As two cities struggle over the future of the franchise, Sacramento Kings fans on Monday kicked off an intense effort to have a say in the outcome.
A fan group launched a website asking people to make nonbinding commitments to purchase season ticket packages in a new Sacramento arena should new owners emerge here for the Kings.
Meanwhile, a petition asking NBA Commissioner David Stern to allow a local ownership group the opportunity to match a bid by interests seeking to move the Kings to Seattle eclipsed 7,700 signatures.
The Maloof family, which owns the Kings, is in talks to sell the franchise to a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer. Hansen and Ballmer would move to the team to Seattle next season.
Yahoo Sports, quoting NBA sources, reported Monday that the league's relocation committee was briefed last week on the broad outlines of a proposed sale of the team to the Hansen group.
The relocation committee would be in charge of recommending to the NBA board of governors whether the team should be moved to Seattle. The committee is chaired by Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett who bought the Seattle SuperSonics and moved them to Oklahoma in 2008.
According to Yahoo, the Seattle group is negotiating to buy the 65 percent of the Kings controlled by the Maloofs.
The Maloofs control that piece in tandem with Oklahoma businessman Bob Hernreich, a source familiar with the team's finances told The Bee.
The Maloofs own 53 percent and Hernreich owns 12 percent.
Eric Rose, spokesman for the Maloofs, declined comment.
Hernreich couldn't be reached for comment.
After simmering for days, the fan movement to keep the Kings in Sacramento reached a new level on Monday.
Led by local radio personality Carmichael Dave whose real name is Dave Weiglein some of the fans who have worked the past two years to keep the team in town launched HereWeBuy.org, a website asking for other fans to pledge to season ticket purchases. The movement, Weiglein said, is aimed at "proving that this market is not only viable, it is rabid and really has been jerked around by the current ownership situation."
If a new ownership group keeps the team in town and builds a new arena, the list will be given to the Kings' sales staff.
As of late Monday, more than 2,100 fans said they would buy tickets at a total value of more than $7.3 million.
Businesses can also pledge sponsorships at the website.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is working to assemble ownership groups that would try to buy the franchise from the Maloofs and keep the team here.
Some names of interested owners have emerged, including Sleep Train executive Dale Carlsen and Bay Area investor Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24 Hour Fitness.
"We're just trying to provide (the potential local owners) with enough cover and support as possible," Weiglein said. "It's so frustrating to be stuck in the middle like children in a marriage that's falling apart and not be able to do anything. This is the people end of the movement."