The Sacramento Kings are expected to remain in the California capital for at least next season, NBA officials told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
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The Kings’ owners, the Maloof family, have been considering a move to Anaheim’s Honda Center. The NBA set a May 2 deadline for the Maloofs to file their application for relocation.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a former NBA All-Star, met with NBA executives last week in New York, pledging that the city could support the Kings.
NBA commissioner David Stern dispatched Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett to Sacramento on behalf of the league to review and verify Johnson’s pledges. Johnson told Bennett on Thursday the local business community had already committed to $9.2 million in sponsorships and ticket purchases.
"Mayor Johnson made certain representations about community support that he had secured," Stern said Friday. "The [NBA relocation] committee thought it would be prudent to send an NBA task force out to Sacramento to verify those commitments. And that is now what’s being done."
NBA officials told the LA Times that Bennett’s initial report showed Johnson’s promise of $9.2 million had already been exceeded.
According to the report, the Kings are expected to remain in Sacramento long-term if the financial pledges materialize as promised by Johnson.
The committee is expected to meet again next week to review Bennett’s findings, the report said.
Johnson gave an update on the situation Friday, expressing optimism but maintaining that no decision by the NBA had been made.
"A week ago I would have said that in the battle to keep the Kings we were down by 20 points. Today, the game is tied," Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told The Associated Press on Friday that his family is still deciding whether to move the franchise to Anaheim, and he confirmed that NBA officials will be in Sacramento again next week to further research the city’s viability.
Maloof told AP he’s ”as anxious as anybody” to find out if Johnson can deliver on his promises for more sponsorship support and finally finance a plan for a new arena. He denied reports the team has already made a decision.
”There’s been no decision made,” Maloof told AP. ”As far as we’re concerned, we’re still looking at our options.”
The Maloofs’ desire to move the team came after a decade of failed negotiations with the city on a deal to build a new stadium to replace Power Balance Pavilion, which opened in 1988 as ARCO Arena.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Clippers owner Donald Sterling are believed to be opposed to the Kings moving so close to LA. Last week, the Maloofs indicated they would not pursue a move if it was strongly opposed by other NBA owners.
Any franchise relocation must be approved by a majority of the league’s 30 owners.