Tomorrow, competing bidders from Sacramento and Seattle will convene in New York to make their pitches for ownership of the Kings in a joint meeting of the NBA's Relocation and Finance committees. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has already been in New York for days, since, as luck would have it, he had a wedding to attend there over the weekend. As we get down to the business portion of Johnson's trip, here's the latest on the Kings saga:
- On the eve of Wednesday's critical meeting in New York, there is trouble on the homefront in Sacramento, as a citizens' group filed a "notice of intent" to sue the city in order to block the proposed downtown arena, reports Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee. The "Coalition for Responsible Arena Development" intends to challenge last week's approval to finance the downtown arena on the grounds that it committed to construction and operation without completing environmental reviews.
- According to an Associated Press report (via NBA.com), Seattle fans have already requested 44,000 season tickets in the event that the team relocates. The prospective ownership group urged fans to join a "priority ticket waitlist" to display their desire for a team and the results have been "nothing short of stunning," according to Chris Hansen.
- State Senator and Sacramento native Darrell Steinberg will head to New York to join the group lobbying to keep the Kings in Sacramento on Wednesday, writes Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee. Steinberg will try to persuade the NBA's committees that the rallying effort of the city's political community is reason enough for Sacramento to keep their team. "There is political support for streamlining the regulatory process of environmentally sustainable and economically vital projects like the proposed Sacramento downtown arena," said a Steinberg statement released today.
- Lawyers for the longshoremen's union in Seattle are trying to expedite their appeal in response to a February ruling that rejected their lawsuit against a plan for a new arena in Seattle, reports Jon Humbert of KOMO-TV in Seattle (Twitter link). According to one of the union's lawyers who spoke to Aaron Bruski of ProBasketballTalk.com, there's strong public sentiment in Seattle against the arena plan (Twitter link).
- Johnson spoke to Sam Amick of USA Today about how he'll make his case on Wednesday, and explains how Vivek Ranadive became the primary investor in the group bidding to keep the team in Sacramento. Johnson also said he's not concerned about the notion that the Maloofs may decide to keep the team for a while if the league won't allow them to sell it to the Seattle group.
- Last we heard, a pair of Kings minority owners were considering exercising their right to match the offer for fellow minority owner Bob Cook's 7% stake in the team from Chris Hansen's group of Seattle investors. A source tells Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that other minority owners will indeed match the bid for Cook's share by Wednesday.
- In the same piece, Berger argues that while it may initially seem like a better financial move for the owners to approve a move to Seattle, the NBA should be worried about setting an unwanted precedent should the league ignore Sacramento's willingness to fund a new arena. Other cities may not be so eager to build if there's a chance their team will move away regardless.
- Tom Ziller of Cowbell Kingdom believes the presence of the Maloof family, which owns the Kings and has a deal in place to sell the team to Hansen's group, could be a negative for the Seattle bidders, considering how clumsy the Maloofs have come off in past presentations.
- In response to a source who told TNT's David Aldridge that the Seattle investors would announce an additional $20MM for improvements to Key Arena, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times reports Hansen and city officials are still negotiating over the arena upgrades, and no one has made an announcement yet. Still, a spokesman for Seattle mayor Mike McGinn says the city officials present at Wednesday's meeting will make it clear that the arena will be ready for an NBA team in time for next season.