of the comeback bid, and now joined by Vivek Ranadive, a Warriors minority owner, had long been expected. Putting a group together that will attempt to buy the team if NBA owners deny the Seattle bid had been expected. And, today’s deal is expected to be approved by the Sacramento city council on Tuesday. These have all been predictable layers to a process of key unpredictable moments.

The news of Saturday and the near-certain upcoming news on Tuesday set the stage for the real developments next month. On April 3, officials from both cities and each group trying to buy the Kings from the Maloof family will be in New York for presentations to owners in advance of the Board of Governors meeting. It is at the Board of Governors gathering April 18-19, after the final certain game in Sacramento on April 17, that a vote will be taken on the agreement the Maloofs reached with the Seattle interest led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.

If the board – one representative from each team, usually an owner – approves the sale to Hansen-Ballmer, the Kings will be in Seattle next season, likely as the SuperSonics, and the efforts in Sacramento will be moot. But if the work of Johnson and the Ranadive-Mastrov-Burkle bid convinces the board to turn down Seattle, Sacramento would have a plan in place to buy the team and build an arena.

The deal announced Saturday  is for a $448-million downtown arena close to where the city planned to build when it reached an agreement with the Maloofs about a year ago, only to have the family back out of the non-binding agreement after approval by the city council. The vote Tuesday is also non-binding, but with no indication the package would fall apart down the line after the new investors have been involved in negotiations.

Stern’s Take Double Good News For Seattle Backers


HANG TIME WEST – That was some reality check commissioner David Stern delivered to Sacramento on Friday night when he said the counter-strike to keep the Kings is so far behind the Seattle package that it won’t even receive serious consideration unless the deal in the California capital gets better.

That would have been encouraging enough for the attractive bid out of Washington state. The real uplifting news for the group trying to revive the SuperSonics, the real take-away from Stern’s blunt analysis before Rockets-Warriors in Oakland, is the new awareness of how much the league is holding Sacramento’s hand during a very challenging process.

In short: Not as much as it seemed before.

Stern has always wanted the Kings to stay. They would have been gone years ago if not for Stern guiding the Maloof family, the owners who almost always followed the commissioner’s lead on any league matter. He previously believed in Kevin Johnson as a first-term mayor and newbie politician at any level. More recently, either Stern or top aides have been in regular contact with Sacramento after leaders there were caught flat-footed by the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer that was more proactive and more organized.

But for the Sacramento proposal to be so lacking that Stern said the offer is “not comparable” to the one from Seattle is very interesting insight. Either the league is not holding Sacramento’s hand to the point of telling Johnson specifically what the bid needs to look like, as it once seemed, or Mayor KJ, Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle as lead private investors didn’t listen. Either way, Stern has drawn a line between encouraging the Sacramento efforts and privately leading them.

This is not close to game over. Mastrov, a Bay Area resident who attended Warriors-Rockets, downplayed Stern’s comments by telling The Associated Press that “It’s all part of the process.” He’s right. But he’s also spinning: Johnson waited so long, beyond his own original timeline, to deliver a sparkling offer on the purchase of the team and the construction of an arena, and now it should be painfully clear to the Sacramento backers that the city did not. This is not the process they wanted.

Johnson missed the chance to truly lobby owners and other influential NBA leaders at All-Star weekend when he showed up in Houston without a Sacramento bid to spotlight and now he has missed the chance to push back hard at Seattle. Sacramento needs to regroup again, and now it is clear Stern will only hold their hand so far.

Lead Investors Revealed In Kings Bid


Sacramento’s comeback attempt to keep the Kings reached an important stage Thursday as mayor Kevin Johnson announced business magnate Ron Burkle, the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness, will have leading roles in the push to convince the Board of Governors to deny the Seattle bid and keep the team in Northern California.

The Mastrov-Burkle pairing had been expected, just not in the specific roles Johnson outlined in his State of the City address. Instead of both buying into the Kings if Sacramento’s dream outcome turns into reality – the team stays but the current owners, the Maloof family, is gone – Mastrov was revealed as the majority investor while Burkle will take the lead on a new downtown arena. Given that the two deals are so closely related, though, Burkle, the wealthier of the two, could be part of the purchase of the club. Those specifics were not disclosed.

