The Sacramento Kings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The saga of the Kings’ future began back in January with an agreement between the Maloof family and Seattle-based investors Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that would have sold the team to them. They would then have brought the Seattle SuperSonics back to the NBA after they were relocated to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season.
Sacramento’s efforts have been led by software magnate Vivek Ranadive as well as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who have worked tirelessly to local and regional businesses and leaders to establish the framework for a new arena for the Kings.
The Ranadive group has a competing deal on the table based on the original franchise valuation of $525 million that Hansen and the Maloofs reached in January.
The Ranadive group has agreed to match the 65 percent price of $341 million for the Kings in that deal, and has put at least 50 percent of that $341 million into escrow. NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month that while the Sacramento bid to keep the Kings at the time was slightly lower than the Seattle bid, the league considered the Sacramento bid binding.
Although there has been substantial buzz in Seattle that there are potential antitrust issues that could be the basis for a lawsuit against the NBA if and when Hansen’s bid is rejected, Hansen’s group apparently remains uninterested in legal remedies upon rejection, according to the source.
Hansen believes that this may be the last time in the foreseeable future that political and business interests in Seattle will be aligned to give support for an NBA bid. The city of Seattle has committed up to $200 million toward construction of a $490 million arena in the city’s SoDo area, next to Safeco Field, where baseball’s Mariners play. Hansen, who has already purchased the land on which he wants to build the arena, would pay the rest.
Sacramento has committed $250 million toward construction of a $447 million arena that would be the centerpiece of a development plan at the current Downtown Plaza mall site.
Ranadive’s group, which includes 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and the Jacobs Family, billionaire owners and managers of the Qualcomm company, has pledged to the NBA that it will not be a revenue sharing recipient if the Kings remain in Sacramento, citing the expected increased revenues the team will be able to get from a new building.
The Sacramento Bee reported this week that the NBA has encouraged the Ranadive group to put the remaining half of the $341 million into escrow as well to alleviate concerns of the Maloofs that the group has the financial wherewithal to complete the transaction.
Information from TNT analyst David Aldridge was used in this report.
Seattle just got Mutombo-ed again. Only this time, it was the league’s power structure — from the Relocation Committee up to commissioner David Stern himself — who wagged a long finger at the politicians, the money men and the fans of the Emerald City.
“No, no, no,” the committee’s 7-0 vote to deny relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle seemed to say. “Not in my house.”
Or at least, not on Stern’s watch. Our man David Aldridge did a great job of covering both the big picture and the nuances of the surprising decision to recommend to the Board of Governors that the Kings stay put, short-term and possibly long-term.
Various Seattle media outlets did their own great jobs of providing perspective, with a little venting, for that disheartened and in some cases bitter audience. For example, columnist Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Timessuggests the NBA “changed the rules” for procuring and moving franchises:
[Seattle bidder Chris] Hansen tried to win the right way. He tried to do it with transparency; no buying the Kings and pretending to want to stay in Sacramento. He tried to do it with record-setting money and a polished business plan.
But the NBA is a liar’s game, full of hypocrites, improper alliances, a lack of financial creativity and a commissioner who is more powerful than the owners he represents. Stern revises the rules according to his whims. It seems Seattle was destined to lose in this ever-changing game. We’re back in a familiar place with that spirit-crushing league.
Brewer wrote that Seattle only will get a shot at re-admittance to the NBA — by buying and moving some other city’s team or through expansion — after Stern’s retirement on Feb. 1, 2014. Longtime columnist Art Thiel, writing for SportspressNW.com, also saw the vote as an extension of Stern’s will:
Delighted by the rising value of his franchises — Job One for any sports commissioner — but looking at another potential ugly relocation, Commissioner David Stern gave every chance for Sacramento to match the record Hansen bid. For one reason: He didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
Rather than screw over a second city with relocation, he has screwed over, at least temporarily, the same city twice.
At worst, he figures he can live the rest of his days with never getting a drink brought for him in Seattle.
It’s possible that moving the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle would just shift the problem and hack off a whole new bunch of people. It also is possible, as Thiel suggests, that keeping Seattle open as a viable market gives the NBA leverage over shaky franchises or headstrong municipalities not unlike the NFL has with Los Angeles in waiting for someone’s team.
Another possibility, intentionally or not, is that the NBA is teaching a lesson to the decision-makers in its many markets: Love us now, not after we’ve gone.
