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Sacramento coordinating effort to sell out new owners’ arena before they own it

Jan 14, 2013, 11:15 AM EDT

Clippers Kings Basketball AP

Remember hearing the stories about Kings fans and concerned Sacramento citizens trying to raise money for an arena when the Maloofs first announced their intention to move to Anaheim?

If not, go check out the award-winning documentary Small Market, Big Heart and soak up the story of the many different grassroots efforts that popped up to save their team.

These fans orchestrated sell-outs, sit-ins, and some of the younger ones even sold lemonade to get the message across to both the Maloofs and the NBA that Sacramento wanted to keep their team and would support it.

Time has shown that the Maloofs couldn’t afford to run an NBA franchise and that they weren’t ready to operate in good faith, making these efforts look something like William Wallace in Braveheart if he had a really bad case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Fortunately for Sacramento, the Maloofs are becoming less important by the day. They’re going to sell the team or face Armageddon from all angles, as they can’t afford a lame duck year in Sacramento on any level. Sources close to the ongoing relocation saga are convinced that there is no way they keep the team beyond this season.

All the family can do right now is hope that a bidding war between Sacramento and Seattle returns the highest possible dollar for the winning offer, and barring an unlikely antitrust lawsuit from the fledgling family that offer will be the one the NBA lets them take.

Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen has reportedly made offers between $500-525 million in what was characterized by initial reports to be a done deal, though PBT reported that no deal was imminent and so far there is no deal.

Sacramento’s offer likely starts to produce more money than Seattle’s offer for the Maloof family at about $425-450 million, and sources say Sacramento’s final offer is likely to break the NBA record for a franchise sales price ($450 million, Warriors).

This leaves Sacramento right back where they were in March of 2011, trying to convince David Stern and the other 29 owners that California’s capitol city deserves to keep its beloved Kings. The next question is about the arena — a new one needs to be built wherever the franchise plays next.

So what are those Sacramento fan groups doing now?

Let’s just say they’re not simply handing out fliers (though we will say that they’re circulating petitions for both Seattle and Sacramento to get a team).

As announced earlier today on the Carmichael Dave Show, Dave is leading a coordinated grassroots effort including fans, businesses, and community leaders called Here We Buy (click the link to check it out).

If you don’t recall, Carmichael Dave is the symbolic and emotional leader of the Sacramento movement, and a local media voice that was dismissed by the team sponsored radio station, with many speculating that his aggressive stance on relocation matters was behind it.

Carmichael Dave became this leader when he started a movement called Here We Build that collected over $500,000 in ‘promised pledges’ in the days after the Maloofs announced they were trying to go to Anaheim.  Dave partnered with Jiffy Lube director of marketing Matt Graham to put the #HereWeBuild hashtag on electronic billboards clear across Sacramento, but when mayor Kevin Johnson and Sacramento’s business community convinced the NBA  to give them another year to organize a funding plan the PR effort wasn’t needed anymore.

Of course, collecting Monopoly money to pay for a $400 million arena for owners with both feet out the door is a little bit silly, but Dave and others were doing the best they could under the constraints they had.

“We (grassroots leaders) were rookies back then,” said Dave. “We’re grizzled veterans now.”

What the new Here We Buy initiative will do is give a way for fans and businesses to express their interest in purchasing season tickets or sponsoring the Kings under new ownership.

Carmichael Dave’s group hasn’t set any specific goals for the initiative, but the idea is to show the NBA and prospective owners how ready and excited Sacramento is to fill an arena.  A successful campaign can help show both the new owners and the league that they are walking into a plug-and-play deal.

Equally important to the campaign is giving fans a way to get involved in what has been a long, helpless journey. While fan groups have still been breaking their necks attending city council meetings, working with social media, and going to games while both the team and arena literally fall apart before their eyes — fans have been in the same holding pattern that the deal-makers have been in.

With a legitimate way to give fans the chance to help add another feather to Sacramento’s cap, Dave is expecting the best.

“I think fans of the Kings, despite some media reports, have every reason to be confident. We have the right pieces in our favor. Now we can just participate in the puzzle coming together, and Here We Buy is a big part of that process,” he said.

With Sacramento’s buyers revealing themselves daily, the gears are turning rapidly as ink gets set to paper, decisions get made, and ultimately the city gets ready to make a presentation to Stern and the NBA Board of Governors (the NBA owners).

Mayor Johnson told Sam Amick of USA Today that Stern is aware he will make a request to speak to the league’s governing board before any Seattle deal is finalized, and the deadline for a relocation request to be made this year is March 1 (unless it is extended).

These are just some of the most recent developments highlighting the momentum in Sacramento. Echoing our original breaking report that ‘Kings to Seattle’ was not a done deal, sources close to the situation are still confident that the city will get the chance to meet or beat Seattle’s offer.

I opined on Twitter on Saturday that I thought Sacramento had edged in front of Seattle based on conversations with those sources, and that confidence has been spreading throughout Sacramento, too.

Carmichael Dave summed it up as such:

“I’m very confident about the outcome. I just can’t see a situation where the local bidders offer a price that would possibly break an NBA record, have an arena deal already signed off by the city, only to have the NBA approve the move (to Seattle). It would be unprecedented.”

Sacramento is going to field a competitive offer on all fronts and nobody can explain why Stern would willingly add the stain of leaving Sacramento to clean one up in Seattle.

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