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Group deciding Kings' fate to meet Monday

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SEATTLE (AP) - Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer, part of the group attempting to purchase the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle, said Thursday he believes ``there will never be a better opportunity'' than now to bring back professional basketball to the Puget Sound.

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Ballmer, who has been mostly quiet about his basketball pursuit, spoke briefly Thursday before a fundraising luncheon for the A PLUS youth program in Seattle. His brief comment came hours after an NBA spokesman confirmed that the NBA committee deciding whether the Sacramento Kings should be sold and relocated to Seattle will hold a meeting via conference call Monday

``Today is about A PLUS. I will say that we've got our fingers crossed. Chris Hansen has worked really, really hard, really intelligently,'' Ballmer said. ``Seattle has got a great bid. We've got a great arena plan. I think we've got the better arena plan. We've got a good offer, it's been accepted by current owners. We've got a great market. It seems like there will never be a better opportunity. But it will be up to the NBA owners.''

Monday's meeting of the joint relocation and finance committees, consisting of 12 league owners, will convene on a call instead of in person. Whenever the committee issues a recommendation, NBA owners will have at least seven business days to review the report before a vote can take place.

That means the vote by the entire Board of Governors could happen as early as May 8, but Commissioner David Stern told a meeting of Associated Press Sports Editors in New York on Thursday he expected the vote sometime around May 13.

The Maloof family has had an agreement since January to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the Kings to a Seattle group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Ballmer. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has helped put together a competing counteroffer complete with a new arena plan and an ownership group headed by software tycoon Vivek Ranadive.

Thursday's fundraising luncheon in Seattle featured a number of NBA players with local connections, including Spencer Hawes, Martell Webster and Brandon Roy, all of which are hopeful of seeing the NBA return to their hometown.

``My biggest thing is I try and keep my fingers crossed that this is going to happen,'' Roy said. ``I learned that a long time ago. Don't think worst case scenario. I try and think best case scenario and with that I think we're going to get the team. It's going to take some time and really we just have to keep that passion up.''

---

AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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