The NBA on Tuesday granted the Sacramento Kings an extension to file an application for relocation next season, setting up a fight between California cities for the franchise.
The Kings, already engaged in talks about moving south to Anaheim, will have the opportunity to discuss their options at the NBA Board of Governors meetings April 14-15. The team has until April 18 to decide if it plans to relocate for next season. The deadline is usually March 1.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player, pledged that the city will do all it can to keep the Kings _ even if it doesn't appear to control its own fate.
"I think it's clear they are looking to try to strike or create a deal in Anaheim," Johnson said at a City Hall news conference shortly after the extension was granted. "It leads me to believe that if they don't get a deal, they'll stay in Sacramento. It's not the ideal situation that they're choosing Sacramento.
"It seems like we've kind of lost out on where we'd ideally like to be. It'd be great if we were competing with Anaheim. And if we did this and they did that, we have some say in it. I don't think Sacramento has a whole lot of say right now."
NBA Commissioner David Stern acknowledged during All-Star weekend that the Kings have had talks with officials in Anaheim about relocating to its arena. Sacramento has struggled for years to build a new facility, which Kings owners Joe, Gavin and George Maloof argue is crucial for the franchise's long-term financial viability.
Sacramento fans have been making last-ditch efforts to keep the Kings.
Billboards have sprouted up and a social-networking initiative helped sell out Arco Arena on Monday night for an emotional 105-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Fans made signs, wore body paint and chanted "Here we stay" while the Maloof brothers sat courtside.
Johnson, who also was in attendance, said he plans to meet with the Maloofs and speak with Stern again this week. Johnson said he already has spoken with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and it was clear that the Southern California city is making a hard push for the Kings.
"I'm wishing them ill will, let me be clear," Johnson said. "We're wishing them ill will. I told that to the Anaheim mayor in a delicate way last week. I am rooting against him."
California's cash-strapped capital city will have to move quickly if it plans to remain an NBA city.
Anaheim has been searching for an NBA team to share the Honda Center with the NHL's Ducks practically since the former Arrowhead Pond opened in 1993, flirting with the Clippers before owner Donald Sterling chose to move into Staples Center in 1999. Honda Center has been meticulously maintained and improved over the years, with excellent sight lines for basketball and 83 luxury suites, compared to just 30 suites at Arco Arena.
A message left at Tait's office seeking comment was not immediately returned. Johnson said Sacramento will work to build a new sports arena with or without the Kings.