OAKLAND (CBS13) – Billionaire Mark Mastrov spoke publicly for the first time Friday about his bid to keep the Kings in Sacramento as NBA Commissioner David Stern said Mayor Kevin Johnson’s investor group must increase their bid if they hope to keep the basketball team.

“The counterbid has very strong people behind it but it is not quite there,” Stern said, comparing the strength of the Sacramento bid to Seattle’s bid.

It’s unclear by how much the bid must be increased, but the Sacramento bid to keep the Kings, as it stands, appears to be in trouble. Stern said at a press conference in Oakland as he attended the Golden State Warriors game.

Also coming out of the news conference, Stern said the Maloofs will not have the final say on who buys the team, and committees from both Sacramento and Seattle will meet in New York City next month before the NBA Board of Governors meeting.

Stern chose his words carefully but concisely discussing Sacramento’s bid and the need for more money to compete with Seattle’s reported $525 million offer.

WATCH: NBA Commissioner David Stern Press Conference

Asked to elaborate, the commissioner was succinct.

“It needs to be increased,” he said.

Stern also said he expects it will increase before the board of governors makes a decision in April on the Kings’ future.

The counterbid was formally submitted last week by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mastrov, who was also courtside Friday in Oracle Arena.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Kings,” Mastrov said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of meetings and a lot of time left, but we’re very aggressive and we plan to win.”

Mastrov also added his thoughts on Stern’s handling of the future of the Kings franchise.

“The commissioner is master in negotiations, so I look forward continuing our conversations with the NBA,” he said.

Stern said he would be speaking with Mastrov while in the Bay Area. When asked what role the Maloofs would ultimately be playing in determining where the Kings franchise goes, the commissioner appeared to take a verbal swipe at the brothers.

“If an ownership group has decided to exit our league, it doesn’t retain the ultimate right to tell us where the team will be located,” Stern said.

At Sleep Train Arena during the Kings game against the Phoenix Suns, Johnson didn’t talk dollars. He said Seattle set the bar high, but is confident the ownership group is playing to win.

If Johnson was at all concerned about the commissioner’s comment regarding Sacramento’s bid, he didn’t show it Friday night as he spoke to a swarm of reporters.

He says nothing has changed about what he said regarding the bid during his state of the city address.

“We have a strong bid and it’s competitive and I still stand by that,” he said.

The mayor says Sacramento is still in the game and that this journey is just the beginning.

“I would say we’re well positioned. We know that the owner group that we have together is more than capable, they’re well financed. They have the wherewithal. They know what they’re doing,” Johnson said.

Johnson says his priority is making sure he’s got an arena plan ready to go ahead of the April 3 meeting in New York City with Seattle.

“I believe we have the ownership group that is going to play to win. Sacramento, we’re a fighting city; we know how to grind wins out and this is going to be no different,” Johnson said.

CBS13 asked Johnson how long he’s known the bid was too low, but he reiterated the bid is a strong one. He also added that he’s going into the April 3 meeting confident and believes Sacramento has a compelling case.

Here are some key dates moving forward:

  • March 23: Sacramento City Manager John Shirey’s deadline for the arena deal.
  • March 24: The second “Here We Buy” game.
  • April 17: Kings take on the Clippers in their last home game.
  • April 19: The NBA Board of Governors meets in New York City to decide the fate of the Kings.
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