What is clear is that the plot just thickened. Not only does Sacramento now have a long-awaited counter-strike to go with the promise from commissioner David Stern that Johnson would pitch the Board of Governors, but another Maloof enemy is officially in the mix. The family may not have the same distaste for Burkle as for Johnson, but Burkle is pretty high up the list.

Johnson announced that Mastrov, who made a serious run at buying the Warriors before Joe Lacob and Peter Guber won the bidding, would submit his bid to the league office on Friday. The Board of Governors will meet April 18-19 in New York to decide the future of the franchise. If the sale to the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer is approved, the Sacramento efforts are moot.

“We never give up, we never give in, we never say never,” Johnson told the crowd at his address. “That is who we are. So, with all due respect to Seattle, and I absolutely do wish them well, and I do hope they get a team some day… let me be perfectly clear. I said let me perfectly crystal clear. It is not going to be this team. Not our team. No way.”

The audience erupted in cheers and a chant of “Sac-ra-men-to!”

“We have done and will continue to do whatever it takes to keep our team in Sacramento,” the mayor said.

When Johnson announced Jan. 22 he had 19 investors at $1 million each, with another to follow, the former All-Star point guard said he hoped to reveal the big-money backing within about two weeks. The delay then turned into more than a month, with the additional update Thursday that former Kings star Mitch Richmond was one of the 20.

Putting himself on the clock was a tactical error that should have been easy to avoid, but KJ incurred no actual damage. Seattle had a strong deal — and pending litigation the NBA doesn’t consider much of a threat — and Sacramento needed to send a message to owners around the league that it was organized and could be counted on to deliver.

But once All-Star weekend came and went without an official response to the Seattle purchase agreement with the Maloofs, the missed opportunities started to count. Johnson was in Houston to press Sacramento’s case — lobbying the Board of Governors to vote against the attractive Seattle package has always been the biggest challenge for the mayor – except that he didn’t have anything to press with.

Minus an accompanying plan in hand, Johnson was basically telling league power brokers that Sacramento and the NBA have been good for each other. Everyone already knew that. KJ is a charismatic salesman with credibility in front of the Board of Governors. Everyone already knew that too.

League executives and owners left All-Star weekend unmoved by anything Johnson had to say, insiders report, or anywhere close to gauging Sacramento’s chances of an upset because they had not seen a proposal. That will change in the wake of Thursday’s announcement by the mayor and the expectation that the official notice will be delivered Friday.

Kings’ Fate Dominates Stern’s Final All-Star Presser


HOUSTON – The final All-Star press conference of NBA commissioner David Stern‘s 30-year tenure played out like so many of the others, with Stern working the room with a mix of charm, seriousness, humor, pride, lawyerly word-parsing and snark.

The most notable difference from past performances was increasing play-by-play with deputy commissioner Adam Silver, his presumptive successor when Stern officially steps down Feb. 1, 2014, weeks before next year’s All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. Silver, at that point, will be the one fielding the familiar questions about expansion, drug testing, international growth, the D-League, etc.

For example, when asked about dueling bids from New York and Brooklyn to host the 2015 All-Star Game, Stern said: “This is terrific. There are two applications in, one from Brooklyn and one from the [Madison Square] Garden. And I really think that commissioner Silver is going to have a great time with those applications, I really do. And I asked him to send me a postcard to tell me how they go.”

There was less banter on the subject that dominated the Q&A period of the half-hour-plus news conference: the possible franchise relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, pending a sale to investor Chris Hansen‘s group, its transfer application and approval by the league’s Board of Governors. The procedure is well-established, the subject has been (and will be) covered extensively on – here, here and here, among other pieces – and, as Stern said, “I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy.”

Asked to what degree the final verdict – keeping the Kings in Sacramento or re-branding them as the new SuperSonics – will hinge on economics vs. emotions, the commissioner said: “I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics because it’s not about, ‘OK, I say 525 [million dollars].’ ‘All right, I say 526.’ To me, that would be economics. I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide. But I don’t want to get to it because we don’t have the predicate for that tough decision yet.”

