NBA committee recommends rejecting Kings move

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The NBA Board of Governors is expected to follow the recommendation by the relocation committee, coincidentally headed by Thunder owner Clay Bennett, already a reviled figure in Seattle. The other owners on the committee are Miami’s Micky Arison, Washington’s Ted Leonsis, Utah’s Greg Miller, Indiana’s Herbert Simon, Minnesota’s Glen Taylor and San Antonio’s Peter Holt _ who’s also the chairman of the board.

Even still, the Maloofs are not bound to sell the team to the Sacramento group. Johnson said he was unsure what the next step is in the process or whether the NBA would _ or could _ take a role in streamlining the team’s sale.

In a letter sent to the relocation and finance committees last week, the Maloofs said they preferred to sell to the Seattle group and expressed discontent with Sacramento’s latest bid, saying it falls “significantly short.” NBA Commissioner David Stern has said the offers are in “the same ballpark.”

Stern said owners felt leaving Sacramento just didn’t make sense. He also reiterated his long-held stance that expansion is unlikely at this time.

“As strong as the Seattle bid was, and it was very strong, there’s some benefit that should be given to a city that has supported us for so long and has stepped up to contribute to build a new building as well,” Stern said on NBA-TV.

Spokesmen for the Maloof family and Hansen declined to comment on the committee’s recommendation. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn pledged that his city will continue to fight for an NBA team.

“I’m proud of how Sonics fans have rallied together to help Seattle get a team,” McGinn said in a statement. “We’re going to stay focused on our job: making sure Seattle remains in a position to get a team when the opportunity presents itself.”

While the odds often seemed stacked against Sacramento, the city rallied each time.

In 2011, the Maloofs made plans to move the Kings to Anaheim, Calif., before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a “slow death” and compared the city’s efforts to keep the Kings to a “Hail Mary.”

Johnson delivered on his promise of a new arena plan _ which Stern helped negotiate _ before last season. But in a stunning move, the Maloofs backed out of the tentative deal for a downtown arena, saying it didn’t make financial sense.

The city of Sacramento and the owners broke off talks, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Cities such as Virginia Beach, Las Vegas and Kansas City surfaced as potential new homes.

In January, the Maloofs caught Sacramento _ and to a certain extent, the NBA _ by surprise when they announced the deal with Hansen’s group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom department store family.

Led by Johnson, Sacramento fought back to make the sale and relocation of the Kings tough for the league to recommend. He pushed a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million downtown arena through the Sacramento City Council _ complete with a $258 million public subsidy _ and lined up an ownership group to try to compete with the powerful Seattle contingent.

The potential Sacramento ownership group also includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, former Facebook senior executive Chris Kelly and the Jacobs family that owns communications giant Qualcomm. Johnson has touted the group as a “California team” with members from all over the country’s most populated state.

Johnson, a former NBA All-Star point guard known best by his initials “KJ,” also commended Seattle for its efforts and wrote that the Pacific Northwest city “no doubt deserves a team in the future.”

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