Seattle did not play nice with the NBA prior to 2008, fighting Clay Bennett (who is the head of the relocation committee, by the way) and not budging on financing for a new arena. Sacramento, on the other hand, has rolled up its sleeves and been busy finding ways to keep its only major league caliber team in town.
That’s the sort of commitment — before things get broken, not after it’s too late — that Stern and the other owners (who love $550 million franchise valuations and the freedom to sell or move when they want) treasure most.
In the meantime, Stern was right as this Kings/Sonics decision approached. One city or the other was going to be unhappy. Now there’s no more guessing.
No Kobe Bryant. No Steve Blake. Almost assuredly no Jodie Meeks. And most likely no Steve Nash.
No matter. Howard says he still believes.
“We have total confidence that we can come back and win this series, and we believe in each other,” Howard said following Friday’s workout when the Los Angeles Lakers learned of their worsening injury woes. “We worked too hard to get in the playoffs. We had to fight to get in and we’re not going to give up just because we’re down and have a lot of guys that are injured.”
The Lakers’ rickety season is once again on the brink Friday night as their first-round playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs moves to the Staples Center. With the Spurs up 2-0, it’s do-or-die for a limping Lakers team that could be forced to start a backcourt of two third-team, 2011 second-round draft picks in Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.
While Nash told reporters Thursday that his fingers are crossed that two epidural shots to his back will work in time to allow him to play in Game 3 (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Howard was working overtime with assistant coach Chuck Person with a helping hand from general manager Mitch Kupchak, a pretty good post player in his day with the Showtime Lakers.
It’ll be curtains for these slow-time Lakers unless the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard, once upon a time referred to as Superman, and his 7-foot frontcourt mate Pau Gasol, can assert their will on the Spurs and lift their less well-known teammates back into the series.
“Again, it is what it is,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of the bleak injury situation. ”It’s not what anybody wishes for, but at the same time we need to dominate inside and that’s Pau and Dwight. So it’s a big load for Pau and Dwight. At the same time, that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”
Howard, praised for his dominant play in the final two games of the regular season after Kobe went down to get the Lakers in the playoffs, has taken critical shots for not getting it done in the opening two games in San Antonio. He’s averaged 18.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and five fouls per game.
Everybody wants to see Howard rise to the occasion, to be a force that takes games away from the opponent. He took criticism for not being that dominant force in Game 2, scoring 16 points — same as Blake as well as the Spurs’ Kahwi Leonard and Tim Duncan — with nine rebounds, four blocks and five fouls when the Lakers had chances to keep the game close.
For Gasol, just 5-for-14 from the floor in Game 2, these could be his final games as a Laker. Well into the luxury tax next season, the organization will have to decide what to do with the player who is due $19.3 million next season and was all but traded to New Orleans last offseason before the blockbuster deal for Chris Paul was vetoed by commissioner David Stern.
Of course, Howard’s future is just as unsettled, although his future is at least in his own hands. The Lakers are desperate to sign him to a max deal this summer and make him the cornerstone of the franchise upon Bryant’s eventual retirement.
For now, it’s all about Game 3 and if Howard, reduced to 14th in this season’s voting for Defensive Player of the Year, and Gasol can play like the superstars their salaries say they are, and get L.A. a win.
“We just got to play,” Howard said. “We can’t control anybody’s injuries. We can’t control nothing but how hard we go out there and play. Me and Pau are going to do the best we can for this team.”
NEW YORK – Calling it a “wrenching” decision, NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters Friday that the thorny issue of the Sacramento Kings’ proposed sale and relocation would be resolved within the next three weeks.
Which way it goes – the Kings staying and playing right where they are or shifting north as the second coming of the Seattle SuperSonics – remains unclear. And, as Stern told it after the latest NBA Board of Governors meeting, it even has him guessing.
“It’s the only time in the last 37 – 47 years – that I haven’t known the answer,” Stern said, playful with his own timeline in response to a reporter’s question, then turning serious about the process. “No, but this is one that’s just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well. And we’ve been working very hard to give it a structure at their direction.”
Whether you believe that assessment might hinge on your view of Stern. Did the most powerful (and some would say controversial) commissioner in sports get that way by behaving like Lady Justice, blindfolded and scales all even-steven? Or is he still the delicatessen owner’s son from Teaneck, N.J., adept at resting a thumb ever-so-slightly on the scale?