Stern said that, unlike last year in Orlando, Sacramento’s mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, did not meet with league executives in any attempt to broker a deal. Johnson, who did meet with interested media after Stern’s news conference, still is working up a counter-offer to keep the Kings.

“And then the owners are going to have to deal with it,” Stern said. “This is a good time to be a commissioner and not an owner.”

A glimpse of Stern’s famous protectiveness of all things NBA flashed in a later question about Seattle’s possible return as a league market, given the Sonics’ sale and move to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Asked if he regretted the way the NBA left Seattle, he said: “But I seem to remember, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a $300 million‑plus subsidy for the Mariners, and a $300 million‑plus subsidy for the Seahawks. … There was a legislation which precluded that for the Sonics, and [Washington Speaker of the State House Frank] Chopp said that we should take the money from our players.  Is there anything that I’m missing there?”


As usual, beside the occasional Borscht Belt routines, Stern and Silver addressed a gamut of topics:

  • The league had no comment on the National Basketball Players Association vote Saturday to terminate executive director Billy Hunter after 17 years of service. “We await notification from the union as to who we should be dealing with,” Stern said.
  • Proud of the NBA’s drug-testing program, Stern repeated his remarks from last week in Minneapolis that human-growth hormone (HGH) would be added to the list of banned substances before the start of next season, subject to an agreement on testing protocol. He said of NBA players, “They want to be perceived as playing in a drug‑free sport.”
  • The NBA’s vision for the D-League, Silver reiterated, remains a 30-team league with 1-to-1 affiliations with parent clubs. “We think it’s the second-best basketball in the world after the NBA,” Silver said. D-League teams may be used to extend the NBA brand through promotional games internationally, he added.
  • Stern and Silver both talked of further growth opportunities globally, particularly in India, Africa and China. Stern will be traveling to Mumbai and Silver said a basketball academy might be opened in India similar to one the league created in China.
  • Stern’s favorite All-Star memory? No surprise here: Awarding Magic Johnson the MVP trophy after the 1992 game in Orlando. Johnson had abruptly retired before that season after being diagnosed with the HIV virus. “Giving sweaty Magic Johnson a big hug right after he hit the last 3, and still being able to hug him – because he’s alive – every time I see him,” the commissioner said. “That is at the top of the list.”
  • Second-best? Staging the “50 Greatest” players event at the 1997 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, with 47 attending and only Hall-of-Famer Pete Maravich deceased at that point (Jerry West and Shaquille O’Neal missed the weekend.)
  • As for future All-Star Games – the 2014 game is set for New Orleans – Silver said that Cleveland also has applied to host the 2015 game, in addition to the Knicks and the Nets. Other ideas have been floated from time to time. “We’ve discussed playing internationally,” Silver said. “I’m not sure if it will work, logistically, but it’s something we’ll continue to study. We’ve looked at other neutral cities [like Las Vegas in 2007]. We’ve looked at refreshing All‑Star Saturday Night and other innovative events for the weekend and I think we’ll continue to do that, the same way we have under David’s leadership.”

Let the passing of the torch continue.

The Basketball Impact For The Kings

If you thought the Kings were wandering through a thick haze before, imagine the layers of uncertainty now that the team has been sold, sort of.

Transitions to new owners can be tricky on the basketball operations side under the best of circumstances – a pretty settled roster, a relatively quiet time on the calendar – and this is definitely not the best of circumstances. This is a losing operation desperate for traction with personnel decisions looming, varying degrees of involvement from the out-going owners depending on the day and the mood swings, and leaders in Sacramento weighing several counter-strikes, including legal action, to block the sale to a group that would move the team to Seattle.

P.S.: The trade deadline is Feb. 21, and the potential sale won’t be close to untangled by then.

