NBA referee Willard dies of cancer at age 54

The NBA says longtime referee Greg Willard has died, less than a year after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He was 54.

Willard died Monday night. Plans were made for all NBA games Tuesday and Wednesday to be preceded by moments of silence in Willard’s memory, and all league officials will wear wristbands or patches with his No. 57 for the rest of the season.

Willard officiated 1,494 regular-season games, 136 playoff games, two NBA Finals games and the 2006 All-Star game. He received the diagnosis during last season’s playoffs.

Willard lived in Huntington Beach, Calif.

44K season ticket requests?

SEATTLE — The man who’s trying to bring the NBA’s Sacramento Kings to Seattle said fans have requested 44,000 season tickets in the event the team actually relocates.

Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen had urged Seattle fans to join a “priority ticket waitlist” to show the NBA how strong support is for bringing professional men’s basketball back to the city and calls the result “nothing short of stunning.”

Seattle has been without an NBA franchise since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer have agreed to buy a majority stake in the Kings from the Maloof family for $341 million, but the deal needs league approval.

Owners are meeting Wednesday to discuss the sale and a counter-offer to keep the Kings in Sacramento. A decision expected this month.