Advocates on both sides of the Maloof family‘s possible sale and transfer of the franchise to Seattle interests headed by investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer are skeptical that Stern isn’t shading or influencing the process in some way. If both sides are worried that it’s tilting against them, that at least is worth something.
The bottom line out of the BOG sessions held Thursday and Friday, after diligent work by the relocation and finance committees, was that any tilting would matter after the week of May 6-10. That’s when a FINAL final vote will be taken and the Kings’ fate decided.
Why the wait? Those committees will meet again next week to sort through remaining questions about arena construction and financing and about the particulars of each group’s offer. The report they issue will be sent to the entire Board of Governors, which must have at least seven business days to review it. Also, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson told NBA.com Friday that he thought his group would be permitted to make a final pitch on that city’s behalf.
All of that pushes the BOG vote out three weeks. A league spokesman said it could be held face-to-face again or via conference call. Any meeting might be back in New York or could be held in one of the active playoff cities. Then and only then would folks watching the NBA Draft Lottery know whether the team card in the big envelope said Sacramento or Seattle.
Said Stern: “What makes this particularly difficult … is the Seattle group has done a lot of work. It’s well funded. It’s got spectacular businessmen who support the community behind it, and the Sacramento group has a very strong base of economic support as well.”
The Hansen-Ballmer group recently upped its offer to $357.5 million for a 65 percent controlling interest in the Kings, which pushed the team’s valuation to $550 million. The Sacramento group led by Johnson and investors Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov also have made a bid that, Stern said Friday, is being treated as a signed agreement. Both offers are “in the ballpark,” Stern said when asked about significant differences.
Both have the same negative, too: Neither the Kings’ current home or an NBA return to Seattle’s KeyArena offers the long-term solution.
“We’ve got two temporary facilities that we’re going to be playing in,” Stern said, “whichever way the board goes, and the quality of those facilities and there’s so many other issues and the critical path based upon environmental reviews, potential lawsuits and the like.”
It’s a hot mess, an either/or dilemma that is likely to leave one of the markets – the capital of California or the former Pacific Northwest home of one of the league’s showcase teams – on the outside looking in.
When asked about expansion to Seattle as a compromise solution, Stern said: “I haven’t heard that in any shape or form, particularly when we don’t know at this time what the next television network contract would be.” Remember, beyond dilution of talent and scheduling and alignment concerns, divvying up the hundreds of millions of dollars a 31st NBA franchise would pay for entry would mean cutting another slice from the broadcast revenues in the future.
Then there is Stern’s legacy, which will be sealed next Feb. 1 when he resigns after 30 years. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver has been tabbed as his successor.
Said Stern: “We have expended not only enormous man‑hours but enormous sums of money for outside consultants. This will be by far our most extensive review of anything like this in the league’s history.”
Among other items on the BOG agenda Thursday and Friday:
– Reports on revenue-sharing and the impact of the collective bargaining agreement were heard. “Very upbeat in terms of improving team operations and the competitiveness of the league,” Sterm said.
– Jeannie Buss was approved as controlling governor of the Los Angeles Lakers, as the family continues its succession of late owner Jerry Buss. Also, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert and partners purchased additional interest in the Cavaliers franchise.
– The governors “had fun” with a report on officiating, while formally welcoming former NBA player and league exec Mike Bantom as the new head of officiating.
– A report from the competition committee was educational for the owners in highlighting the trends of increased 3-point reliance – from no teams that averaged 20 or more attempts from the arc in 2001 to a dozen that did so this season, Stern said. That, in turn, has opened up the game to the bosses’ satisfaction.
– Security matters also were discussed, especially in the wake of the events this week in Boston. The bombings at the Boston Marathon led to the cancellation of Tuesday’s Pacers-Celtics game in that city. The NBA will be making a “significant contribution,” the commissioner said, to the One Fund established to aid victims of that terrorist attack.
– Stern said he remains optimistic that human-growth hormones will be added to the NBA’s anti-drug testing program but that addition involves cooperation of the National Basketball Players Association, which is busy finding a replacement for executive director Billy Hunter.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: As our own Steve Aschburner wrote about before last night’s Knicks-Bulls tilt from Chicago, coach Tom Thibodeau has once again done an amazing job of keeping this Bulls team together all season long. Aside from the scotch-tape job he has done with Chicago’s lineups all season, Thibodeau apparently is the master when it comes to ending a foe’s opposing win streak. The Bulls already had Miami’s 27-game run on their kill list and last night, they added the Knicks 13-game run to it. Nate Robinson was at his best last night, dropping in 35 points and coming up with the hustle plays and backbreaking shots that are a hallmark of his game when he is on.
