Mayor KJ tells Seattle 'don't celebrate too early'
By Antonio Gonzalez ,APSACRAMENTO, California -- Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson had a stern warning for Seattle SuperSonics fans who are excited about the prospect of the NBA returning to the Puget Sound next season.
January 24, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
“Don't celebrate too early,” he said.
In front of a cheering City Hall crowd filled with fans and public officials Tuesday, Johnson introduced the first part of his four-step plan to keep the Sacramento Kings in California's capital city.
The three-time NBA All-Star guard turned mayor said he has secured 20 investors who have pledged at least US$1 million each to be part of a local group to buy the franchise. Johnson said the major partners he hopes will anchor the last-ditch deal to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle will be revealed as soon as this week.
A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that billionaire Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in “serious talks” to collaborate on Sacramento's bid, which would include a plan for a new downtown arena. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no agreement has been reached.
Burkle, a Southern California businessman and co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, expressed interests in buying the Kings two years ago. Mastrov was among the final bidders for the Golden State Warriors before Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team for an NBA-record US$450 million in 2010.
Offering more hope than substance so far, Johnson remained confident he can save Sacramento's only professional team from relocation again.
“We've been here before,” Johnson said. “Our backs have been against the wall. They told us it wasn't going to happen. But each and every step along the way, as long as there is time on the clock, our community always finds a way to stand up for itself.”
Unlike the last two years, Sacramento is up against a group that already has signed agreements to acquire the Kings and build a new arena for the franchise.