Update: Mayor Johnson In Control Of Kings
As the Friday deadline looms for NBA franchises to file for relocation, Seattle’s hope of acquiring the Kings from Sacramento appears to be fading. “It’s now Sacramento’s to lose,” one NBA source close to the bidding process told David Baumann of Sports Talk Florida. “The Seattle investment group was supposed to deliver a non-refundable $30 million dollars to the Maloofs (by Feb. 1), but it never happened. The Seattle group wasn’t going to make that down payment without the NBA’s approval to move the team.”
UPDATED: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will continue the discourse on the Kings situation tonight at 9pm EST at his State of the City address.
Joe Maloof says it isn’t true – Hansen made the payment.
— Dale Kasler (@dakasler) February 28, 2013
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) February 28, 2013
The NBA’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet April 18th in New York City to decide on the transfer of ownership.
Adding to Seattle’s anxiety is the last ditch effort by Kings minority owner John Kehriotis to retain the team in Sacramento. It was reported Tuesday that Kehriotis had developed a financial plan in the range of $750M in order to purchase the franchise and build a new arena, according to FOX40 in Sacramento. “The minority owners have right-of-refusal (to stop the sale), so their voice will be heard if they make a bid by Friday,” the league source told Baumann. However, the source also suggested that Kehriotis’ buzzer-beating bid may be too haphazardly put together. “This 11th-hour bid is nothing more than a distraction, if anything,” the source said.
Former Kings star Mitch Richmond, whose #2 jersey was retired by the franchise, said Kehriotis’ bid shouldn’t be taken lightly. “I don’t think it’s a distraction,” Richmond told Sports Talk Florida. “I think if they have an opportunity to keep the team right there and someone comes in that 12th hour, I think the NBA has to take a look at that and not moving that team.” Richmond also added, “My gut is the Kings will stay in Sacramento… What was missing was a new arena. If you come in with financial backing, I think the NBA will not move the team.” (The audio portion of Mitch Richmond’s complete interview will air on The David Baumann Show Thursday morning on 1040 The Team Tampa Bay and 1080 The Team Orlando)
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who spent 12 seasons as a player in the NBA, has been leading a separate investment group aimed at keeping the Kings in town. “This could present a challenge for Mayor Johnson and his group,” said the league source. “They (Kehriotis’ group) are mounting a separate bid away from the Mayor’s bid.”
The source estimated that Johnson’s bid was in the range of $580M. Johnson took to Twitter last week and delivered this message to his 39,000+ followers:
I’m especially focused on highlighting the viable arena plan we delivered last year with City and NBA approval.
— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) February 17, 2013
“If the Kings and Mayor Johnson can come up with a fully-financed Arena plan, there’s no way the NBA will move the team out of Sacramento,” the source said. “I think Mayor Johnson’s group has pole position. He has spent the last four or five months lobbying the NBA. Commissioner Stern respects Kevin and the Mayor’s group will be heard.”
It is unclear whether the Seattle-based, Chris Hansen-led investment group, which had plans of relocating the team to Seattle, has any last-ditch efforts up its sleeve to acquire the Kings. “There’s nothing they can do,” the source said. “At the end of the day, they can just sit and wait.”
“I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics,” Commissioner David Stern said at an All-Star Weekend press conference. “I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide… It’s going to wait upon Mayor Johnson making good on his statement that there will be an offer. And it’s going to be upon the Sacramento area, a number of the regional municipalities and the various people who have been saying they’ll give the mayor the support he needs.”
“It’s plausible to me,” Stern said of a Sacramento’s bid ultimately topping Seattle’s offer for the team. “But I don’t have a vote. I expect the owners have a very open mind on this.” Stern also added, “I don’t see any scenario in which both cities are happy here.”
Two-thirds of the league’s owners must sign off on the relocation of a team. “I just don’t see that happening,” the league source said. “If you read between the Commissioner’s statements at All-Star Weekend, to me, he’s saying, we do not want to take this franchise out of Sacramento.”