Parker, Popovich can’t agree on return date — Up until March 1 against the Sacramento Kings, Tony Parker was in the midst of an MVP-type season. But that night in San Antonio, Parker severely sprained his left ankle and missed 22 days before returning to play (and star) in an OT win over the Jazz. He looked just like his old self for a while, but then suffered a neck injury in a loss at Oklahoma City on April 4 and has been out of the lineup since. Parker is hoping to come back soon, but the exact date on that, according to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, depends on who you ask:
On his way to the team bus after a loss to the Nuggets in which Gregg Popovich would not allow him to play Tony Parker, the Spurs’ All-Star point guard, made a promise he hopes the coach will allow him to keep on Friday night.
“I’m playing Friday,” Parker said without breaking stride as he focused on Friday’s game against the Kings at the AT&T Center.
For a team disheartened all the more by the pre-game news that forward Boris Diaw has been ruled out of action for two to three weeks with a sprained lower back (technically, a sprained lumbar facet), Parker’s vow was music to his teammates’ ears.
The Spurs leader in points scored and assists, the five-time All-Star hasn’t played since an April 4 game at Oklahoma City in which his most recent injury, a sore neck, resulted in his lowest output of the season: two points, on 1-for-6 shooting.
Parker will have to convince Popovich he is completely recovered from a variety of ailments if he wants to suit up against the Sacramento Kings Friday. The Spurs coach said he would re-visit the issue with Parker after a Friday morning shootaround.
“We’ll see how he feels,” Popovich said after Wednesday’s game in Denver.
In the wake of a published report saying the organization privately hopes Doug Collins doesn’t return next season as 76ers coach, his agent claims it will be Collins’ call.
“The relationship with Doug, me and Sixers management has been terrific,” said John Langel during a Thursday afternoon telephone conversation. “What they told me beyond this season and as recently as today and yesterday is how long Doug stays here is Doug’s decision.”
Langel denied rumblings that the story, which cited multiple unnamed NBA sources, in Thursday’s Philadelphia Inquirer originated from Collins’ camp.
Sixers spokesman Mike Preston said, “We are aware of the report and will not comment on a column loaded with innuendo and speculation.”
In October, Sixers majority owner Josh Harris announced the team had picked up a fourth-year option (for the 2013-14 season) on Collins’ contract. It is believed to be worth $4.5 million.
Sixers CEO Adam Aron has repeatedly — and as recently as last month — said management would like for Collins to coach the team beyond next season.
Harris is expected to meet with the media next Thursday, the day after the end of the regular season.
Report: Bulls likely to add Mirotic in 2014 — Back in the 2011 Draft, the Chicago Bulls pulled off a trade that day with the Houston Rockets to pick up Real Madrid star Nikola Mirotic. Since then, he’s been stashed overseas and is developing his game while Bulls fans salivate over the prospect of having a talent like Mirotic on the roster soon. Bulls fans should get their due soon, though, writes ESPNChicago.com, as the Bulls are poised to add Mirotic to the roster come 2014:
Chicago Bulls fans eager for Nikola Mirotic to join the team that drafted him with the 24th pick in 2011 will likely have to wait until the summer of 2014, general manager Gar Forman explained.
“You’re slotted in the first round, and I think the slot for No. 24 is $1.3 or $1.4 million,” Forman said Thursday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “Well, he makes a lot more money than that right now over at Real Madrid. So the way the CBA is written is after three years then you’re no longer slotted. Then you can use whether it’s exception room or cap room in order to pay a guy.
“So there’s no possibility this summer because next year will be his third year. But after next year, the summer of 2014, then we’ll be able to start some negotiations as far as a buyout possibly with Real Madrid or negotiate with him to come over here.”
The 6-10 forward has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki and Danilo Gallinari.
“He reminds me of Dirk and a little bit of Gallo, just a little bit,” said Memphis center Zach Randolph, who played against Mirotic in an exhibition game. “But I can see the Dirk comparisons. I can see why, definitely.”
Some thought Mirotic could play small forward, but Forman said he’ll be a power forward.
