With one more procedural move, the Sacramento Kings took another step toward Seattle.
NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday night that the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, which recently reached an agreement to purchase the Kings, has formally filed for relocation with the league.
Stern spoke in Minneapolis before the Timberwolves played San Antonio. He called the Seattle group “very strong,” and said the appropriate committees have been convened to look over the proposed sale of the Kings and the prospective move.
Stern said the relocation proposal calls for the team to play in KeyArena for “two years, possibly three,” while a new arena is being built in Seattle.
“We have had submitted a signed agreement to have the team sold to a very strong group from Seattle,” Stern said. “We have received an application to have the team moved from Sacramento to Seattle.”
The deadline for teams to file for relocation is March 1. It’s been expected that the Hansen/Ballmer group would file to move the team, but Stern’s comments were the first time that decision had been verified. Filing for relocation is just another step, but a big one in efforts to return professional basketball to Seattle for the 2013-14 season.
Hansen’s group reached an agreement with the Maloof family last month to buy 65 percent of the franchise, which is valued at $525 million, and move the team to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name. The deal will cost the Hansen group a little more than $340 million.
The $525 million market price of the Kings would break the NBA-record $450 million paid for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been trying to find investors with the financial means to match the sale price so the Kings will stay in Sacramento and to help finance the construction of a new arena in California’s capital city.
Johnson said he planned to attend the NBA All-Star Game in Houston in a week and lobby anyone he could on the merits of keeping the Kings in Sacramento, but he has yet to reveal any of the investors he’s attempting to pull together. Johnson said he hoped to be able to announce them next week.
“My guess is it’s likely that the mayor of Sacramento will appear before the board with an alternate plan,” Stern said. “And that’s why we have a Board of Governors, to make difficult decisions like this one.”