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Originally published January 20, 2013 at 9:50 PM | Page modified January 21, 2013 at 11:05 AM

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NBA’s return to Seattle all set up, sources say

A sale of the Sacramento Kings to a group that would move them to Seattle could be announced soon. The team would play at KeyArena while a Sodo arena is built.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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A sale of the Sacramento Kings to a group that would move them to Seattle appears to be done and could be finalized soon, two sources told The Seattle Times Sunday night.

An announcement was expected as early as Monday morning.

Many other outlets also reported the sale, including The Sacramento Bee, ESPN.com, NBCSports.com and Yahoo.com.

Reports stated 65 percent of the Kings will be sold to a group led by Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and if approved by the NBA, the team would begin playing in Seattle’s KeyArena next season.

The sale would include a 53 percent share held by the current controlling owners of the Kings, the Maloof family, and a 12 percent share held by minority owner Bob Hernreich. Hansen’s group and the Maloofs have been negotiating for several weeks.

ESPN.com reported that other NBA teams were “formally notified Sunday night of the deal.’’

ESPN.com also reported that Hansen’s group will give the Maloofs a nonrefundable deposit of $30 million by Feb. 1. ESPN.com reported that the Maloofs may retain “a small piece’’ of the team. The remaining 35 percent of the team could remain in the hands of the current minority shareholders.

The sale still needs approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors in New York in mid-April.

But Yahoo.com reported that would be “a formality’’ and also said a source with the NBA’s relocation committee expected overwhelming approval.

The team would likely play in KeyArena for two years while a proposed arena in the Sodo District is constructed.

An investment group led by Hansen finalized a deal with Seattle and King County in October to build a $490 million sports and entertainment venue in the Sodo neighborhood with $200 million in public money to be repaid through revenue generated by the facility. Two lawsuits are challenging the financing and the location.

ESPN.com confirmed earlier reports that the team had a set value of $525 million. Hansen’s group would purchase 65 percent, paying roughly $340 million, according to various reports.

There was no official comment Sunday night from the NBA or from Hansen.

A Maloof spokesman reiterated the family’s stance throughout the past few weeks that “we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the future of the Kings.’’

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former three-time NBA All-Star, said last week he has received approval from the NBA to present a counteroffer at the Board of Governors meeting. He is attempting to put together an ownership group and an arena plan that would match Seattle’s, allowing the team to stay put. Several Sacramento media outlets reported Johnson could announce the specifics of the ownership group this week.

NBA Commissioner David Stern confirmed last week that Johnson would be given a chance to state the city’s case before the Board of Governors in April. Johnson will be hoping to repeat what he did in 2011, when he was able to help convince the NBA not to let the Maloofs relocate the team to Anaheim.

In a statement Sunday night, Johnson said the city will continue its fight for the team. “When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win,’’ the statement read. “In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL.”

The NBA has a deadline of March 1 for teams to file for relocation.

In another twist, longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey tweeted that former Lakers and Bulls coach Phil Jackson could be involved with a new Seattle franchise in a front-office role. Vecsey wrote that Jackson would not coach but would “mentor’’ the team’s coach. Jackson’s son Charlie and Hansen are reported to be close friends.

Seattle has been without an NBA team since 2008 when the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City by owner Clay Bennett.

Hansen has spent the last year laying the groundwork for an arena deal and attempting to buy a team to move to Seattle.

The Kings have played in Sacramento since moving from Kansas City in 1985.

The Kings’ franchise dates to 1945, beginning play in Rochester and later moving to Cincinnati and then Kansas City.

The Kings currently have a record of 16-25 with a roster that includes two area players in former UW guard and Curtis High alum Isaiah Thomas, and Aaron Brooks of Franklin High.

Bob Condotta; 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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