“We’re really, really excited about him,” Forman said. “We built a relationship with him, we’re in constant communication. John (Paxson) and I went up and saw him this fall when he played at Memphis and at Toronto in a couple NBA exhibitions, and we think the ceiling there is incredible.
“He’s probably a four, but he’s very, very skilled. He shoots it from 3, can handle it, good mobility. And he’s a tough, tough kid.”
Report: Stern my decide on Kings’ future — Originally, the Sacramento Kings’ future was to be decided at the April 18-19 Board of Governors meeting, but after groups from Sacramento and Seattle gave their presentations on April 3, that deadline was pushed back (as our David Aldridge reports). More developments have come along (as our Scott Howard-Cooper reports) and the future of the Kings remains very much in doubt. Sam Amick of USA Today, though, says that Commissioner David Stern could be the deciding vote in whether or not the Kings move or stay put:
When David Stern announced he would retire next February, his 30th anniversary as NBA commissioner, he likely thought he had seen it all.
But here he is, in the 11th hour of a tenure that has been historic and memorable in many ways, directing traffic in an unprecedented affair, this fight for the Kings between Sacramento and Seattle, that will leave a lasting note on his legacy. And with a week left before the Board of Governors meetings in New York, when a vote on the matter likely will take place, this much has become abundantly clear: Stern still wields considerable influence, and strong signs persist that he’s doing all he can to keep the team in Sacramento.
For all of Stern’s talk of playing a merely advisory role, the growing sentiment from all sides is the commissioner, who has always been clear about his distaste for relocation, is determined to avoid having a sixth team change cities on his watch. And he remains powerful enough to pull it off. The story line is sticky, of course, because of the way the league moved the Seattle SuperSonics to the Oklahoma City in 2008 and the widely held assumption that Stern was hellbent on returning the NBA to Seattle before he retired.
This is a good problem to have for Stern and his successor, deputy commissioner Adam Silver. They clearly are smitten with the potential global impact that could come with Sacramento’s lead investor, Indian software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, but might have a hard time denying Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his deep pockets. Rumors of expansion as the potential solution to satisfy both sides persist, but Stern has said consistently it is not an option at the moment. The reality remains that one city will go home unhappy.
Monroe, Drummond rising for Pistons — Detroit is in the midst of a fourth straight season of winning less than 40 percent of their games and have a 50-plus loss season for the third time in four seasons. But in the midst of a losing campaign and more rebuilding, the Pistons have found some hope in their frontcourt tandem of rookie big man Andre Drummond and second-year center Greg Monroe. Richard Hardy of HoopsWorld.com has more on the Pistons’ developing duo and the prospects for a brighter future in Detroit:
After selecting Andre Drummond in this year’s draft, the Detroit Pistons had a potential log-jam at the center position. Just two years earlier they had selected Greg Monroe. Both players have shown that they deserve to be starters in this league and rather trading one of them, the Pistons opted to move Monroe over to power forward, hoping that the two can player together.
“We’ve put Greg in a situation where he’s playing a different position than he’s used to,” Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank said. “He’s responded very positively and we just want him to continue to progress in these last 16 quarters of basketball.”
At 6’11 and 250 lbs, Monroe is deceptively quick. Frank believes that in time Monroe can thrive at the four, regardless of what teams throw at him.
“Greg’s ability, with his size and skill level, to put the ball on the floor and make decisions is critical,” Frank said. “His low-post game continues to expand and he’s continuing to gain more and more confidence in his 15-foot jump shot. Defensively, when you look at the last 10 to 12 games, he’s had some really good individual defensive challenges that he’s responded to.”
Although Drummond and Monroe are similar in size, Drummond insists that their games are radically different.
“I do all the dirty work,” Drummond said. “Greg is the fundamental guy. He has the ability to hit the jump shot and he can pass the ball really well. He does all the active stuff and I clean up around the rim. We complement each other and for me, the game is easier when he’s out there.”
Monroe has been impressed with what Drummond has been able to do in such a short amount of time in the NBA. Although he agrees with Drummond about them being different players, he also sees similarities in their games.
“Andre is someone who’s very comfortable around the rim,” Monroe said. “He can run the floor and he’s a better passer than people give him credit for. I think both of us are pretty unselfish and we both have a ton of room for growth moving forward.”
ICYMI of the night: Chris Anderson, formerly of the Nuggets, has just been getting victimized by his old teammates. The latest to slam on him? None other than Washington’s Nene … :
HANG TIME WEST – This battle has been Sacramento against Seattle all along.
