Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is taking his fight to keep the Kings in California's capital city to NBA owners.
Speaking at the annual State of Downtown breakfast on Tuesday, Johnson said he has received approval from NBA Commissioner David Stern to present a counteroffer to the league from buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento. He said the city is in a "six-week sprint" to put together a proposal for the NBA's Board of Governors to consider over a potential sale and relocation to Seattle.
The league's deadline for teams to apply for a move for the next season is March 1, though that has been extended each of the last two years for the Kings. And both times, Johnson — a former NBA All-Star — has convinced the league that Sacramento could help fix the franchise's financial woes and secure its long-term home in a new arena.
"We want this to be the final act of a saga that's gone on for far too long," Johnson said.
People with knowledge of the situation said last week that a group led by San Francisco-based investor Chris Hansen, who wants to return the NBA to Seattle, has contacted the Maloof family about buying the Kings. They spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no deal has been reached.
One person said the Kings could sell for more than $500 million, topping the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in 2010. Some reports have suggested up to $525 million.
The Kings' future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the Maloofs and the city haven't been able to agree on a deal for a downtown arena.
"While I am sensitive to the important role of the news media in informing the public, our position has not changed, we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the future of the Sacramento Kings franchise," Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose said in a statement Tuesday.
The NBA declined to comment on Johnson's remarks Tuesday.
Hansen's goal has been to find a team and restore the SuperSonics name after they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. He reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490 million arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.