Normally when a franchise is in escrow, the current owners, officially in charge until the Board of Governors approves the sale, continue to handle business, but in strong consultation with the incoming owners. It’s possible something would have been written into the agreement about veto power on decisions, it’s possible it would have been a courtesy. But, for example, outgoing Chris Cohan was not going to do a sign-and-trade for David Lee to come to the Warriors on an $80 million deal without a nod of approval from pending boss Joe Lacob.

This time? The Maloof family has agreed to sell to a group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. But Sacramento officials are lining up investors for a counter-bid in a last-ditch hope the Board of Governors votes down Hansen-Ballmer. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been promised a chance to appear before the BoG votes in April and commissioner David Stern is meeting with potential owners who would keep the team in the California capital. There is no “normally.”

The Kings have needs – defense, rebounding, shooting, playmaking – but only the future of Tyreke Evans is an issue on the clock. The former starting point guard, former starting small forward and current starting shooting guard becomes a restricted free agent July 1, making this the last chance to be in control of the possibility of getting something in return for a key player. If they have decided to match any offer sheet, which is not the case, that would be one thing. Evans would be coming back to the “Seattamento SuperKings” and there would be no pause heading toward Feb. 21. But letting free agency play out means management will have trade options greatly reduced if he signs a deal elsewhere and Sacreattle chooses not to match. The only trade can be with the team Evans has picked and there’s no guarantee that signing club would have anything of value to swap.

DeMarcus Cousins, meanwhile, is not pressing. There is no indication Geoff Petrie, the president of basketball operations, has had any serious trade conversations, no matter how many bad rumors got started this time. (To the Celtics for a package headed by Jared Sullinger? Good one. Because what the Kings really want to do about six months after investing a lottery pick on Thomas Robinson and big money to re-sign Jason Thompson is move their best talent for another power forward, and one with a concerning injury history at that.)

The real updates remain on the business front. Ron Burkle, the kind of big-money guy Sacramento has been hoping to have at the top of the ticket to present to the Board of Governors, met with Stern in New York on Thursday in a definitive statement of interest by the Pittsburgh Penguins owner.

The development, while noteworthy, is little more than an emotional boost to Sacramento fans latching on to any positive. In reality, landing investors and kick-starting an arena project, now possibly at a different location than what had been in place from the brief 2012 agreement with the Maloofs, was never the biggest challenge. It was, and still is, convincing the Board of Governors not to like what appears to be an ideal bid from Seattle. The money from Sacramento interests will be there in the end. But so will the Seattle group, and if the Board approves the Hansen-Ballmer purchase, Burkle or anyone heading efforts in the current Kings home won’t have a team to buy.

Sacramento Lines Up Minority Investors

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson took the first tangible steps Tuesday in a stand to keep the Kings, announcing that 19 local businesses or people had committed $1 million each to become minority owners and saying he hopes to have a majority investor, the key piece to the late-game rally, lined up by the end of the week.

A 20th person at $1 million was later added.

The news conference was more pep rally than anything, complete with fans cheering on Johnson’s comments, some wearing Kings gear and holding pro-Sacramento signs while standing behind the mayor on camera. Left unsaid was the fact that the group will be trying to buy a team that has already been sold.

The Sacramento plan still being formed will become a factor only if the Board of Governors votes down the purchase by a Seattle group that plans to move the Kings to Washington before the start of next season. The Seattle interests, headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, had closed its deal by the time Johnson had revealed a small fraction of the money that will be required if Sacramento does get a chance.

There is, Johnson said, “a sense of urgency in this community and the time is ticking. I think all of you know that. I was supposed to be in Washington for the inauguration. I cancelled my trip. We have been here working our tail off, and everybody here in some shape or form is doing everything that we possibly can to keep our team here.”

Comissioner David Stern has told Johnson the mayor will have a chance to address the Board of Governors in April before a vote. But if the Board – one representative from every team, usually an owner – approves the Hansen-Ballmer offer, Sacramento’s hopes will have ended without an official bid to the Maloof family.

While Johnson has a lot of credibility around the league as a mayor, not as a former All-Star point guard with the Suns, the chances of Hansen-Ballmer being denied are considered slim at best. Most any other city on the other side of the vote and Sacramento has a chance. But the Seattle proposal, with everything from deep-pocket owners to a region with a history of supporting sports to a new arena being planned to corporate backing at an international level, is a daunting opponent.