It’s not Sacramento against itself, because it was inevitable the city would build a new ownership conglomerate and a new arena plan. And it’s not Seattle against the NBA, because the league has been very clear in its interest in returning to Washington state.
If Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer headed the same group to buy the Kings to play in Sacramento, it breezes through the approval process. If any city other than Seattle is trying to poach the team – Anaheim, Las Vegas, Virginia Beach – Sacramento mounts a successful comeback victory and probably wins easy.
Sacramento against Seattle.
Today, for the first time, they go head-to-head, with both mayors, representatives from both hopeful ownership groups and leaders from both West Coast locations on the East Coast to make presentations to NBA officials and select owners to gather information. That leads into the April 18-19 Board of Governors meeting and a vote on the future of the Kings. And that leads to an outcome that will impact the NBA for many years.
Either a new arena is being built to keep a team in Sacramento or a new arena is being built to bring a team back to Seattle, and there is still no hint from the league office that the win-win scenario in both cities is possible. No expansion, commissioner David Stern said without wiggle room during All-Star weekend in February in Houston, the last comment on the matter.
Every indication is that this will be a very tough call for the Board of Governors, with strong arguments each way as well as counter-arguments and more counter-arguments. Statistical data will be offered as supporting evidence, and so will emotion. The pitches will be so far reaching that Seattle may promote its massive international corporate base, and Sacramento will definitely promoteVivek Ranadive as the general partner of the proposed ownership group that will make the entire league money by broadening the appeal of the NBA in his native India.
There are so many layers to this:
If the Seattle bid is voted down later this month – if – don’t be surprised if the current owners, the Maloof family, holds on to the Kings for a while. It could be a few months to step back and see who else wants to play Monopoly now that the team is on the open market, but that would be long enough to have control over trades, draft and free agency. They could still sell late in the summer and give the new owner enough time to draw more than 3,500 fans a game.The Maloofs have not ruled out the possibility of owning the Kings next season. That’s more of a longshot than the July/August scenario, but the family is considering all options at this point. Including staying on and gauging the mood with a new commissioner, Adam Silver.
If Seattle is denied and the Maloofs sell? It will have to be to a group that will own the team in Sacramento. Again, the Board of Governors vote is about location. If California’s capital city wins, the team stays no matter who is at the top of the masthead.
Voting consideration No. 1: It makes sense that small-market owners would prefer competing against the local TV money of other small-market teams. Boost for Sacramento. Except that some owners, from markers of any size, could want the cut of the to-be-decided relocation fee. Boost for Seattle. (See, counters to every argument.)
Voting consideration No. 2: Ranadive’s late addition to the Sacramento group, after Stern backhanded the first offer of its attempted counter-strike, is a positive. How much of a positive is unclear. Owners have to at least be intrigued by the potential of increasing the revenue stream in India, and the relationships he may have already built as No. 3 man in Golden State ownership group can help. But the Warriors may already have been in the Sacramento camp. It is possible Ranadive will not swing a vote.
Voting consideration No. 3: Stern, who has worked for years to keep the Kings from moving, has lost one of his most compliant voters. The Maloofs historically followed the commissioner’s lead on most topics. They’re clearly looking out for their best interests on this one.
Kobe Bryant, dismissing the notion that Saturday’s game at Sleep Train Arena was the last installment of Lakers-Kings, once a great rivalry before the Kings fell off the map: “They’ve been singing the same song for three years. Enough already.” He is sort of right. This has been the Sacramento saga on a loop. But it has never been like this. There has never been a relocation vote weeks away. There has never been a Seattle.
One important clarification: When Stern said recently an outgoing owner will not dictate where that team would play, he was indicating the decision belonged to the Board of Governors once the owner had reached a sales agreement. It did not mean the BOG can makes the initial sales agreement. The governors’ power is in approving or denying a deal, not making it. Some people in Sacramento took that to mean owners can simply force the Maloofs to take a deal from the Ranadive-Mark Mastrov-Ron Burkle consortium. Not true.
The read at the moment? Pick ‘em. Both sides have precedents in their favor, both sides have strong arguments, both sides have the emotional factor of passionate fan bases. The needle likely moves based on whatever feedback comes out of today’s important gathering, but this is setting up as a little more than two weeks of tension around the league, and especially around two cities.
