Posts Tagged ‘Maloof’

Seattle, Sacramento Step Into The Ring

HANG TIME WEST – This battle has been Sacramento against Seattle all along.

It’s not Sacramento against itself, because it was inevitable the city would build a new ownership conglomerate and a new arena plan. And it’s not Seattle against the NBA, because the league has been very clear in its interest in returning to Washington state.

If Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer headed the same group to buy the Kings to play in Sacramento, it breezes through the approval process. If any city other than Seattle is trying to poach the team – Anaheim, Las Vegas, Virginia Beach – Sacramento mounts a successful comeback victory and probably wins easy.

Sacramento against Seattle.

Today, for the first time, they go head-to-head, with both mayors, representatives from both hopeful ownership groups and leaders from both West Coast locations on the East Coast to make presentations to NBA officials and select owners to gather information. That leads into the April 18-19 Board of Governors meeting and a vote on the future of the Kings. And that leads to an outcome that will impact the NBA for many years.

Either a new arena is being built to keep a team in Sacramento or a new arena is being built to bring a team back to Seattle, and there is still no hint from the league office that the win-win scenario in both cities is possible. No expansion, commissioner David Stern said without wiggle room during All-Star weekend in February in Houston, the last comment on the matter.

Every indication is that this will be a very tough call for the Board of Governors, with strong arguments each way as well as counter-arguments and more counter-arguments. Statistical data will be offered as supporting evidence, and so will emotion. The pitches will be so far reaching that Seattle may promote its massive international corporate base, and Sacramento will definitely promote Vivek Ranadive as the general partner of the proposed ownership group that will make the entire league money by broadening the appeal of the NBA in his native India.

There are so many layers to this:

  • If the Seattle bid is voted down later this month – if – don’t be surprised if the current owners, the Maloof family, holds on to the Kings for a while. It could be a few months to step back and see who else wants to play Monopoly now that the team is on the open market, but that would be long enough to have control over trades, draft and free agency. They could still sell late in the summer and give the new owner enough time to draw more than 3,500 fans a game.The Maloofs have not ruled out the possibility of owning the Kings next season. That’s more of a longshot than the July/August scenario, but the family is considering all options at this point. Including staying on and gauging the mood with a new commissioner, Adam Silver.

    If Seattle is denied and the Maloofs sell? It will have to be to a group that will own the team in Sacramento. Again, the Board of Governors vote is about location. If California’s capital city wins, the team stays no matter who is at the top of the masthead.

  • Voting consideration No. 1: It makes sense that small-market owners would prefer competing against the local TV money of other small-market teams. Boost for Sacramento. Except that some owners, from markers of any size, could want the cut of the to-be-decided relocation fee. Boost for Seattle. (See, counters to every argument.)
  • Voting consideration No. 2: Ranadive’s late addition to the Sacramento group, after Stern backhanded the first offer of its attempted counter-strike, is a positive. How much of a positive is unclear. Owners have to at least be intrigued by the potential of increasing the revenue stream in India, and the relationships he may have already built as No. 3 man in Golden State ownership group can help. But the Warriors may already have been in the Sacramento camp. It is possible Ranadive will not swing a vote.
  • Voting consideration No. 3: Stern, who has worked for years to keep the Kings from moving, has lost one of his most compliant voters. The Maloofs historically followed the commissioner’s lead on most topics. They’re clearly looking out for their best interests on this one.
  • Kobe Bryant, dismissing the notion that Saturday’s game at Sleep Train Arena was the last installment of Lakers-Kings, once a great rivalry before the Kings fell off the map: “They’ve been singing the same song for three years. Enough already.” He is sort of right. This has been the Sacramento saga on a loop. But it has never been like this. There has never been a relocation vote weeks away. There has never been a Seattle.
  • One important clarification: When Stern said recently an outgoing owner will not dictate where that team would play, he was indicating the decision belonged to the Board of Governors once the owner had reached a sales agreement. It did not mean the BOG can makes the initial sales agreement. The governors’ power is in approving or denying a deal, not making it. Some people in Sacramento took that to mean owners can simply force the Maloofs to take a deal from the Ranadive-Mark Mastrov-Ron Burkle consortium. Not true.
  • The read at the moment? Pick ‘em. Both sides have precedents in their favor, both sides have strong arguments, both sides have the emotional factor of passionate fan bases. The needle likely moves based on whatever feedback comes out of today’s important gathering, but this is setting up as a little more than two weeks of tension around the league, and especially around two cities.

