Kevin Johnson says he’ll save Kings
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
SACRAMENTO — Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson swears he still has a shot to save his hometown team.
Johnson, the native son and former NBA point guard who has spent recent years trying to keep the Maloof family that owns the team from taking it elsewhere, told USA TODAY Sports on Friday night that Seattle hasn’t won this game just yet. Asked if his window had closed in light of a Wednesday report that the Maloofs and the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group were finalizing a deal to bring the NBA back to Seattle and more reports on Friday that the deal was done in principle for $525 million, Johnson spread his hands wide and smiled. The window, he swears, remains open.
“(NBA Commissioner David Stern) knows that I’m going to make a request to speak to the governing board (before any Seattle deal is formalized),” Johnson said, noting that the deadline to file for relocation is March 1.
Stern said Thursday night that potential buyers who might keep the team in Sacramento deserve a shot, even naming billionaire supermarket mogul Ron Burkle as one candidate.
“This will be decided by a committee of owners and the NBA’s board of governors with the advice of me but not leading the way,” Stern said on Thursday night.
As was the case when he made an impassioned and ultimately successful pitch at a board of governor’s meeting in New York to keep the team from going to Anaheim, Calif., in April of 2011, Johnson — who had an agreement in principle with the Maloofs and the NBA for a new arena last February before they backed out — is confident Stern will give him the time necessary to organize his effort.
While the prospect of engaging in a bidding war with someone with someone like Ballmer (reported net worth $17 billion) is daunting, Johnson has spent recent weeks rounding up local and outside investors who he is confident could come with a competitive offer. Because a Sacramento-based offer would not include a relocation fee and the new owners could assume the $77 million loan that the Maloofs … [For more on Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says he'll save Kings, click here.]