Johnson, a former NBA All-Star guard, spoke to the league’s Board of Governors in New York yesterday for 30 minutes after a relocation presentation by the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, and Anaheim officials.
Johnson told owners his priority was to keep the team in Sacramento, California’s capital, as the city works to build a new entertainment complex. A group led by Pittsburgh Penguins billionaire co-owner Ron Burkle is willing to buy the Kings or take over a new franchise in Sacramento at a later date, Johnson said afterward.
“We felt very strongly that the Sacramento Kings were worth fighting for,” Johnson said at a news conference. “If anybody thinks that we’re going to sit on our hands and roll over and just let somebody leave town without putting up a good fight, they’d be gravely mistaken.”
Burkle’s group wants to keep a franchise in Sacramento, Johnson said.
“This is not meant to be a hostile takeover,” Darius Anderson, a member of Burkle’s group, said at the news conference. “We wanted to give an alternative group if the Maloofs opt to bring on additional partners, if they want to go ahead and sell and, if we lose the Kings, that the NBA has an alternative ownership group to bring an additional franchise at a later date.”
“No, we are not selling,” Gavin Maloof said in a text message when asked about the Burkle-led group.
The Maloof family has until April 18 to file an application with the NBA to move the franchise for the 2011-2012 season. The Kings have complained in recent years about a lack of luxury suites and amenities in Sacramento. The Kings were next-to-last among the NBA’s 30 teams in attendance this season, averaging 13,890 fans per game.
Sacramento, which has failed in past attempts to get a new arena built with taxpayer money, is going forward with an entertainment complex and arena plans regardless of whether the Kings depart, Johnson said.
“You have a community that’s much more poised and more sophisticated today in terms of the challenges that it takes to build a new entertainment complex,” he said.
The city expects to complete a feasibility study on a venue by the end of May, said Tim Romani, president and chief executive officer of ICON Venue Group.
“The question that we still have to work through, and we’re going to work through, is the funding model,” Romani said at the news conference.
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