Sacramento Mayor Confident In His Case To Keep NBA Kings, Build Arena
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that he “believes he can make a compelling case to the NBA with ‘a fair and competitive’ offer” for the NBA Kings and a “financial package for a new downtown arena,” according to a front-page piece by Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Although associates and business partners yesterday confirmed that Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov are “working on a Kings bid, the mayor still wasn't willing Wednesday to publicly identify his ‘whales’ -- the deep-pockets investors who would buy the team.” Johnson said that he “expects to finalize his investor lineup next week.” However, time “isn't Johnson's ally.” The NBA is “already vetting” the Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and the league is “expected to make a final decision in April.” Legal issues also could “tilt the playing field toward Seattle.” A source said that Hansen has “agreed to pay" Kings Owners the Maloofs "a nonrefundable $30 million deposit.” Legal experts said that if Hansen's purchase is “rejected, he could sue the NBA, arguing that the league harmed him economically.” However, the Burkle-Mastrov group “doesn't see its effort as some kind of desperate long shot" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/24). Johnson said that he planned to talk to NBA Commissioner David Stern today to “update him on Sacramento’s efforts.” Johnson said that he “expected to again get city council approval for an arena plan in time.” In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes by NBA rules, the sale “has to be approved" by the NBA BOG, which is “scheduled to meet in mid-April.” Relocation “also needs approval.” The NBA has “generally approved relocations and sales of teams to viable owners” (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/24).
FAVOR THE HOME TEAM: In S.F., Andrew Ross reports MLB Giants President & CEO Larry Baer is “betting the other way" in regard to the proposed Seattle deal. Baer said, “I’ve talked to KJ, and the bottom line is Sacramento has a great reservoir of support. ... They have a group of civic-minded investors, and a new arena would be part of the deal. Besides, the league has a predilection to not move franchises to different markets if it can help it. They’re not happy situations. If Sacramento comes up with an offer anywhere near Seattle’s, I think there’s an opportunity” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/24).
STAYING FOCUSED: Kings coach Keith Smart said that there “isn’t much discussion among the coaches or players about the possibility the team could move to Seattle.” In Sacramento, Jason Jones reports Smart “didn’t attribute a slow start” in Monday’s game against the Hornets to the news of the Seattle deal (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/24). Kings TV announcer Grant Napear during Monday's game noted the team “awoke to the news” of the “impending sale to Seattle." Napear: "I know it’s on their minds. I can’t say that’s the reason why the team is losing, but we must keep that in mind as well. It has to be some sort of a distraction on the day that the news broke.” The Kings were down 25 points to the Hornets at halftime in New Orleans before losing 114-105 (“Kings-Hornets,” Comcast SportsNet California, 1/21).