SEATTLE — NBA commissioner David Stern, in his first comments on the topic, said Thursday there has been “no purchase or sale agreement” submitted in relation to the potential purchase of the Sacramento Kings by a group that would move the team to Seattle.
Otherwise, however, Stern shed little light on the situation while answering questions on a variety of topics during a news conference Thursday in London, where the New York Knicks played the Detroit Pistons.
Stern confirmed that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will be given a chance to address the NBA Board of Governors or the Relocation Committee this spring to state that city’s case. He said that’s a courtesy given cities that have been supportive of teams and that “Sacramento has been particularly supportive.”
Asked specifically about Seattle’s involvement, Stern said, “We are more or less in a series of communications, but right now we don’t know anything in terms of actionable plans.”
The NBA has otherwise not commented since reports surfaced last week that owners of the Kings, the Maloof family, were negotiating with a group from Seattle led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. If that deal was completed, the Kings could begin playing at KeyArena next season.
Several reports last week characterized the deal as either done or nearing completion.
There has been little news since, however, other than that coming out of Sacramento, where Johnson is leading a public charge to keep the team where it has played since 1985.
Johnson, a former NBA player, is attempting to put together a local ownership group to buy the team from the Maloofs and keep it in Sacramento, as well as revive a plan for a new arena. Each appeared to get boosts in the past week with several potential owners stating they would be interested in the team, and the entertainment group AEG saying it would again be interested in helping build the arena.
ABC News10 in Sacramento reported Thursday the Sacramento ownership group could be announced next week.
Hansen’s group has reportedly offered $525 million for the team. The Sacramento group could offer less because it would not have to pay a relocation fee that would likely be at least $30 million, as well as a $77 million loan the team has with the city.
As Stern confirmed Thursday, Johnson will get a chance to present that deal to the NBA to counter an offer from Seattle, if necessary.
Supporters of the Kings in Sacramento also have organized a HereWeBuy movement that has collected more than $15 million in pledges for season tickets if the team remains in Sacramento with a new arena. Supporters hope that further sways Stern and the NBA against allowing the team to relocate.
The NBA has a deadline of March 1 for teams to file for relocation. A sale would have to be approved at the NBA Board of Governors meeting in April.
Hansen has a tentative deal with the City of Seattle and King County to build a new arena in Sodo once he and his investment group secure a team.
Plans to build a $490 million arena were approved by the City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council last October, though the city remains in the environmental review process to evaluate locations.
Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008 when the Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City by owner Clay Bennett.
Hansen has spent the past year laying the groundwork for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.