“(The proposed majority owner) will be revealed soon,” Johnson said at the City Hall announcement. “I will say this. This was a first step, because we wanted our community to be the one leading the way, and that’s what we did. We only found out this news (that the Maloofs were close to selling) a week ago. For us to rally at the speed that we did says an awful lot.”

He said the city is making “great progress” on someone who will bring the real financial backing to the deal.

What Next For Seattle And Sacramento?


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Speculation and news reports gave way to certainty Monday morning as the NBA and both parties involved in the transaction announced an agreement has been reached to sell controlling interest in the Kings to a group that plans to move the team to Seattle for the start of next season.

Chris Hansen, the leader of the Seattle efforts along with Steve Ballmer, said in a statement that they had reached a “binding agreement” with the Maloof family that owns 53 percent of the Kings. Similarly brief announcements from the league and the Maloofs did not choose the same wording, a slight surprise since it would figure the releases from Hansen-Ballmer and the Maloofs would be coordinated after passing through lawyers’ microscopes. But is little more than semantics.

The unvarnished truth by any terminology: The Kings have been sold and will play their final game ever in Sacramento on April 17 unless the Board of Governors unexpectedly votes down the purchase.

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson will push forward and within days could announce an ownership group as part of a final appeal to the league to keep the team in town. He will press on with plans for a downtown arena, having said for years that the city needs a new entertainment complex whether the Kings are part of the future or not. Commissioner David Stern has promised Johnson the chance to address the Board of Governors before a vote on the sale, a direct appeal that will probably come in April.

In the meantime, Johnson will have to lobby the BoG – one representative from every team, usually the owner but occasionally a high-ranking club official as proxy for the owner – for a historic comeback. This will not be the former All-Star point guard trying to fend off advances from Anaheim a couple seasons ago, what would have been a winnable fight amid resistance around the league for a third team in the Los Angeles market. This will not be noting the imperfections of other locations the Maloofs flirted with in recent years.

There is nothing not to like about the Seattle bid. Corporate backing at an international level, population base, history as a sports market, owners that by all appearances have very deep pockets, a new arena planned – the Emerald City checks all the boxes. That’s a real problem for any Sacramento comeback.

Johnson will be pushing owners to ignore all that on the speculation of what may be in the California capital, based on what was 10 years ago. He will ask the Board to turn down a city most everyone wants back in the NBA. He will be telling the BoG to vote for Sacramento by voting against Seattle.

In short, it is almost impossible to imagine Johnson finding enough sympathy.

When previous ownership changes have fallen apart, the finances were usually not in order. It is reasonable to think in this case that Stern would not have allowed the Seattle bid to get this far without a strong sense that Hansen and Ballmer could pass the requisite background checks.

The transition from the Maloofs to Hansen-Ballmer will move forward even as Sacramento counter-punches. The Seattle group will file for relocation by March 1 and Johnson will be down to hoping the league will first void the Hansen-Ballmer deal and then be able to force the Maloofs to sell to Northern California interests.

(Never say never, but consider precedence: If Stern had been able to dictate ownership sales before, he wouldn’t have waited until 2013 to hit the button.)

A couple other points as this moves forward:

  • It is fitting to note that the man who heads the relocation committee, Thunder owner Clay Bennett, is the same man who took the SuperSonics from Seattle in the first place. Don’t attach too much actual meaning, though. Seattle as a destination – apart from whatever maneuvering transpires on other levels – gets approved no matter who chairs the committee.
  • Don’t take Johnson’s statement Sunday night, that he wants the Kings to be “the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL,” too literally. Johnson has enough to do to line up a conventional ownership plan for a last-minute reprieve from the BoG. As the mayor knows, there is no time to organize a Packer-like plan for fans to have ownership. His reference can only be read as hope that the Kings could remain to Sacramento what the Packers are to Green Bay, part of the fabric of their respective small markets. It can’t mean a call to arms to duplicate the Green Bay structure.