The Kings appeared set to move to Anaheim after last season, but Johnson flew to New York the day after the season ended and convinced owners to give the city one last shot. Johnson said the city had since reached "every benchmark, every milestone" in showing it could raise the necessary costs.
The NBA tried to make it work. Stern said the league advanced a $67 million loan from its league credit facility and he then authorized a further contribution of $7 million on top of that. He said the league was perhaps "over-optimistic."
"I am extremely disappointed on behalf of both the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento, but I think that there's nothing further to be done and this is a situation that the Maloofs will have to make judgments on and the city will have to make judgments on, because I think we have done as much as we can do," Stern said.
Stern largely defended the Maloofs, though he took issue with assertions about the plan's viability made by an economist during their press conference, calling his role "ill grace."
Johnson has said Sacramento would be interested in keeping the Kings under another owner, but the Maloofs have repeatedly said they aren't interested in selling, even as they have faced financial difficulties that left the family with only 2 percent of their ownership of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.
The Kings are scheduled to play at Power Balance Pavilion next season. Stern wouldn't speculate where they would play beyond that, and said if they sought to relocate, approval would be left to the relocation committee headed by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett. Kings coach Keith Smart said they won't worry about that.
"You know what they say: As a coach and a player in this business, nothing is done until the paperwork is all signed. Nothing is done until all that is there," he said before a game in Oklahoma City. "Right now, a lot of talk and a lot of different things going forward, but our focus is still on the game itself. We can't control that. It's in the right hands of people who are going to try to make the right decision from there. We'll be ready to play, keep this team functioning and prepared to play every game."
Anaheim is still very interested in luring a team to the city-owned Honda Center with the backing of Henry Samueli, the billionaire technology executive who owns the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. Samueli recently embarked on a $20 million improvement project, adding several amenities to the well-maintained arena by early 2013.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait issued a statement late Friday confirming the city's interest.
"Like most NBA fans, I've been watching the recent developments with the Kings, and if they do leave Sacramento, they should know that we would welcome them here," Tait said. "Anaheim is NBA-ready. We have great fans and a first-class facility."
During Anaheim's previous flirtation with the Kings, Samueli agreed to loan $50 million to the Maloofs for relocation expenses. The Kings also seem likely to make much more money in television and corporate sponsorship in Orange County than in Sacramento, particularly with the television opening created when the Lakers move next season from Fox Sports West to Time Warner.
If the Kings attempt to move to Orange County, the Lakers and Clippers likely would voice objections to a third team invading their geographic territory. Honda Center is 35 miles away from Staples Center, but Orange County residents insist they are in a distinct area of Southern California.
"With more than 3 million people in Orange County and millions more in the Inland Empire, we have the fan base and the enthusiasm to certainly support a team," Tait said.
AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez, Greg Beacham and Jeff Latzke contributed to this report.
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