Mayor lays out plans to keep Kings in town

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SEATTLE — After more than a month of rumors and speculation surrounding Sacramento’s bid to keep the NBA Kings, Mayor Kevin Johnson finally delivered some clarity to the effort Thursday night.

During Sacramento’s annual State of the City event, Johnson announced that Mark Mastrov, owner of 24 Hour Fitness, will lead a group that will submit a bid Friday to buy the Kings from the current owners, the Maloof family.

Johnson also announced that Ron Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, will lead the effort to build a new arena in the Downtown Plaza area of Sacramento.

The Maloofs already have reached an agreement to sell the team to a group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who would relocate the team to Seattle beginning with the 2013-14 season.

That sale and the relocation, however, still needs to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors in April. Johnson’s hope is to present an offer that will compel the NBA to deny the Seattle sale and keep the team at home.

Johnson did not offer details of Mastrov’s offer other than to say “my understanding is that it will be a very strong and competitive bid.”

Yahoo Sports quoted what it called a high-level source that said the offer was “slightly lower” than that of the Seattle group, which paid $341 million to purchase 65 percent of the team and also put down a $30 million nonrefundable payment.

Thursday, no specifics were announced about the funding or the cost of an arena, though it is expected the city of Sacramento would contribute more than $200 million, which still needs approval from the City Council.

Johnson said he had been assured by NBA commissioner David Stern that Sacramento’s plan “will be given full consideration.” He also said he plans to be in New York for the Board of Governors meeting to “represent our community and build a compelling case” for why the team should not leave.

He noted that this is the third consecutive year Sacramento has had to fight to keep the Kings.

“As a city, we have done everything that the NBA has asked of us,” he said. “Each time the NBA put a challenge in front of us, we not only stepped up but we overdelivered. There is literally nothing more that we could have done, and I am convinced that in return for our efforts, the NBA will make the right decision (and keep the team in Sacramento).”

The involvement of Mastrov and Burkle in Sacramento’s bid to keep the team had been rumored and reported often since the news broke of the sale of the team to the Seattle group Jan. 21.

There had been some thought that each might be involved in the bid to buy the team. Instead, Johnson announced only Mastrov as part of the ownership group and Burkle with the arena plan. Johnson beat his self-imposed deadline of March 1 to announce the details.

Mastrov made a failed attempt to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

If the NBA turned down the Seattle bid, Mastrov’s group and the Maloofs would have to come to a separate sale agreement.

Johnson said that while he hopes Seattle gets another NBA team someday, “Let me be perfectly clear — let me be perfectly, crystal clear — it is not going to be this team. Not our team. No way. No way.”

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