At least LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers were in the house at the AT&T Center on Sunday night, but they weren’t in uniform and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was quick to offer up everything from video of the previous game to doctor’s notes to DNA mapping of the infirmed as proof that this was not tit-for-tat.
“I can see where you guys would draw those conclusions, but no,” he told reporters.
So how come the rest of the world can’t help but see this as a tale with more behind-the-crown royal conniving than “Game of Thrones”?
Give the Heat the leg up in the head games with their undermanned 88-86 win that came on Chris Bosh’s 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in the game.
“It is very special to us,” Bosh said after ringing up 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. “Just to be able to compete at a high level continuously, no matter who we put out there.”
Even the league office seemed to get in on the big tease by assigning burr-under-the-saddle lead referee Joey Crawford to the game in San Antonio, where he is historically an antagonist rivaled only by Gen. Santa Anna.
There is little the commissioner can do this time except throw up his hands in frustration and, with retirement looming in barely 10 months, know this will then be Adam Silver’s conundrum. (more…)
SAN ANTONIO – The only way the Heat and Spurs are going to square off at full strength this season is if they meet in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James (hamstring), Dwyane Wade (right ankle) and Mario Chalmers (right ankle) were all scratched from the Miami lineup for tonight’s game at the AT&T Center.
Manu Ginobili (hamstring) is out for the Spurs.
It’s the second time this season that a highly anticipated showdown between the top two teams in the league was aborted at the last minute.
When coach Gregg Popovich had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green fly home to San Antonio instead of accompanying the team to Miami on Nov. 29, the Spurs were fined $250,000 and reprimanded by commissioner David Stern.
A lineup of Spurs reserves put up a good fight, before losing 105-100.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said outside the locker room before Sunday night’s game that scratching three members of his starting five — including two of his All-Stars — was not in retaliation for Popovich’s actions.
“I can see where you guys would draw those conclusions, but no,” Spoelstra told reporters.
“This was unforeseen. Mario now hasn’t had a lot of progress in the last couple of days, so we’’ll have to slowly see how he feels and go day by day. Dwyane retweaked about every minor injury he had in the New Orleans game. You could see it, half the game he was on the floor. L.J. obviously tightened up his hamstring. I didn’t put him back in in the fourth quarter.”
When informed that James and Wade were sitting by reporters, Popovich, playfully staggered backward in mock shock.
“What kind of (expletive) is that?” he said. “Are you kidding me? What a bunch of rummies. They’re doing that. Who would think of something like that? There’s no place for that.”
Asked if he was surprised, Popovich shook his head.
“I had too many things to think about to worry about that kind of thing,” he said.
SAN ANTONIO — To most Americans “Remember the Alamo” is a famous battle cry they learned in middle school.
For the Heat, it might simply be something they’re trying to do.
With the shortened lockout schedule wiping out their trip to San Antonio last season and coach Gregg Popovich letting the air out of a marquee showdown four months ago, tonight’s game (NBA TV, pregame 6:30 p.m.) at the AT&T Center will be the first meeting between the key players of the NBA’s top two teams in more than 14 months and the first trip to the Alamo City by Miami’s Big Three since March 4, 2011.
Manu Ginobili is already a scratch from the Spurs’ lineup after suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter of Friday night’s win over the Clippers.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has indicated that since his team’s 27-game win streak has been snapped, he’ll be looking to get some rest for his key players before the playoffs begin in three weeks. He sat out starting point guard Mario Chalmers on Friday night against the Hornets.
But first, it’s likely that a pair of No. 1 seeds in each conference — clearly the two best teams in the league this season — will have most of their frontline stars on the court to circle, jab and try to deliver the kind of meaningful blow that might still be felt if the Spurs and Heat meet up again in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh vs. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, minus Ginobili still carries the knockout punch feel of a heavyweight fight in the most anticipated regular season game in San Antonio in years.
“We haven’t played each other a lot,” Wade told reporters after Friday night’s win in New Orleans. “And that’s the Eastern and Western Conference, you don’t get a chance to see each other a lot until hopefully you meet at the end of June.”
“They play with a higher pace and a higher energy level at home,” said forward Shane Battier. “It’s a tough place. But it’ll be a good challenge for us.”
What’s at stake officially is still the race for the overall best record in the league and home-court advantage all the way through the playoffs. Miami’s 57-15 record is two games better than San Antonio, but a Spurs win would slice that in half, give them a 1-1 split of the season series and the tie-breaker (record against the opposite conference) should they eventually meet up with the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the line.
