With Time Winding Down, Mayor Johnson Swears He Has a Chance to Save the Kings

Doug Pensinger

In an interview with USA Today, Mayor Kevin Johnson says that he is going to request to speak with the NBA Board of Governors and has rounded up local and outside money for a competitive offer in the $425 to $450 million range.

Mayor Kevin Johnson has been a beacon of hope in Sacramento over the past few years in terms of making efforts to keep the Kings in Sacramento. He convinced the Board of Governors in April of 2011 that Sacramento deserved an opportunity to come up with an arena deal to save the Kings after rounding up more local sponsors. He convinced his fellow local politicians that such a deal was both possible and feasible. He brought together groups like AEG and the NBA to work on such a deal and even got it to the point where it seemed like it was happening before the Maloof family backed out at the last minute.

Now Mayor Johnson has to do it again. In an interview with USA Today's Sam Amick, Johnson lays out some of his plan for keeping the team here and why he believes the city will get a fair shot.

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.

Johnson went on to say that a competitive offer from Sacramento's standpoint would likely be in the $425-450 million range.

"I think from my standpoint, we're thinking about 450, 425 to 450," he said. "There's a lot of due diligence that has to take place on both sides. But everybody we're talking to, who has some interest, they know the number is going to be pretty darn high. It's going to be over 400 for sure. The good thing is that there's not a shortage of people who are interested."

Due to the fact that a Sacramento based ownership group would not have to pay a relocation fee or a $77 million city loan, they do not have to match Seattle's offer dollar-for-dollar It was reported today by CSN's Matt Steinmetz that the Maloofs have a handshake deal with the Hansen/Ballmer group in the range of $525 million, although that report has not yet been confirmed by other sources.

Amick goes on to say that any Sacramento offer would have to involve a viable arena plan to even be considered by the NBA. This would almost certainly mean any potential buyer would have to agree to the arena plan that Mayor Johnson, AEG and the NBA put together this past year that was rejected by the Maloof family as there's no time to craft a new one.

A few names have made themselves known today as possible investors. Ron Burkle we have known about since the attempted Anaheim relocation attempt, but Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov was also interested.

Johnson says that he wants there to be a strong, unified response from Sacramento.

"What we need to do is to take a step back, get our process together, get organized and get a gameplan that makes sense," he said. "We don't all want to be bumping into each other. We don't want to be bidding against each other. We need to have one Sacramento offer that makes really good sense and put ourselves in a position of strength.

"We're going to get one shot to really put our best foot forward and we want to be able to do that. The clock is ticking. We know the March 1 deadline is looming, and we're going to work our way backwards from there.

"I feel very strongly that we will be able to produce a group that has Sacramento ties that can be competitive or at least comparable. I believe the NBA knows that we're a proven market...I want Seattle to get a team. They deserve a team, but I don't want it to be our team."

Well said, Mr. Mayor. A big tip of the hat to Sam Amick for getting that interview, I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety.

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