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 NBA.com, 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 NBA.com. “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.

Lead Investors Revealed In Kings Bid

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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.

NBA Does Not Consider Legal Action Serious Threat in Kings Case

HOUSTON – The NBA does not expect legal challenges, whether from minority owners of the Kings or groups in Seattle, to be a serious impediment to a potential move, league sources said Thursday as the debate over the proposed sale and relocation to Washington state moved to All-Star weekend.

While Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been in constant contact with top NBA officials, he is expected in town as part of lobbying efforts for the daunting task of convincing owners to vote down the sale of the Kings to a Seattle-based group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. Others efforts in the California capital include possible legal action from the minority owners who claim their initial agreement came with a right of first refusal on a purchase if the team is ever put up for sale.

But, sources familiar with the thinking high in the league office said, those possible roadblocks, along with lawsuits in Seattle trying to stop construction of the proposed arena, could be an afterthought by summer. It is not clear whether NBA leadership, with several lawyers among the ranks, thinks the legal action has no merit or whether the concerns will be addressed in other ways.

Also Thursday, sources said every indication is that the vote on the sale of controlling interest in the Kings from the Maloof family to the Hansen-Ballmer group will be held as scheduled at the Board of Governors meeting April 18-19 in New York. The BoG could rule before then to approve or deny, either by conference call or e-mail ballot, but people close to the situation told NBA.com the issue will likely be decided at the regularly scheduled full meeting.

What Next For Seattle And Sacramento?


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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.

Great Pressure On Seattle As Well


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HANG TIME WEST — Suddenly, and strangely, there is pressure on the Seattle effort led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to close the deal to buy the Kings and deliver them to the banks of the Puget Sound as the SuperSonics reincarnated.

Strange because Hansen-Ballmer still have a lead over Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, and maybe a big lead. The Seattle group is smart, more battle-ready and has been more proactive to put KJ in a very bad position of needing to do a lot in a little amount of time. (Line up ownership, line up an arena deal, line up an arena location, the possible goal-line stand of convincing the Board of Governors to vote down an ideal opportunity in Washington state. Other than that, Johnson is all good.) This should all be about Sacramento feeling the squeeze.

Yet, Seattle is in a corner as well. Leaders of the effort there obviously know the history of the Maloof family of going far down the road on other aborted deals as owners of the Kings – the plan to move the team to Anaheim, the plan to build a new arena that would keep the team in Sacramento – and each day that passes without the For Sale sign being pulled off the front lawn puts more time on the clock for Johnson. (Whether there is a handshake deal is the source of conflicting information. Some have reported the Maloofs and Hansen-Ballmer have reached an agreement, while my stand has been consistent for nearly a week that Sacramento is still in the game.)

It goes beyond who is sitting across the table from Hansen-Ballmer, though. The bottom line of a textbook pursuit that could end in disappointment anyway is that the Seattle faction desperately needs the Kings as a central component in the real big-picture plan of a new arena and the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in that. No anchor tenant, no building.

The Hornets have been sold and are staying in New Orleans. The Grizzlies have been sold and are staying in Memphis. Johnson a couple years ago had the Hawks and Pistons, among others, on his list of teams to approach as Kings replacements if the Maloofs shifted NBA operations to Anaheim; one of those teams (Pistons) have been sold and settled as well.

Hansen-Ballmer have no choice other than continue to trudge through the foggy Maloofian world they have entered, because this never has just been about buying an NBA team. That could have happened in the last couple years or the next couple, except with the franchise remaining in its current city. Seattle needs an organization on wheels, and that’s the Kings. Maybe, some around the league speculate, the Bucks at some point, but the Kings for sure, and for sure right now.

The Maloofs know all this and obviously don’t hate the leverage. They could not have been too disappointed when – oops! – word leaked they were deep in negotiations with the Seattle group, just in time to invite other bids. It cost the family the chance to revel in the look on Johnson’s face had he been blindsided by the Kings’ departure — so great is the dislike between the sides — but that could be worth more profit in the end. The Maloofs have a seller’s market.

The critical unknown is whether Hansen-Ballmer have internally set a line in the sand with a dollar sign attached. They can’t walk away from this chance because there’s no telling when the next team available for relocation will come along, but they didn’t get to be businessmen dealing in Monopoly money by making imprudent deals. Maybe the number is still far out there, knowing this is about an entire arena deal and not just the value of a franchise, or maybe the Maloofs are brushing against it now. It’s impossible to know.

