Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said today he has been talking to investors who could form a local group to bid for the Sacramento Kings.
Johnson said he's been talking to various potential groups. "I cannot identify them," he said. "There's been more than one."
"I want the community to know that we're going to fight like crazy to get to where we need to be," he said.
In a late afternoon press conference, Johnson said he had not heard about the team's potential sale to a Seattle investment group until today. "I can't substantiate everything going on in Seattle. I found out when everyone else did. Some tweet went out....and everything went crazy," he said.
But the mayor, noting the NBA's March 1 deadline for relocation requests, said he has been working on finding potential local owners for some time. Such a group could include monied interests from outside of town, but it would need to include Sacramento members and commit to keeping the team in the capital, he said.
The Kings' owners are engaged in talks with a Seattle investment group about a possible sale, a source told the Bee today, but he and another source denied a media report that a deal is at hand.
The talks have been "conceptual," said one source, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter. The online media report about a pending sale "is premature," another source said. That person said the Seattle group has not made a formal offer to the Maloof family, owners of the Kings.
Previously, the Maloof family said it is not willing to sell the team. The family has softened that position, the second source said.
"If someone was to put a crazy number on the table, their perspective could change," he said. "If somebody like a (Chris) Hansen (the head of the Seattle group) were to actually make an offer, which hasn't happened yet, and that offer was ridiculous, things could change."
"Nothing crazy has happened yet."
Those comments came today in the wake of a Yahoo! Sports report today that the Seattle group and the Kings' owners are close to finalizing a sales deal.
Citing anonymous NBA sources, Yahoo columnist Adrian Wojnarowski wrote the team is very close to signing a roughly $500 million deal with the deep-pocketed Seattle group led by Hansen, the financier who has a tentative deal in place to build a new arena in that city, and Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer.
Yahoo said the team would play at old KeyArena for two years and then move into the proposed new building.
No agreement has been signed, Yahoo reported, but said a source with knowledge of the talks described the deal as "first and goal at the 1."
Kings representative Eric Rose said Wednesday that the team had nothing to report. He has acknowledged, however, that the Kings have been approached by numerous cities interested in wooing the team.
The Kings owners rejected a deal in Sacramento last year for a new downtown arena to replace aging Sleep Train Arena in Natomas. Since then, rumors have been rampant about a possible move by the team to a new city.
The team reportedly was in serious talks until recently with Virginia Beach, VA. officials about moving to that city. The Virginia Beach mayor announced Tuesday that deal was off, because the team and the potential arena operator could not come to a lease agreement.
Today's rampant speculation about the future of the Kings began last night after a food blogger tweeted that a deal between the Kings and the Seattle group was complete. That tweet was later removed. But reports swirling on the Internet have swung wildly today -- from initial posts saying the deal was almost done to later reports that the Maloofs have rejected Seattle's overtures.
NBA officials declined comment Wednesday, as did a representative for Hansen. His group has been working for the last year to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle. The SuperSonics left the city following the 2008 season. The Hansen group has signed a financing deal with the city and county, purchased the land for the arena and launched an environmental review for construction of the $490 million facility.
At a press conference Wednesday announcing his re-election plans, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said Hansen buying a team for the planned arena was "the next piece of the puzzle." But, he said, he could not confirm that a deal to lure the Kings to Seattle was finalized and said he had not spoken to Hansen since today's news broke.