By Ryan Lillis
Minutes before the Kings took the court for perhaps the final time in Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson sounded defiant. It was a markedly different tone for a guy who just weeks ago said the process of losing the team felt "like a slow death."
"I just don't believe it's the last game here, that's the bottom line," he told me Wednesday night in a tunnel underneath Power Balance Pavilion. "I figure we're a resilient community and we're going to figure out a way to get it done."
Does he have the answer? We'll soon know. The mayor is meeting today with a group of NBA team owners to pitch Sacramento as a viable pro basketball city.
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Johnson told me he would "present a counter proposal, essentially" to what the Maloofs tell their former owners about their desire to relocate. The Maloofs have until Monday to seek the league's permission to move to Anaheim.
Part of Johnson's arsenal will be sponsorship and ticket commitments from the local business community. He'll also be joined by Tim Romani, the president of ICON Venue Group and the man helping to spearhead a City Hall-sponsored study of a new arena.
Should the Kings leave, Johnson has a message to the fans.
"The fans are not to blame," he said. "They've done their part and they should not feel heartbroken. And if something doesn't work out the way we'd like, we shouldn't give up on the game. This is a beautiful game."
Call The Bee's Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085.