[UPDATED with Team Staying Put a Year:] Sacramento Kings in Serious Talks to Move to Anaheim

Categories: Sports
UPDATE, MAY 2, 1:10 P.M.: We just had a royal wedding. Now comes a Royals funeral.

After months of negotiations, seemingly done deals and obviously un-done deals, the NBA's Kings are staying in Sacramento at least one more season, dashing hopes of regular season home games by the renamed Anaheim Royals in the Honda Center for the 2011-12 campaign.

The Maloof brothers, who own the team, are waiting a year to give Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson time to firm up plans for a new arena, something voters up there have repeatedly rejected.

"The mayor of Sacramento has told the NBA relocation committee that he will have a plan for a new arena within a year," co-owner Joe Maloof tells the Associated Press. "If not, the team will be relocated to another city."

Johnson quickly raised $10 million in Sacramento corporate sponsorships to keep the team in Cowtown. The Kings had until today to inform the league whether it intended to move.

Anaheim, whose Honda Center is the home of the NHL's Ducks, has awaiting an NBA franchise an arena with better sight lines and lucrative corporate suites. Maloof today praised the city and the support it showed trying to woo the Kings saying, "I am sure that Anaheim will have a team some day."

But he added that giving Sacramento one last shot is "the fair thing to do."

The Kings later in the morning released a statement re-expressing that appreciation to Anaheim and Honda Center operator/Ducks owner Henry Samueli:

In making our decision to remain in Sacramento for the 2011-12 season, we cannot do so without thanking the City of Anaheim for its foresight and support in diligently working toward bringing NBA basketball to Orange County. Mayor Tom Tait, City Manager Tom Wood, and the members of the Anaheim City Council are ambitious, hardworking leaders and have done everything possible to attract the greatest entertainment options in the World to their community.
Of course, we are indebted to the tireless efforts of Henry and
Susan Samueli, whose professionalism and desire during this process were second to none. The Samuelis are a true visionary family dedicated to bettering the Orange County community in which they live and work. We also would like to thank Michael Schulman, who spent the past several months working with the Anaheim Arena Management staff to spearhead efforts to make the Honda Center home to a professional basketball franchise.

Through the Los Angeles Times, Schulman issued a loooong statement of his own that begins reading like a pitch to other disappointed NBA franchise owners out there:

We are disappointed in today's developments but remain very optimistic about the long-term future of the NBA in Anaheim. We wish the Maloof family and City of Sacramento well and hope they are successful in their endeavors. Since we began working toward bringing an NBA franchise to Orange County, we have maintained that this process is about getting a team for the fans, as basketball is a sport loved by Southern Californians. With the nation's second most populous region, one which serves as home to nearly the same number of people as the entire state of Texas, we are continuing our pursuit of an NBA team for our venue.

Southern California has long proved its ability to support major league sports franchises, yet both of our area basketball teams share an arena in the northern-most part of the region. If an NBA franchise came to Anaheim, nearly 10 million people will have greater access to regularly attend professional basketball games due to the location of Honda Center.

Recently listed as one of the five most successful arenas in North America (along with Staples Center), Honda Center is without question a leader in the industry. With that in mind, our pursuit continues and we look forward to securing a franchise for area fans in the very near future.

The NBA oughta go MLB and the Dodgers: take over the Clippers and move them down here already.

UPDATE, APRIL 26, 2:41 P.M.: After a weekend of reports claiming its unlikely the Sacramento Kings will move to Anaheim before next season--if ever--Anaheim officials expressed confidence that their proposal remains the best one on the table for the NBA franchise.

ESPN, Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times are among the media outlets that have reported the NBA will likely block a move despite the wishes of Kings ownership.

That assessment came after NBA Relocation Committee members seemed giddy with delight over a presentation to keep the city where it is led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Afterward, committee members seemed to have lost interest in coming to Anaheim to hear what officials there have to say.

Meanwhile, Lakers and Clippers representatives are making full-court presses against a third team moving into the Southern California market, with some reporting the World Champs alone stand to lose a half billion in TV revenue over 10 years should Anaheim get a team. With the league heading into a possible player lockout after the playoffs, the NBA seems more keen on keeping Jerry Buss and Donald Sterling happy than they do the Maloof brothers.

That may explain the NBA Commissioner's "what-if" last week, when David Stern told the Associated Press the league may delay a move a year to give Johnson and Sacramento bigwigs more time to build a new arena suitable for the franchise.

The Honda Center walls seemingly collapsing promoted Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait to issue a statement saying, ""We are confident that we have established this region as a standalone market and that the NBA looks favorably on our city, our arena, and our fans."

