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Here They Stay: NBA Owners Reject Kings Relocation

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, May 16, 2013
It started a couple years back with the slogan "Here We Stay" - a chant by fans who would not leave what they feared was the final game in Sacramento Kings history.  Then, it was "Here We Build" - the push for a new arena.   On Wednesday, you could say it was "Here We Wait" - as Kings fans sat through hours of suspense before finally hearing the news they longed to hear: their team is staying home.
"Hurry Up and Wait"
It was mid-afternoon in Dallas, early afternoon in the two west coast cities whose NBA fate was being weighed right at that moment inside the ballroom at a Dallas hotel room.  And outside, the media and fans from both cities waited - and waited - and waited.
Kings fan Mike Tavares just flew in that morning.  "We left around - well, past midnight," he said.  "But we had two delays.  But we got here maybe 9, 9:30.  And we've been sitting here.  And it's, what, 3:00 I think?"
Tavares and about a dozen other Sacramento and Seattle fans hung out in the hotel lobby, watching and waiting.  "It's kind of a hurry-up-and-wait kind of thing," he said.  "You see the owners come through, and then it dies down.  Then you see the [Seattle investor Chris] Hansen group go through - quiet again.   And then you see [Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's] group…"
The meeting started around 11am Pacific time.  Hansen's group made its presentation first.  Then came Johnson and his group.  And then, for about an hour and a half, the 30 owners met alone.
Kings fan Valissa Lewis was nervous: "Are we gonna keep our team or are we not?" she wondered.
Others were more confident, saying that momentum - and the NBA Relocation Committee's recommendation - were on Sacramento's side.
The Wait Ends

The wait officially ended around 3:15pm in Sacramento, when NBA Commissioner David Stern made this announcement: "The NBA Board of Governors voted to reject the relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle."
The vote, he said, was 22 to 8.  "This was not an anti‑Seattle vote; this was a pro‑Sacramento vote."
Stern said Sacramento has done everything the NBA asked it to: match the Seattle group's offer, find an ownership group and approve an arena project.  Given that, he said, there was no reason to move the team.
Not Over Yet

But the anti-relocation vote is only half the battle.  The other half is securing the sale from the Kings' current owners, the Maloof family, to the investor group organized by Mayor Johnson   that's promised to build a downtown arena.
The commissioner said he hopes that will happen in the next day or two.  "We think that because the Maloofs have overall been very good for Sacramento and the Kings and the NBA, that they will be motivated to do something fast so that the franchise can get cranking," Stern said.
Lead Sacramento investor Vivek Ranadive says his group is ready to go.  "Our lawyers have been talking for some time, and we believe we can get this done very quickly," he said.
Emotionally exhausted Kings owner George Maloof wouldn't rule out the possibility his family would keep the team - and sell a minority stake to the Seattle investor group.  On the other hand, he said he respected the league's decision and said talks with the Sacramento group have been ongoing for weeks.  "The mayor did a great job, put a great team together, and so we'll see what happens," Maloof said.  "It's not over.  We'll just see what happens."
Lead Seattle investor Chris Hansen issued a statement.  He admitted "extreme disappointment" but reiterated his hope to join the Maloofs as limited partners.
That doesn't seem to be what most people in Sacramento want - nor, it appears, the NBA.  But after exulting in his city's "proud moment," Mayor Johnson went out of his way to praise the Maloofs.
"Had they not created an environment where they could have accepted the back‑up offer, we would be dead in the water," the mayor said.  "So we owe them a debt of gratitude for the commitment they've had in our city for over a decade and certainly allowing us to have a back‑up offer."
A few minutes later, Johnson sat down with George Maloof for a private talk.
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