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Hansen has 'no plans to give up' fight for Kings

Tuesday - 4/30/2013, 1:58pm  ET

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson smiles during a news conference, Monday, April 29, 2013, in Sacramento, Calif. The NBA’s relocation committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend that owners reject the application for the Sacramento Kings basketball team to relocate to Seattle, the latest _ and by far the strongest _ in a long line of cities that almost landed the franchise. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

ANTONIO GONZALEZ
AP Sports Writer

The recommendation has been made, the vote is set and the Sacramento Kings seem all but assured of staying in California's capital city.

Or are they?

In yet another twist to this unprecedented fight between two West Coast cities, investor Chris Hansen has vowed to "move forward with the transaction" he has with the Maloof family to buy the Kings and move the team to Seattle despite a unanimous recommendation from the NBA's relocation committee for owners to reject the bid.

Hansen said he plans to lobby the NBA Board of Governors, which consists of all 30 owners, again anyway the week of May 13. The board is expected to vote on the issue and follow the committee's recommendation -- which NBA Commissioner David Stern also is supporting -- during that meeting.

"When we started this process everyone thought it was impossible," Hansen wrote to Seattle fans on his website late Monday night, hours after the seven-person committee handed down its recommendation. "While this represents yet another obstacle to achieving our goal, I just wanted to reassure all of you that we have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up. Impossible is nothing but a state of mind."

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson remembers hearing about impossible, too.

In 2011, the Maloofs made plans to move the Kings to Anaheim, Calif. At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a "slow death" and compared the city's efforts to keep the Kings to a "Hail Mary."

Instead, Johnson surprisingly convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. He delivered on his promise of a new arena plan -- given Stern's seal of approval -- before the end of last season. But in a stunning move, the Maloofs backed out of the tentative deal for a downtown arena, saying it didn't make financial sense.

The city of Sacramento and the owners broke off talks, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Cities such as Virginia Beach, Las Vegas and Kansas City surfaced as potential new homes.

In January, the Maloofs caught Sacramento -- and to a certain extent, the NBA -- by surprise when they announced the deal with Hansen's group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom department store family.

Led by Johnson, Sacramento fought back to make the sale and relocation of the Kings tough for the league to recommend. He pushed a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million downtown arena through the Sacramento City Council -- complete with a $258 million public subsidy -- and lined up an ownership group to try to compete with the powerful Seattle contingent.

At a packed pep rally at a downtown restaurant late Monday afternoon, Kings fans serenaded Johnson with chants of "Sac-ra-mento!" He called the committee's recommendation a "big day for the city of Sacramento" but cautioned fans not to declare victory just yet.

"We do not want to dance in the end zone. We do not want to celebrate prematurely," Johnson said.

TIBCO software chairman Vivek Ranadive, the head of the Sacramento investor group Johnson assembled to mount a competing bid to keep the Kings, also expressed excitement.

"I'm speechless. Thanks to all of the amazing people who supported this great effort," tweeted Ranadive, a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors who could become the first Indian-born majority owner of an NBA team. He would have to sell his share in the Warriors if his group's bid for the Kings is successful.

"We did it, baby," said California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The Sacramento Democrat joined Johnson and Republican state Senator Ted Gaines at the rally in a show of bipartisan support.

Barbara "Sign Lady" Rust, as she has become known by Kings fans, waived a sign as Johnson spoke that read: "Love found a way, now here we stay!"

"You should have seen me a few hours ago," she said. "I totally lost it. First I jumped like a crazy woman for a minute. Then I cried."

Who will own the Kings next season is still unclear.

The Maloof family reached the agreement in January to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the team to Hansen's group at a total franchise valuation of $525 million, topping the NBA-record $450 million that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Warriors for in 2010. Then Hansen increased his offer to $550 million, which implies buying the 65 percent stake for about $357 million.

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