That was before today, when Johnson and 30 representatives from Sacramento-area businesses essentially met the NBA's demand to "show me the money," signing deposits on more than $10 million in sponsorship pledges as a "down payment" on a new home for the Kings.

ESPN's Bill Simmons now writes that Sacramento, aided by money and luck, have checkmated Anaheim. In building his case, he writes this:

When Anaheim approached them about relocating the Kings there, the Maloofs asked the city to pay for the relocation fee -- determined by the other 29 owners based on the perceived value of the new market compared with the old one, which means that fee could climb as high as $75-100 million -- and lend them money to cover their debts on top of that. What a deal! So Anaheim gets a terrible basketball team and a ton of debt, plus, it doesn't get to own the team. How can the city turn that Godfather offer down?

Simmons then boldly predicts:

. . . the league will pay full price for the Kings (or close to it), use them as lockout leverage (along with the Hornets), then work with Johnson and Sacramento on finding new ownership after the lockout. It's the right move. There's every reason to believe that Sacramento could turn into Oklahoma City or Portland in the right hands. But it needs the right hands. And those hands need to be able to write checks that pay for stuff.

Hey, Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli has hands like that, too!

The Maloofs still have until May 2 to let the league know they officially want out of Cowtown.

UPDATE, APRIL 21, 9:16 A.M.: The NBA Relocation Committee slithers into Sacramento City Hall this morning, and there to greet them will be workers from Power Balance Pavilion (formerly Arco Arena). They will not be there to usher the power brokers to their seats, serve them overpriced suds or point them to the mens. The members of SEIU United Service Workers West are fighting to keep union jobs in Sacramento from going to Anaheim's non-union Honda Center.

A statement from SEIU--which represents more than 40,000 janitors, security officers, airport service workers and other property service workers across California and more than 2 million across North America--says the goal of the rally is "to highlight how the loss of the Kings means the loss of good jobs in Sacramento." It continues:

"Many Power Balance Pavilion workers, through their union contract with the Kings and the arena, earn wages and healthcare that allow them to provide for their families and contribute to the economic well being of the region. Workers and community members fear that if the Kings were to move to Anaheim, where the same jobs are non-union, Sacramento will not only lose good jobs and a beloved team, but the community of Anaheim will also be hurt by subsidizing poverty-wage jobs."

Tip off is 11:30 a.m. in front of  Sacramento City Hall.

Meanwhile, Gustavo's buddy and Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton writes that the United Auburn Indian Community pledged $1 million to help keep the Kings in Sacred Cow Town. The tribe was apparently impressed by a presentation Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made at Thunder Valley Casino.

Ron Burkle
UPDATE, APRIL 20, 11:49 A.M.: The forces fighting to keep the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento have been hitting their jumpers all week.

The forces fighting to bring the franchise to Anaheim famously have in their corner billionaire Henry Samueli, who owns the Anaheim Ducks and manages the Honda Center where the NHL team plays and the NBA's Kings/Royal would play.

Well, Sacramento has raised Anaheim a billionaire and added a second high-powered lobbyist.

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert has the scoop.

Lobbyist Darius Anderson and billionaire Ron Burkle have jumped into the battle to beat LA . . . of Anaheim.

For those who judge these things by scoreboard, Samueli was worth $2.7 billion in 2007, according to Forbes. Burkle, who owns Ralphs, Food4Less, Fred Meyer and the private equity firm the Yucaipa Companies (that employs Bill Clinton), and who sits on the boards of Yahoo!, KB Homes and Occidental Petroleum, and who is a major Democratic Party fund-raiser, had $3.5 billion as of 2008, so sayeth the Forbes.

Meanwhile, another high-powered Sacramento lobbyist, Rob Stutzman, says he's an eyelash away from having the 11,000 signatures from Anaheim residents needed to force a citywide vote on the $75 million bond measure the City Council earlier approved to lure the Kings. Wouldn't it be funny if Anaheim voters were ultimately as reluctant to approve Honda Center improvements as Sacramento voters have been in approving new digs for the Kings--which is what led the Maloof brothers to look south in the first place?

I don't mean funny "ha-ha."

Finally, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is meeting with NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday to seek further delay of a league decision on moving the Maloofs' franchise to Anaheim. The former NBA point guard is also getting an assist from Sacramento-area lawmakers convinced they can pass legislation to muck up a move.

Those looking at the half-empty or half-full glass of tea leaves up north claim all these powerful forces will combine to delay a move to Anaheim until at least after the next NBA season. 'Cause if there's one thing they have perfected in Sacramento, it's feet dragging.

The Commish
UPDATE, APRIL 15, 2:04 P.M.: After hearing pitches for and against a Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim, the NBA Board of Governors extended the deadline for the Maloof brothers to file for relocation from April 18 to May 2.

