NBA officials now expect the Kings to play next season in
Sacramento, league executives told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Whether the team, which was about to seek permission to move to
Honda Center in Anaheim, stays in Sacramento beyond next season
remains to be decided. That will depend on city and county
officials and local businesses redeeming the pledges made by
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson before the NBA’s relocation
committee last week in New York, including support for a new
NBA officials now expect the Kings to play next season in Sacramento, league executives told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Whether the team, which was about to seek permission to move to Honda Center in Anaheim, stays in Sacramento beyond next season remains to be decided.
That will depend on city and county officials and local businesses redeeming the pledges made by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson before the NBA’s relocation committee last week in New York, including support for a new downtown arena.
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Commissioner David Stern declined Friday to compare the cities’ packages.
“That’s for the committee to decide,” he said from New York.
However, Stern confirmed the NBA’s continuing interest in Sacramento’s offer.
“Mayor Johnson made certain representations about community support that he had secured,” Stern said.
“The committee thought it would be prudent to send an NBA task force out to Sacramento to verify those commitments.
“And that is now what’s being done.”
The NBA officials agree that if the Kings live up to all of their pledges, the team is expected to stay in Sacramento long-term.
After a decade of failed negotiations for a new arena, with Stern involved in the most recent talks, washing his hands when they crashed, Sacramento officials had lost credibility with Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, as well as with NBA officials.
However, when Johnson presented his lavish package with the I’s dotted, the T’s crossed, the timetable specific and the funding package appearing to be credible, everything changed.
The officials agree that there was no problem with Anaheim’s offer, or any questions about Honda Center’s suitability.
Nevertheless, when Sacramento’s bid came in, Anaheim became, as one official put it, “immaterial.”
More NBA staffers are expected to visit Sacramento next week to pore over the details.
With the new May 2 deadline approaching, the relocation committee is expected to convene late next week.
If Sacramento’s offer stands up, the committee is expected to recommend that the Kings remain in the city for next season.
If the Maloofs still wanted to leave, they would be in the position of having to ask the same committee and league officials for approval.
The only other option is the nuclear one: an antitrust suit.
An official close to the Maloofs said they had been torn over the same issue: whether to move now or stay another season and then reassess their options.
Strapped for cash with the family business, the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, in financial straits and no faith in Sacramento officials, the Maloofs were intrigued by Anaheim’s possibilities.
Nevertheless, there was no missing how bad the timing was.
Moving next season would mean bringing down a young Kings team that went 24-58 this season and finished 14th in the 15-team Western Conference. In addition, the looming possibility of an NBA lockout would threaten to shorten or cancel their debut season in Anaheim.
Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, a member of the relocation committee, visited Sacramento this week and was received as royalty by city officials, Sacramento County officials and Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tempore of the California state Senate, as well as Johnson, a former NBA star.
Officials say Bennett’s initial report noted that Johnson’s pledge of $9.2 million in purchases of luxury suites and season tickets by local businesses has been exceeded.
Suggesting the importance of the welcome, league officials contrasted the situation to the one in Seattle, where political support never materialized and the team — owned by Bennett — bolted to Oklahoma City in 2008.
If the Kings remain in Sacramento, amid expectations they will stay if local politicians and businesses fulfill their obligations, it will be a bitter disappointment for Anaheim officials and Ducks owner/Honda Center operator Henry Samueli, who were deep into the process and, until last week, expected to land the Kings. The franchise had applied for copyright protection for its new/old name, the Royals, which is what the team was called when it played in Rochester, N.Y., and Cincinnati.
Anaheim approved a $75 million bond package to upgrade Honda Center and pay the Kings’ relocation fees to the NBA.
— Story by Mark Heisler and Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times