Posts Tagged ‘SuperSonics’

Payton Nearly Quit Early In His Career

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HANG TIME WEST – Hall of Famer Gary Payton was so down on himself as a player and so frustrated with the coaching situation in Seattle early in his career that he came close to retiring after his rookie season, he told NBA.com on Wednesday.

“I was thinking about it,” Payton said in a phone conversation from his home in Las Vegas. “I was like, ‘What am I out here for? This isn’t even what I want to do. I’m not happy.’ I didn’t want to do anything….”

Payton played well enough in 1990-91 to be voted second-team All-Rookie, but the 7.2 points and 6.4 assists for a 41-41 team that finished one place lower in the Pacific Division than the season before was not up to the standards he set for himself as the No. 2 pick in the draft. It was being the starter without getting true starter’s minutes, though, that truly bothered him, the 27.4 minutes per that led him to feel a lack of support from coach K.C. Jones.

Owner Barry Ackerley convinced Payton the SuperSonics believed in the young point guard, agent Aaron Goodwin and Payton’s father told Payton to give it time, and so he returned rather than retire or try to force a trade. Jones was fired 36 games into the next season and replaced by George Karl. And when that change included Tim Grgurich coming as an assistant, Payton would meet his destiny as one of the great two-way guards in history.

“If we wouldn’t have changed coaches,” Payton said, “I would have probably said, ‘Yo, you know what? I want to end this. I don’t want to do this anymore because I’m not happy.’ If they would have stayed with the same coach, I would have probably just shut it down. They would have tried to trade me or I would have told them I don’t want to play there anymore.

“I went to my agent, I went to my father, I just said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m good enough to play in this league. I’ve got a coach who wants to play me in the first and the third quarter. He has no confidence in me.’ They told me the same thing. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to be the guy who you’re supposed to be. You’re tough. You’re this.’ My father was like, ‘Are you crazy? If you quit, I’m gonna get in your (body).’ Stuff like that. He’s like, ‘It’s going to be better. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to it.’ As soon as coach Grg came there, I changed my whole mentality. I went back to the guy that I was at Oregon State and the guy that I was in Oakland, California (his hometown).”

Karl and Grgurich, who would become a familiar pairing as one of the most-respected head coaches and assistants in the NBA, lasted through 1997-98 while winning four Pacific Division titles and the 1996 Western Conference crown. Payton stayed until Feb. 20, 2003, when he was traded to the Bucks and reunited with Karl.

Payton retired — actually retired — after the 2006-07 season, following a championship with the Heat, nine All-Star appearances, nine consecutive spots on the All-Defense team, one Defensive Player of the Year, and two Olympic gold medals. His first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame was announced in February. Payton will be officially enshrined with the Class of 2013 in ceremonies Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass.

The Business Of Buying An NBA Team

HANG TIME WEST – Now the group trying to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle has increased its offer in what is either the latest smart strategy move to put disorganized Sacramento on the clock with another problem (the Seattle viewpoint), or the desperate act of an operation that knows a big lead is about turn into defeat and is resorting to Hail Mary passes (the Sacramento viewpoint).

The $25-million bump by the always-proactive enterprise from Washington state would push the sale price for the Maloof family’s 65 percent of the team to $357.5 million – and put the total valuation of the Kings at $550 million. The Sacramento Kings. The Sacramento Kings annually residing in the lottery. The Sacramento Kings rated by Forbes in 2012 as the 23rd-most valuable franchise in the league, with an estimated worth of $300 million.

Those Sacramento Kings.

Except, in what has become the factor too often overlooked, no one is trying to buy a basketball team. That goes for both sides, the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group aiming for the reincarnation of the SuperSonics and the Sacramento counter-strike led by mayor Kevin Johnson and Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov as majority investors trying to keep a civic institution in town. Neither party is paying a record amount for an NBA franchise, the prorated equivalent of $100 million more than what the Warriors sold for in 2010, for the chance to decide what to do about DeMarcus Cousins.

They are trying to buy a piece. As much as they are sports fans with the chance for the ultimate toy, the Kings are the catalyst for a much larger plan. The Washington Generals would be worth $550 million.

Both cities have arena plans. Seattle’s projected building is close to the stadiums of the Mariners and Seahawks. In Sacramento, though, the bigger picture is the revitalization of an entire downtown area. No NBA team, no arena. No arena, no economic injection from construction. (Or at least no arena of this scale – Johnson has said his city will need a new entertainment complex with or without professional sports as an anchor tenant.)

Also, Ron Burkle, once part of the Sacramento bid for the arena and team before a conflict of interest forced him to drop out, has committed to being part of development around the arena. Burkle invested in your city is a very good thing.

In financial terms alone, apart from the emotional value of the only major-league team in town, losing the Kings would have a dramatic effect. The team is a marketing tool that helps Sacramento stay on the national map, and some local leaders through the years have expressed worry that convention business would suffer without the loud presence of the NBA.

How much is having the league back in Seattle worth to Hansen-Ballmer? According to Chris Daniels of King 5, the NBC affiliate there, the group has alreaady spent $100 million just to put itself in position for the honor of setting the value of a 28-53 team at a record level. This is, of course, about much more than the 28-53 team that could be playing its final game in Sacramento when the Kings face the Clippers on Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena. The Seattle group envisions $40 million a year from local television alone, Daniels reports.

The original plan was to have Sacramento-Seattle resolved when the Board of Governors meets Thursday and Friday in New York. When both cities made presentations to a group of owners and league officials April 3, commissioner David Stern raised the possibility of the answer not coming within days of the end of the regular season. Tuesday, it became official: no vote this week, and no new date set.

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.

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

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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.

Pop The Rock Rolls Up On Win No. 900

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HANG TIME, Texas – It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.

Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.

With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.

Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.

In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra – Popovich stands a step apart and above.

He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.

When he sat at a makeshift table for a news conference last spring when he was named Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, Popovich’s face turned different shades of red. But it wasn’t for the usual reasons of screaming at a referee or boiling at another question from a reporter. He was, in short, embarrassed with the attention.

Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.

“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.

But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.

He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.

“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.

He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.

“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”

Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”

That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.

After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead. (more…)

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.

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


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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.