Mayor Johnson In Houston Making Case To Keep Kings

HOUSTON (CBS13) – Mayor Kevin Johnson arrived in Houston early Friday morning for NBA All-Star Weekend intent on making his case to NBA owners that the Kings should stay in Sacramento, and those close to Johnson tell CBS13 he had a successful first day.

“First of all, they know I’m not going to give up and our community is not going to give up,” he said after arriving at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. “Two years ago we were able to convince them and the Maloofs not to go to Anaheim and stay in Sacramento, so we’ve done this dance, been a part of this rodeo.”

Lobbying for Sacramento during All-Star weekend is nothing new for KJ. He pushed for owners not to allow the Maloofs to move the team to Anaheim two years ago and then last year he was in Orlando with the Maloofs and NBA Commissioner David Stern to work out a downtown arena deal, a deal the Maloofs eventually walked away from, saying it wasn’t a good fit.

He’s got another tough job ahead of him, however, with the Maloofs already having reached a sales agreement with a Seattle group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer for a reported $341 million for the Maloofs’ majority share of the team.

Johnson also hasn’t announced the major investors interested in purchasing the team and keeping the Kings in Sacramento despite promising weeks ago to name them. There’s also the matter of restarting the downtown arena project, which was killed after the Maloofs walked away from it.

“I would say in the absence of a concrete (Sacramento) plan, initially you would say it looks like they are going to Seattle,” ESPN NBA reporter David Aldridge said. “But certainly Kevin Johnson has been very good at putting together local support.”

USA Today reporter Sam Amick, who used to cover the Kings for the Sacramento Bee, also said Johnson has a tough job ahead of him. The sale to Seattle needs the approval of the rest of the NBA owners and they’re expected to vote during their Board of Governors meeting in April.

“To me it’s a matter of a script reading one way now. His job out here is to help the Board of Governors rewrite that script a little bit,” Amick said. “Because of his background, he has the ability to walk up and meet and greet and schmooze and do what a politician does. This is a different type of campaign that he’s running right now.”

Earlier this week, Stern said the Kings leaving Sacramento would not be a good idea but that a team returning to Seattle, which lost the Sonics in 2008, would be.

Johnson responded to that Friday, saying, “The fact that a team left Seattle was probably not good and certainly a team leaving Sacramento would not be good. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We want to keep our team and we root for Seattle down the road.”

Clay Bennett, who moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, is the head of the relocation committee reviewing the Kings’ proposed move to Seattle.

CBS13’s Steve Large asked Bennett about his conversations with Johnson and he said, “I’m not having any.”

Johnson is getting an assist, however, from former NBA owner Jerry Colangelo.

“One thing about Kevin, he’ll ask for help and I’m more than welcome to be there for him,” Colangelo said.

Collangelo was the Phoenix Suns’ owner when Johnson played point guard on the team. Now it’s Collangelo, giving pointers on how to convince owners to keep the kings in Sacramento.

“Well, I’ve shared specifically what he needs I do selling his case and community. He’s a great guy to have leading the charge. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have being the point man,” he said.

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