Kevin Johnson speaks out on Kings

Updated: March 23, 2011, 11:18 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Sacramento's mayor is already preparing for life without the Kings.

In a strongly worded blog posted on his website Tuesday night, mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson wrote the franchise's possible relocation to Anaheim "feels like a slow death" and this "will likely be the Kings' final weeks in Sacramento after 26 years."

Johnson met with Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof last month and has believed since that the Kings will leave after this season.

The strange part is, our true destiny as a professional sports town continues to rest with us -- not the Kings or Royals or whatever they want to call themselves.

-- Kevin Johnson,
Sacramento mayor

Another strong indication of a franchise move surfaced Tuesday, as Anaheim mayor Tom Tait confirmed that talks to bring a pro basketball team to the city are under way, the Orange County Register reported.

"The good news is that we are continuing to move closer to bringing a professional basketball team to Anaheim," Tait said, according to the report. "This is something this city has been waiting 18 years for. ... I am very excited."

Tait spoke after a city council meeting at which the body postponed discussion on bonds to fund improvements at the city-owned Honda Center, currently the home of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

"A financing structure is being proposed that would allow for private investment to fund improvements," Tait said, according to the report.

After years of not receiving public dollars to build a new arena in Sacramento, the Maloofs began discussions with Anaheim officials about relocating the franchise to Orange County. An attorney representing the Kings also filed for at least four federal trademarks registrations: Anaheim Royals, Anaheim Royals of Southern California, Orange County Royals and Los Angeles Royals.

The well-traveled franchise previously was named the Rochester Royals and Cincinnati Royals.

Coincidentally, the Kings have played several home games this season in the throwback uniforms of those 1951 NBA champion Rochester Royals. Johnson also seemed bothered that the Kings have been wearing Royals uniforms.

Johnson has maintained that Sacramento needs to focus on building a new arena with or without the Kings, even poking fun at their former -- and perhaps future -- moniker.

"The strange part is, our true destiny as a professional sports town continues to rest with us -- not the Kings or Royals or whatever they want to call themselves," Johnson said.

The NBA already granted the Kings an extension until April 18 to decide if it will file a request to move the franchise for next season. The Kings will have the opportunity to discuss their plans at the NBA's Board of Governors meetings April 14-15 in New York.

Sacramento's season finale is April 13 at home against the rival Los Angeles Lakers, a game that could be the last at the newly renamed Power Balance Pavilion, formerly called Arco Arena. Johnson also said a financial feasibility study on a new arena will continue as planned and thanked fans who "take the high road" during the season's final weeks.

"The slow death is almost over. It's painful," he said. "But a new beginning is right around the corner."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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