“You play all year trying to get home-court advantage,” said Popovich, “because that’s where you always feel most comfortable. But having said that, you don’t win championships without being able to win on the road.”
You’d be lucky to get the stoic Spurs, always a reflection of their never-let-them-see-you-sweat coach, to even admit they knew the Heat were next up on the schedule.
It’s the approach taken by second-year forward Kawhi Leonard, who’ll draw the main assignment of guarding James, who is likely on his way to a fourth MVP award, which would put him in the select company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan (five), Bill Russell (five) and Wilt Chamberlain (four).
“I don’t think nothing of it, really,” said the 21-year-old Leonard. “It’s how I’ve been playing my whole life, guarding the best player on the other team.”
Of course, the first Heat-Spurs stirred up more than its share of controversy, debate and repercussion back on Nov. 29 when Popovich showed his disdain for the NBA schedule-maker by having Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green fly straight home from Orlando and miss the last stop (and a back-to-back) at the end of a six-game road trip at Miami. It had been a much anticipated and highly promoted national TV game on TNT. The club was fined $250,000 and reprimanded by commissioner David Stern for the stunt and yet a collection of Spurs understudies pushed the Heat stars to the limit in a 105-100 loss.
“People say, ‘Oh, he’s resting them,’ but it’s not about rest,” said Popovich. “It’s about being as healthy as possible at the end of the year.
“Not playing that fourth game in five nights, if you’ve got Tim Duncan’s knee and you’re at his age, might make him more ready to go at the end of the year. At lot of guys play 40-plus minutes to win now. We’re more concerned with later.”
While Miami is 2-22 all-time at the AT&T Center and took a 125-95 beating on Mar. 4, 2011 in the only other visit to San Antonio since the James-Wade-Bosh trinity was formed, it is more curiosity and honing their own game that is on the minds of the Heat.
“It’s always good to play the best and play against the best,” James said. “It’ll be an opportunity for us. We just want to get better. The game Sunday doesn’t define our season or how we go from there. We just want to continue to move forward.”
Perhaps to a historic June rematch that would be as memorable as the Alamo.
HANG TIME, Texas — Now that the streak is broken, it doesn’t make any sense to risk breaking down the key members of the Heat before the playoffs start.
After 27 consecutive victories and nearly eight relentless weeks of chasing history, it’s likely Miami’s key players will get a chance to recharge their batteries before what is expected to be another long playoff grind.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that they look forward to getting a chance to catch their breath and put their feet up.
Forward LeBron James said he would appreciate a break over the final two-plus weeks.
“I understand with the position that we’re in now,” he said, “I can use a game here or a game there, to kind of get my body just feeling a lot better before the playoffs start.”
Guard Dwyane Wade, who was given two games off earlier in the week to rest a balky right knee, said being right for the playoffs is the priority, but that also includes maintaining a degree of continuity.
“We’re at the point,” he said, “where we want to make sure that guys are focusing on what we need to do and not be out there just waiting for the playoffs. So we still have basketball to play and we have to play it when we’re on the court.
“But I think guys need to take the opportunity, as well, to clear minds and clear their bodies and get ready for what we’re put together for.”
All of the principals were in position for Friday night’s bounce-back win at New Orleans. James played 32 minutes, Wade 33 and Chris Bosh had the lightest load at 22. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers was held out due to a bothersome ankle.
Wouldn’t it be the most delicious of ironies — and a touch of tit-for-tat revenge — if coach Erik Spoelstra decided to start that rest in the next game on Sunday night in San Antonio? Not only would it short-circuit an NBA Finals preview against the best-in-the-West Spurs, but could be a response to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich having four of his top players — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green – fly home at the end of a road trip back on Nov. 29 rather than play at Miami.
Coincidentally, a lawsuit against the Spurs that had been filed by a Heat ticket holder for, in essence, breach of contract, was voluntarily dropped on Friday. The Spurs were fined $250,000 by commissioner David Stern for not giving proper notification of Popovich’s decision. The Heat barely beat a team of Spurs reserves 105-100.
Now four months later, would it be a fair turnabout by Miami? Is it simply time for the Big Three of the Heat to get some rest before the playoffs? And who’ll be monitoring Stern’s blood pressure before the lineups are announced?