Kevin Johnson talks Sacramento Kings relocation saga at Wednesday’s game against Wizards

Mayor Kevin Johnson courtside at the Kings/Pistons game.

After taking in LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Saturday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was back in Sleep Train Arena Wednesday when the Kings took on the Washington Wizards.  Johnson spent a good seven to eight minutes talking to a small group of media members from his courtside seat.  Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.

Johnson on the positive vibe right now in Sacramento regarding the Kings:

“I just feel that there were two big questions lingering over the last year.  Were they willing to sell and what was the number?  And a week ago we found out they were willing to sell and we know what the number is.  That puts us in the ballgame.  And we’re going to everything we can to surface a credible group of owners who have the resources and wherewithal to follow the criteria of ownership.”

Johnson on the potential “whale” that’s been mentioned as a potential buyer:

“I would acknowledge a whale or two and I think what people mean by a whale or two – are there equity investors that are willing to come up with the necessary resources to match or come up with something that’s fair and comparable to what’s being offered in Seattle?  And I will tell you, I said this, there’s not one or two, there are multiple who are very interested.  That’s good for Sacramento.  It says a lot about our community and our market.”

Johnson on what his job is moving forward:

“I think my job right now is to talk to all of the interested parties and make sure that we put a concerted effort that is unified to present the best, most compelling team and case that we can to both the Maloofs and the NBA to keep the team in Sacramento and I think we have an excellent shot of doing that.”

Johnson on whether he is surprised by the interest from potential buyers who want to keep the team in Sacramento:

“Once it leaked and once it became public that there was a potential deal in Seattle, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing.  And these are people that have significant dollars.  And these are people that want in at different levels.  It’s good for Sacramento.  It’s great when you’re community is the envy of a lot of folks who want to be a part of this community.  And I’ve said time and time to prospective owners, you’ve got to keep the team in Sacramento, you have to do an arena deal.  They want to be in this market – that’s awesome.”

Johnson on the character of Sacramento:

“Everybody here knows what we are fighting for and that’s good for Sacramento.  We’re a fighting community, we’ve been in this position before and I think our community has the tenacity and deserves to have an NBA team.  David Stern and the owners, they know how powerful this market is.  They know it’s special.  They know what a strong market can do with the right owners.  And I think we have an opportunity to do that.”

Johnson on whether he was born for this situation:

“I’m just happy that I’m mayor at this particular time.  I really am, as a mayor who played in the NBA.  I’ve said this before, I’ve lived in Phoenix and Phoenix’s downtown was like a ghost town.  And we built a new arena downtown and I saw first hand what an ownership and a community could do together.  And I think we have an opportunity to do that in Sacramento.”

Johnson on the potential local buyers for the Kings:

“I met with a group of local folks.  We’re still having ongoing conversations.  It’s a really tight time frame, so we know what we’re up against.  The clock is ticking, but I don’t think we’ll have any problem putting equity investors and local ownership together.  That won’t be a problem.”

Johnson on whether he has asked potential buyers to check their egos at the door and show a united front:

“Everybody understands what’s at stake.  We are all under one umbrella right now.  We’re unified.  We’re doing a concerted effort to really put Sacramento in position that we can present a fair and competitive offer and I think we have a really good shot of doing it.”

Johnson on the tight time frame:

“I wouldn’t say it’s an enemy (time).  It creates a sense of urgency.  And sometimes with a sense of urgency, that helps everyone involved.”

Johnson on what he hopes to have accomplished by All-Star Weekend:

“I’d hope to believe that we would have an ownership group in place and on track to be competitive going into the filing deadline which is March 1st.”

Johnson on the Sacramento Railyards arena site versus the potential Downtown Plaza site:

“We want the right ownership group to keep the team in Sacramento.  We want an arena downtown.  The city is ready to go forward with the arena at the railyard site.  If the same number and the same deal were similar on another site downtown, certainly it’s something we would consider.  It’s just a little too preliminary for us as a city to move from one site to the other at this point.”

Johnson on how confident he is that a deal can get done and keep the Kings in Sacramento:

“I just think it was really hard to keep the team from going to Anaheim and we did that. I think it was really hard to come up with a financing plan for a new arena in a down economy in California and we did that. We’ve had our back against the wall before. I think we have what it takes. I just hope all the pieces fall into place and we get an opportunity to present and submit a fair and competitive offer.”

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".