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Kings' future shaky after deal crumbles

The Kings' future in Sacramento is uncertain again.

A tentative deal for a new arena has fallen apart, leaving open the possibility the team's owners could again try to move from California's capital.

"Is the deal dead? As we know it, absolutely," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Friday.

The Maloof family has balked at terms of the agreement reached last month, and though they say they want to remain in Sacramento, Johnson isn't so sure after meeting with them Friday and hearing their list of concerns he said hadn't previously been disclosed.

"It just feels like they were coming up with reasons of why not to do the deal," Johnson said.

So a year after Johnson came to New York to begin his fight to save the team, his city is in jeopardy of losing it all over again.

Admitting he was angry and questioning the Maloofs' trustworthiness, Johnson praised his city's efforts but said he doesn't know what will happen now.

"They are now saying they don't want to do the deal, which essentially means they don't want to be in Sacramento, and that's very, very disappointing," he said.

The Kings say otherwise.

"We are committed to remaining the Sacramento Kings," the team said in a statement.

But they stressed, as did Commissioner David Stern, that the deal was "always nonbinding," and the Maloofs always had the right to decide they were no longer comfortable with the terms.

"The negotiations that have occurred surrounding, as Commissioner Stern said repeatedly today during his news conference a 'non-binding framework,' never resulted in a deal that was good for the City or good for the team," the Kings said.

SAINTS OWNER BUYS HORNETS: Tom Benson brought stability to the Saints nearly three decades ago and now plans to do the same for the Hornets in small-market New Orleans.

The Saints' owner agreed Friday to purchase the Hornets from the NBA.

"We expect this club to be one of the most outstanding clubs in the league, otherwise I don't want to get involved," Benson said. "This is just a good thing and I'm just glad to be a part of it."

A person familiar with the deal says the purchase price is $338 million.

The NBA has been trying to sell the Hornets since buying the club from founder George Shinn in December 2010. While preparing the team for sale the league negotiated a new lease for the Hornets to remain in the state-owned New Orleans Arena through 2024.

HOWARD HAS HERNIATED DISK: Magic center Dwight Howard was diagnosed by a doctor in Los Angeles with a herniated disc in his lower back, a team spokesman said. Howard sat out the Magic's 109-81 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Friday night, the fifth game he's missed in Orlando's last seven outings. There is no timetable for his return and it will be based on how he responds to treatment.

KOBE MISSES FOURTH GAME: NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant will sit out his fourth consecutive game to rest his bruised shin.