SEATTLE - Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson responded to rumors that a deal is in the works to bring the city’s NBA team to Seattle, conceding that he believes the team’s owners are exploring opportunities to sell the team.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Johnson said there appeared to be three scenarios – First - same team, same owner. Second, new team, new owner. The third scenario, a new team with a new owner, looks likely now, he said.
“All indications that I have seen, read and heard is that (the owners) are exploring opportunities to sell the team," said Johnson.
Johnson, who seemed emotional at times, said he planned on working on keeping the Kings in Sacramento with a new ownership group and that nothing is final at this point.
"There's no guarantees. We're going to fight,” he said. “We will do everything we can to put ourselves in the driver's seat.”
Earlier Wednesday, a source told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Essex Porter that the Maloof family, which owns the Kings, and Chris Hansen, who purchased land to build a new area in Seattle, have been "talking for weeks" about a deal.
The source said that public confirmation of a deal could come from Sacramento late Wednesday.
Rumors of the deal that created a media firestorm were sparked by tweets posted by Daina Falk, the daughter of an NBA agent.
On Wednesday morning, Falk tweeted, "So I hear that the Seattle Kings is officially a done deal! The Maloofs finally sold the ailing Sacramento Team." She also said she heard the rumor from a friend “in the know.” The tweets were later deleted.
Overnight, Sports Illustrated fanned the fire by sending the tweet “Rumor: Maloofs sold the Sacramento Kings."
Meanwhile, Hansen told Dave Softy Mahler, a host on Seattle’s Sportsradio 950AM, that he “can’t comment on those things.”
Another tweet from Tony Bizjak, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, said “A Kings official has this to say on the twitter rumor Kings have been sold to Seattle group: That report is 'inaccurate.'"
A spokesman for the Maloof family said, "If we had something to announce, we'd announce it."
Hours later, Adrian Wojnaro, an NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports posted the following on sports.yahoo.com:
"The Maloof family is finalizing an agreement to sell the Sacramento Kings to a group that hopes to move the franchise to Seattle for the 2013-14 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The deal will sell the Kings for approximately $500 million to a group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer. The group is seeking to relocate the franchise to Seattle's Key Arena for the 2013-14 season.
The Seattle group's plans, with support of the NBA, is to play two seasons in Key Arena before moving into a new Seattle arena, sources said.
No agreement has been signed, but one source with knowledge of the talks described the deal as "first and goal at the 1." The Maloof's history of changing course late in negotiations still has some uneasy about getting the sale completed.
The Maloofs are expected to keep an extremely small percentage of the team, but will have no real input or say in the franchise, sources said."
Meanwhile, as Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced plans to run for a second term, the question had to be asked. Did he know anything about the rumors?
"I know as much as you do about the Sonics. But if it's true, ain't it cool!," exclaimed McGinn.