Hansen-Ballmer could push away from the table and pursue an NHL team as the anchor tenant at a major savings. So much of this in Seattle, though, has been the emotional charge of the return of the NBA and the SuperSonics name, down to the green and gold uniforms and the old banners being hung from the rafters. Hockey, if it were to happen with the same plan of a couple seasons in KeyArena before moving to the new arena, wouldn’t hold the same appeal.

Kevin Johnson’s Looming Challenge

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – There is no indication around the league that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has started to rally support among the NBA power brokers who could become his last line of defense to keep the Kings in Northern California, a backing that would be critical as part of a potential showdown vote.

He has obviously been in contact with the league office, including commissioner David Stern. But sources confirm Johnson has yet to reach out to many, if any, members of the Board of Governors who would decide whether to approve a sale if a deal is closed with the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group that would move the team to Seattle.

If the Maloof family does sell to Hansen-Ballmer, as is a possibility, Johnson will be down to his final hope: The Board of Governors, one representative from each team, either an owner or high-ranking executive as proxy, refusing to approve.

Such an outcome would be very rare, and maybe even unprecedented, for the reasons Johnson would be pressing. The former All-Star point guard would be telling the BOGs to vote for Sacramento by voting against Seattle. He would, in essence, be urging owners to deny the bid of a group that by every indication has the financial resources and wants to CPR new life into a floundering franchise by moving it to a city with major corporate backing and a tradition of supporting sports.

That would require Johnson to build a coalition of very sympathetic and strong members of the Board of Governors.

Proposed ownership changes around the league that fell apart in the past were usually because the bank account wasn’t as impressive as the prospective buyer(s) had indicated. It is reasonable to think in this case that Stern would not have allowed the Seattle bid to get this far without being confident that at least the biggest names, Hansen and Ballmer, could pass the requisite financial and personal background checks. Plus, the city for the proposed relocation has everything a major-league market should have, including a new arena in the works.

If it comes down to the BOG, Johnson would be asking owners to ignore all that to believe Sacramento can match the past of 10 years ago, when the California capital was an example of what the NBA wanted in excitement and fan support. He would be asking them to turn down a city most everyone would want back in the NBA on the speculation of what might happen in a city that at the moment cannot say who will own the team, where it will play and where the money will come from if Johnson does get a group to make a credible bid for the Kings.

If the Seattle deal falls through and the Maloofs end up selling to owners who want to keep the team in Sacramento, Johnson’s BOG problem goes away. If not, though, KJ needs to have done some serious lobbying with the owners.

On the bright side for the passionate Sacramento faithful, Johnson has a very good start. His work the last few years on the task has won a lot of praise around the league from powerful people who mostly knew him only as a point guard for the Suns.

Johnson had the support of Stern from the beginning. It was Stern who believed enough in a first-term mayor with no previous political experience to dissuade the Maloofs from seeking to relocate long enough to allow Johnson to put a plan into action. Stern’s confidence was rewarded last February, when the team, the city and the NBA reached agreement on a downtown arena, only to have the Maloofs later back out after privately and publicly supporting the deal.

Reason For Optimism In Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The latest on the Kings-Seattle-Sacramento front after conversations with people with knowledge of negotiations, and the disclaimer that all information has a shelf life of 17 seconds in this never-ending saga of a franchise in search of a permanent home:

* There are strong indications, though nothing official, that the Maloof family has not closed a deal with the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group in Seattle. That is counter to the report that said the Maloofs had a handshake agreement with Hansen-Ballmer, and is obviously very, very good news for Sacramento.

* It remains difficult to determine the timeline of negotiations with potential buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento, whether the Maloofs are close to a sale that would return the NBA to Washington state and all other talks are dormant and mostly a safety net for the embattled Kings owners. But it does appear conversations are continuing apart from Hansen-Ballmer. The Maloofs have not ended other talks. Again, good news for Sacramento.

* Sacramento officials are still lining up financing. They are playing catch up to Seattle, on the business side and the government side, and so this remains a steep climb. But some insiders believe Sacramento has a legitimate shot at pulling this off. There is real optimism.

* The wild card remains the same: the Maloofs. No one dares to guess with any certainty what they will do next as family dynamics, the potential for a record price for an NBA sale and the emotions crash together. (Selling the Rockets, after their late father had owned the team, has remained a regret decades later. Sell again and they are almost certainly out of the NBA business for good.) It is possible to get an accurate survey of the process, but not of how many times a day the Maloofs are changing their thinking.

* This business that the Maloofs want to still have some control as minority owners after they sell (if they sell), as some reports suggest? Laughable. Chances of that happening are somewhere between zero percent and zero percent.

