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Originally published April 29, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Page modified April 29, 2013 at 11:36 PM

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Sacramento mayor: 'We don't want to dance in the end zone'

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson urges cautious optimism after NBA's recommendation against relocating Kings to Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson held the stake above Seattle's heart Monday, but he didn't drive it in.

Instead, in front of a couple hundred fans at the Firehouse Restaurant in downtown Sacramento, Johnson repeatedly urged for cautious optimism. Johnson had his moment, maybe the first of many moving forward, after the NBA's Relocation Committee unanimously recommended that the Sacramento Kings not be allowed to relocate to Seattle.

The NBA Board of Governors still must vote the week of May 13, but it is expected to take the committee's recommendation.

"I feel like a team that won a round in the playoffs, and we're going to advance to the next round," Johnson said. "That is good news. But there is still work to be done."

Johnson said he doesn't know what the next step in the process is, but he said he expects the team's new ownership group to be in constant talks with the NBA.

Johnson received a glowing reception when he walked into the restaurant. Some in the crowd started chanting "Sac-ra-ment-o!" and someone even yelled "run for governor!"

This has been Johnson's crusade stretching months and even years. The Maloof family, majority owners of the Kings, had flirted and negotiated with other cities in past years, reportedly talking to San Jose and Anaheim about relocation. There also was talk of moving the team to Virginia Beach before that fell through.

Johnson and the handful of business leaders and politicians in attendance Monday soaked up the moment, but they also weren't ready to declare victory.

"We do not want to dance in the end zone," Johnson said. "We do not want to celebrate prematurely. And also I want to take this moment to thank the Seattle fans, because that has been a community that we respect. I respect the ownership group, I respect the mayor. They deserve an NBA team. I know they don't think it's over, and they're going to keep fighting."

Later, he added: "I still think Seattle is deserving of an NBA team. Just not ours."

Sacramento has rallied furiously since the NBA announced that the Maloofs had agreed to sell the Kings to Chris Hansen and his ownership group Jan. 21.

Johnson spearheaded the effort, pulling in business leaders and potential owners from across the state and also striking a new arena deal civic leaders hope will revitalize downtown.

"You look back over the last few months, over the last year, over the last four or five years," Johnson said, "and you ask yourself, 'Could we have done anything different?' And my answer was, 'Absolutely not.' This community, each step along the way, stood up and we stood up straighter every chance we got. I felt we left it all out on the court."

NBA commissioner David Stern has said numerous times the league is ruling out the possibility of immediate expansion.

"I think the NBA has said to all of us, this has been the most difficult decision that commissioner Stern and the league has had to make in 30 or 40 years," Johnson said.

"This was a very difficult decision," he continued. "You have two cities that are putting their best foot forward, you have two cities that deserve to have a team. Our position was: This isn't Sacramento competing against Seattle. This is Sacramento trying to lay out a compelling case for why the team should stay right where it is."

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com


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