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Sacramento mayor to meet with NBA on Thursday

Photo: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson discusses the possible move of the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim during a news conference Tuesday. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will meet with members of the NBA's relocation committee in the state capital beginning Thursday to market his city's ability to keep the Sacramento Kings and construct a new sports-and-entertainment complex.

Johnson is attempting to further delay Kings' owners Joe and Gavin Maloof's effort to apply for relocation to Anaheim's Honda Center on May 2 -- a deadline the league extended last week from Monday to launch a "fact-finding" mission to both Northern and Southern California. 

"We are squaring off against everybody who thinks Sacramento can't support an NBA team, who thinks all we have are cowbells, loud fans and an old barn for an arena," Johnson wrote Tuesday on his city website blog. "And we are squaring off against ourselves, trying to overcome our image as a city that's short on corporate support, lacking Fortune 500 headquarters, unable to command big TV market dollars."

Johnson made an impressive presentation to the NBA Board of Governors last week.

Touting that he's recently mobilized up to $9 million in corporate support of the team, in both sponsorship and season-ticket buyers, Johnson told the league he's brought in Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle as a prospective investor capable of either buying the Kings, purchasing a minority interest, or financing a team that could move to Sacramento from elsewhere.

Like the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, for example.

"Our group's focus is on keeping the Kings here," Johnson spokesman Joaquin McPeek said.

Relocation committee chairman Clay Bennett of the Oklahoma City Thunder and NBA executive counsel Harvey Benjamin are scheduled to meet with Johnson and others, and may tour the partially city-owned downtown rail-yard plot where Johnson would like to construct a new arena.

"We're at the feasibility-study stage," McPeek said.

Johnson, a former NBA All-Star guard with the Phoenix Suns, is rallying support.

"On Wednesday, I will meet with regional elected leaders, updating them on our progress and gathering their input on our next steps," he wrote on his blog. "Regional support is critical as we move forward.
 
"A good, solid show of corporate support ... will make a huge impression on the NBA. The acknowledgement from regional leaders that we must explore options on a public-private partnership for a new events center will also keep Sacramento in the game.
 
"The league doesn't have to ask about our fan support. ... We had facts to back up our No. 1 status: 19 sellout seasons in 26 years, better than any team; a major-league, top 20 media market without competition."

-- Lance Pugmire

Photo: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson discusses the possible move of the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim during a news conference Tuesday. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 
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