* Bottom line: Sacramento is not close to out of the woods. But it is far from a certainty that Seattle will get the next-generation SuperSonics. A lot remains to be decided.

Future Home Of Kings Remains In Doubt





SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings’ future in Sacramento remained uncertain Friday afternoon amid contrasting reports that the Maloof family has either been in talks with a buyer who would keep the team in town or that the owners have reached an agreement in principle to sell to a group that would move the team to Seattle.

One thing is definite: Hall of Famer Magic Johnson is not part of a bid, NBA.com has learned.

Johnson was a prominent part of the group when California businessman Mark Mastrov made a serious run at the Warriors in 2010. Now, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is reporting Mastrov has talked to the Maloofs about buying the Kings, quoting Mastrov as saying, “Definitely, there’ve been conversations. Definitely there’s interest in acquiring the team and keeping it in Sacramento.”

The story does not say whether negotiations are in the early stages or at a serious point, or whether the talks are current or have stalled as the Maloofs have by many indications moved close to a sale that would result in the team going to Seattle.

Meanwhile, Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com, citing a source familiar with the negotiations, wrote the Maloof family has struck a deal with the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group as the first major step to filing for relocation before the March 1 deadline to have the Kings in Washington next season. The cost would be approximately $525 million, Steinmetz reported.

There had been no independent confirmation by NBA.com and, as has been the stance all along, no comment from the Kings.

Johnson, with major investments in several business ventures, once owned approximately five percent of the Lakers, before selling in 2010. He was part of the effort to buy the Warriors that same year, before losing out to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, and probably Larry Ellison as well. Johnson has since become a minority owner of the Dodgers, the current source of most of his sports-related energy. He remains a vice president of the Lakers with no day-to-day input.

Johnson and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, former rivals on the court, are friends, though not in regular contact.

Kings Take On Dallas… And Seattle



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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings got back to the basketball portion of their ever-spinning world Thursday night. Kind of.

Yes, they played for the first time since news broke that the owners, the Maloof family, were deep in negotiations to sell to a group that would move the team to Seattle. And, yes, 14,011 showed to Sleep Train Arena to watch, a good crowd for a mid-week game against a bad team, and those fans did bring noise in the continued delicate split of supporting the team while sticking their Maloof voodoo dolls full of pins. DeMarcus Cousins even got ejected, this time for a flagrant foul, and just try finding a greater sign of normalcy.

But Seattle was unavoidably everywhere before and after. Maybe during as well, with the hand-made signs brought in by fans urging the Kings to stay or even for the Maloofs to sell to the citizens of Sacramento a la the Packers in Green Bay. It is one of several ideas that has been mentioned the last couple days as a solution.

Definitely during the 117-112 overtime loss to the Mavericks, actually. It was impossible not to notice the irony that two of the five Kings on the court the final seconds were Tacoma native and University of Washington product Isaiah Thomas and Seattle native Aaron Brooks. Thomas was even the reason the night lasted into an extra period, thanks to a 25-foot bank with 9.1 seconds remaining for a 101-101 game.

The before was a candid Keith Smart. The Kings coach was asked 90 minutes prior to tipoff whether the relocation talk could become a distraction, whether the sale is complete and moving is inevitable or talks on the deal at a reported $500 million linger and the future remains an uncertainty. He did not hesitate.

“It’s going to get there,” Smart said matter-of-factly of the distraction. “I’m going to have it from my side — my family, my kids, everything. We all are going to have it. But we have to, at a moment, block out everything and focus on the task at hand. As soon as we get away from the two hours of practice, hour of shootaround, two hours of game time, then we’re going to go back to reality. And reality is going to ask, ‘What are you hearing?’ and all those things there. We have to answer those questions from our friends, family and everyone because everyone will be a little concerned.

“What we’ll preach is, ‘Do what you need to do in that time frame, but as we get ourselves back into the environment where we have to practice, workout, stay on top of what it is that you’re supposed to be doing and we’ll deal with all that as it goes day by day.’ It’s definitely going to be a distraction. Obviously yesterday (when news of the potential sale first broke) was. But we’re pros. We’ve got to figure out a way how to separate the two and then get ready to play.”

The after?

Brooks, sitting alone at his locker, trying to find the right words. The Kings in Sacramento would be nice. Playing point guard in his hometown would be nice.

“It’s a lose-lose,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta lose.”

A difficult spot.

“Yeah,” Brooks said. “Very difficult.”