The extra time is intended to allow the board to hear more about proposals from Kings ownership as well as other groups trying to keep the NBA franchise in California's capital city.

League Commissioner David Stern, via an Orange County Register report, says the board needs to check out "revelations" made by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is fighting to keep the team where it is.

While praising the Anaheim proposal, Stern also mentioned that details involving TV revenue, the appropriate relocation fee and raised revenue projects in the Honda Center need further investigation by the board.

The commish, who reiterated the outdated Arco Arena is the main stumbling block for supporters of keeping the team in Sacramento, said the deadline extension was sought by parties on all sides.

Still waiting for closure.

UPDATE, APRIL 14, 10:52 A.M.: Ownership of the Sacramento Kings is making its pitch to move the franchise to Anaheim to the NBA Board of Governors today.

Joe and Gavin Maloof, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, Anaheim City Manager Tom Wood and Honda Center manager and Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli are among the officials in New York pushing for the new Anaheim Royals.

Plenty of those who oppose the move will also address the NBA overlords, however.

Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who all oppose the move, were also at the hearing, reports the Los Angeles Times, which claims opposition could delay NBA regular season basketball in Anaheim by several months.

A majority of NBA governors must approve the relocation. The Kings have until Monday to formally notify the league that they are leaving Sacramento.

Meanwhile, a remark made Tuesday night by TNT analyst and former Kings star Chris Webber about buying the team and keeping it in Sacramento is being roundly written off as pie-in-the-sky thinking, although C-Webb did nab an on-air $10-million commitment from Sir Charles Barkley.

UPDATE, APRIL 6, 11:46 A.M.: State Senate speaker Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), a career politician who played rookie ball on Cowtown's City Council, has introduced legislation aimed at stopping the NBA's Kings from moving to Anaheim.

And, to hear Orange County legislators whose districts include parts of Anaheim tell it, Steinberg's ploy could work.

"Darrell's looking to blow up the deal through legislation. And he just might do that," state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) tells the Orange County Register. "I believe (the bill) will have some chilling effects on the transaction."

Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) warned Steinberg has "a lot of clout" in Sacramento. "I can't see him getting a lot of support," Norby reportedly said, "but you never know."

Steinberg vowed to introduce a bill during his weekly appearance on Sacramento radio station KFBK. The legislation would effectively prevent professional sports teams in one California city from moving to another California city until debts are repaid to the first city.

"We are one state,'' Steinberg said. "We shouldn't have one city picking off another.''

Sacramento city leaders claim the Kings owners, the Maloof brothers, still owe $77 million. The Kings counter they have a repayment plan in place with the city and have missed no payments.

In other relocation racket, a Sacramento political-action committee's petition drive in Anaheim aimed at stalling a move (see post below) will not work, according to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. In attempt to appeal to Anaheimers' fiscally conservative sides, the PAC is trying to convince them to force a citywide vote on the City Council-approved $75 million in bond funding to lure the Kings to the Honda Center.

But, in an email exchange with the Register's Eric Carpenter, Tait writes, "We've been very clear from the beginning that any NBA deal would be privately funded. Our actions as a city council last week assured that protection to our taxpayers."

Too bad the council didn't include protection from Steinberg.

UPDATE, APRIL 5, 10:13 A.M.: Foes of what appears to be the Sacramento Kings' impending move to Anaheim are doing the political equivalent of a final second heave at the basket from half court:

A petition drive in Toontown.

The Committee to Save the Kings--a political-action committee composed of Sacramento lawyers, former politicians and prominent fans--has sent signature gatherers into Anaheim neighborhoods in hopes of forcing a citywide vote on the $75 million bond the Anaheim City Council unanimously approved last week to further help lure the NBA franchise. "We are out to make sure our team stays here," Sacramento political strategist Rob Stutzman, who was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's communications director, tells the Orange County Register's Eric Carpenter. "We think there are real questions about why a public-finance authority is part of this deal at all, and we believe it's something that should be decided by the voters of Anaheim."

One wonders if Stutzman, who says he's been a Kings fan since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985, would be circulating petitions in Cowtown if his city council approved $75 million in bonds to keep the team.

Speaking of a similar chunk of change, Kings ownership has rejected the city of Sacramento's demand for written assurance the team will immediately pay its $77 million city loan if it leaves town.

The Sacramento Bee cites a letter to the city from the Kings' attorney Scott Zolke, who states the team will contact the city "at the appropriate time ... to establish a process for addressing the proposed timing and details of repayment" of the loan.

Hey, he forgot to add "if we even move at all." Hmmm . . .

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