Mayors, millionaires and billionaires from Sacramento to Anaheim will descend on New York today to argue over the future of the Kings.
Anaheim officials are the latest to hop on the caravan. They announced they will attend the two-day NBA board of governors meeting at Manhattan's St. Regis Hotel. Their mission: Make a pitch for luring the Kings from Sacramento.
The Anaheim delegation will include Mayor Tom Tait and billionaire Henry Samueli, operator of the Honda Center arena and the man negotiating with the Kings. The group will "let them know this city is NBA-ready," Tait told his City Council on Tuesday.
Just hours after what could be the team's last game in Sacramento, the Kings' owners, the Maloofs, are expected to make their own case today for relocation. The Maloofs have until Monday to formally ask the league for permission to move but could do so earlier.
Separately, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will address the NBA's financial advisory committee, presenting a case for keeping the team in town or awarding the city another franchise in the future.
Normally, relocation requests are overwhelmingly approved. But the Kings' move to Anaheim could be complicated by the presence of two teams already in Los Angeles.
Last-ditch efforts continued to keep the Kings from leaving. To buttress Johnson's presentation in New York, the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce pleaded with businesses to commit to becoming corporate sponsors of the team.
Chamber President Matt Mahood was hoping for commitments of at least $5 million in time for Johnson's appearance. Mahood asked for pledges of at least $100,000 apiece for luxury suites, blocks of tickets or sponsorships.
"This is a unique opportunity for us to reshape the perception of Sacramento to the NBA Board of Governors," he said by email.
The save-the-Kings campaign got a tantalizing assist late Tuesday, when former Kings star Chris Webber said on TNT's "Inside the NBA" that he was working with a group trying to keep the team in Sacramento.
He declined to elaborate, but former Kings executive Greg Van Dusen said Webber wants to participate in a plan to restructure the city of Sacramento's loan to the Kings in order to ease the team's financial stress. Van Dusen was behind a proposal last month to refurbish Power Balance Pavilion, which was rejected by the Maloofs.
Van Dusen said Wednesday he doesn't know if a restructuring would make any difference in the Maloofs' deliberations.
"It's too early to tell," he said.
It's hard to say how much of a burden the loan is on the team's day-to-day operations. City officials say the Maloofs' annual payments on the loan come to about $5 million.
In any event, the loan has become a major issue because the city says the Maloofs must pay the entire $77 million immediately if the team leaves.
The Maloofs have refused to make a guarantee, saying only that they'll honor their obligations to the city. Their lawyer, Scott Zolke, in a letter to Assistant City Manager John Dangberg last week, hinted at litigation and said the city's "grandstanding will not be countenanced."
The Kings probably won't know their fate until sometime in early fall. That's when the NBA board of governors, consisting of every team owner, would vote on the Maloofs' relocation request.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has long been cool to the idea of a third team in the greater Los Angeles market. The owners of the Lakers and Clippers are widely expected to lobby against the move.
The fan blog Sactown Royalty said Lakers owner Jerry Buss, one of the league's most powerful owners, has been appointed to the relocation committee a small panel that will scout the Anaheim market and make a recommendation to the rest of the owners. Neither the Lakers nor the NBA would confirm the report.
A recent report on ESPNLosAngeles.com said the Lakers' lucrative new television contract would shrink by 10 percent if a third team moved to the L.A. area. That report could not be confirmed.