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NBA may not visit Anaheim

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Sacramento has gotten no word from the National Basketball Association that the Kings are staying in town – but the league doesn’t have plans yet to visit Anaheim, an NBA official said Friday.

League staff members will be in Sacramento Monday to collect more detailed information about financial support for the Kings and a new arena following a two-day visit Thursday and Friday by an NBA attorney and NBA Relocation Committee Chair Clay Bennett, who owns the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Bennett will report back to his committee next week, said Tim Frank, the NBA’s senior vice president of Basketball Communications.

However, NBA officials have not scheduled a similar fact-finding mission to Southern California, Frank said.

"No trip planned at the moment for Anaheim," he wrote in an email.

The Kings’ owners, the Maloofs, said Friday they have not yet made a decision about whether to file a relocation request to move the team. The deadline is May 2.

On Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other elected official asked the NBA to give the region a year to show they will be able to replace Power Balance Pavilion with a new home for the Kings.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday afternoon NBA officials said they expect the Kings to stay in the state capital for the next year. However, the NBA has not told this to the city of Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson said in a late-afternoon press conference.

"I have not heard that from David Stern’s mouth. I have not heard that from Clay Bennett," said Johnson, who called the claim "too premature."

"I haven’t heard anything close to that, by any means."

Still, Anaheim didn’t sound like the happiest place on earth Friday. Mayor Tom Tait issued a brief statement saying he didn’t want to respond to "unconfirmed reports."

“As we have said all along, Anaheim is an NBA-ready city,” he said in a prepared statement. “We put forth a great presentation at the NBA Board of Governors meetings in New York. And we are confident that we have established this region as a stand-alone market and that the NBA looks favorably on our city, our arena and our fans."

Anaheim city officials didn’t wish to comment on the NBA having no visits scheduled for Anaheim, said Ruth Ruiz, spokeswoman for the city manager’s office.

"That would be a decision for someone in the NBA to make," Ruiz said late Friday afternoon.

George Maloof told Johnson early this week they want to let Bennett and the NBA gather information before further discussing a possible move with the NBA or the city of Sacramento. The Maloofs repeated that in a prepared statement sent out Friday in response to reports the NBA has decided keep the Kings in Sacramento.

"We await the results of the fact-finding visit that the NBA made to Sacramento the past two days," according to the statement. "We have not made a decision with regards to relocation filing, and will not make that decision until we have more information from the NBA."

Johnson thanked Kings fans, the business community and other elected officials for their help in fighting "tooth and nail" to help keep the Kings in Sacramento.

By Friday, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, city and others had raised more than $10.2 million in pledges of financial support for the Kings if they stay.

"Clay Bennett got a chance to sit down and look face to face with the people who made these pledges, and they didn’t flinch," Johnson said at City Hall.

NBA officials dined at Ella Thursday night and met from 9 a.m.- noon Friday with the Maloofs. Johnson said he rode to the airport with Bennett.

"They felt that our community had stepped up," Johnson said.

The mayor said NBA officials indicated they will say next week when they expect to make a decision, after meeting with the Kings and the Sacramento region’s corporate community to discuss those pledges.

City officials and business leaders will have to wait until late May when an arena feasibility study is complete to start determining how new arena construction might be financed, he said.

Using a basketball analogy, Johnson said he no longer feels like Sacramento is behind in the game by 20 points. But he also doesn’t yet feel like Sacramento has won the fight to keep the Kings.

"We’ve shrunk that lead to something manageable," he said. 


Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.

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