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Saturday, April 16, 2011

K.J. tells owners to keep Kings in Sacramento


NEW YORK — Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson watched part of the Kings' season finale, then flew overnight across the country to meet with NBA owners.

News photo
Profound plea: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson speaks to reporters in New York on Thursday after making a presentation to NBA owners to keep the Kings in California's capital city. AP

His goal: Make sure that wasn't the last NBA game in California's state capital.

"We felt very strongly that the Sacramento Kings were worth fighting for. And if anybody thinks that we're going to sit on our hands and roll over and just let somebody leave without putting up a good fight, they would be gravely mistaken," Johnson said Thursday after a presentation in front of NBA owners.

Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are considering a move to Anaheim and must file a relocation application with the league by Monday. The league's owners are meeting in New York the next two days, and Johnson followed the Maloof group in speaking to them Thursday.

Johnson said he hopes the Maloofs choose to stay, but if not there was an ownership group headed by Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle that would be interested in purchasing the team from them or buying another team to move to Sacramento.

"We totally acknowledge that it's the Maloofs' decision as business owners to determine if it's in their best interests to go to Anaheim or stay in Sacramento," Johnson said. "I think we presented the alternative in that it makes sense to stay in Sacramento."

The Maloofs already have made one thing clear.

"The Maloofs are not going to sell the team," Kings spokesman Troy Hanson said.

Johnson stressed the viability of the Sacramento market to the owners and reminded them of the Kings' success in the city over the last 26 years. A former NBA All-Star, Johnson compared his adrenaline when he got dressed Thursday to that of a postseason game.

He revealed to the owners more than $7 million in corporate participation that he said was identified in less than a week and reiterated the city's commitment to building a new entertainment complex to replace the Power Balance Pavilion, whether the Kings remained to play in it or not.

"So for anybody that has concern, even in a down market, a down economy, that we as a community can't step up to a higher level in the 2011-12 season, they would be mistaken and we have to demonstrate that," Johnson said before the meeting.

Darius Anderson of the Anderson Burkle Group said Burkle's interest proves that. Johnson said the owners asked and were assured that Burkle's group would not seek to move the team.

"If this new ownership group comes to Sacramento, we will have a winning team. No doubt about it," Anderson said. "Ron knows how to win, he won the Stanley Cup two years ago, and he's made that same commitment going forward."

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