Anaheim’s effort to bring a third NBA team to Southern California reached its latest peak Thursday, as the Sacramento Kings’ owners explained their interest in making Honda Center their new home and the city’s mayor expressed his enthusiasm to Commissioner David Stern in New York.
Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof were joined by siblings George and Phil in making a 90-minute proposal to the NBA’s Board of Governors’ relocation committee about the benefits of a new home in Orange County.
A Kings’ spokesman declined to characterize the league’s reception of the Maloofs’ proposal, which comes amid opposition by the Lakers and Clippers and uncertainty about a looming summer labor battle.
The Kings’ official application for relocation to Anaheim has not been filed but probably will be before the NBA’s Monday deadline.
In preparation for a team expected to be known as the Royals, Anaheim has approved $75 million in bonds backed by companies of Henry Samueli, the Honda Center operator and NHL Ducks owner, for NBA relocation fees and arena improvements.
“With your approval, I hope to officially welcome the NBA and the Maloof family to Anaheim in the near future,” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait wrote in a letter he presented to Stern on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a billionaire’s 11th-hour entrance to stop the Kings from moving to Anaheim was met by a blunt response by the Maloofs. Team spokesman Troy Hanson said the brothers “will not sell” the Kings.
After the Maloofs’ presentation, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson told league officials that Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle is interested in either buying or investing in the franchise, or owning a new team in the market.
One basketball authority connected to the situation but unauthorized to discuss it publicly assessed Burkle’s late pitch as a bit of “grandstanding.”
The Maloofs have known Burkle for several years and it’s unclear if they’d want him as a limited partner.
Burkle, a co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, is “ready to commit the resources and expertise necessary,” according to a release from his Burkle Group, and to “deliver on a new facility,” which the Maloofs have sought to replace the existing Power Balance Pavilion formerly known as Arco Arena.
A sellout crowd attended what might have been the Kings’ final game in Sacramento on Wednesday, an overtime loss to the Lakers. The young team coached by Paul Westphal finished 24-58 and will have an NBA lottery draft pick.
The franchise was formerly in Rochester, N.Y., Cincinnati and Kansas City, Mo., and Omaha before moving to Sacramento in 1985.
In his letter to Stern, Tait touted the Orange County market as “distinct” from Los Angeles, noting the 7 million people living in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
“I know that we will fill the seats at the Honda Center when the NBA comes to town,” Tait wrote.
The Lakers and Clippers are opposed to the Kings’ move south, due to financial hits they’d expect to their television deals and ticket sales. Resistance by Lakers owner and league power broker Jerry Buss is an interesting variable.
Yet, some expect relocation approval by June because the majority of NBA teams recognize a business upgrade when they see it, with the increased television revenue and audience the Kings would enjoy as the Anaheim Royals.