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Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson 'encouraged' by effort to keep Kings

HOUSTON -- With the proposed sale and relocation of the Kings to Seattle progressing through the NBA's committee process, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has descended on the All-Star city to begin making his final pitch for the team to stay.

Johnson arrived in Houston on Friday and immediately embarked on a series of discussions that sources characterized as "positive and productive." Johnson is using his formidable political skills to lobby members of the league hierarchy and owners on a joint committee formed to navigate the Kings issue.

Johnson traveled to Houston with two members of his arena task force and is attempting to persuade owners to give Sacramento a chance to present a final plan that would include local ownership, investors and an arena funding deal to keep the team in northern California. Johnson's hope is that his past success with brokering an arena deal -- one that the Maloof family agreed to and walked away from -- will compel owners on the committee to give the city a chance to present an alternative to Seattle.

Johnson was said to be "encouraged by [the] progress" made Friday in his first full day of meetings, a league source said.

A group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has agreed to purchase the Kings from the Maloofs for $525 million. A relocation application requesting a move to Seattle for next season has been filed with the NBA, but a funding agreement for a new Seattle arena still faces legal hurdles.

 
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