Joe Maloof and the catch-22 of the small-market franchise

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Thumbnail image for Kings_logo.gifIt takes money to win in the NBA.

It’s not an accident that every team that went deep into the playoffs was paying the luxury tax last season. Put in a salary cap and a luxury tax and whatever you want, so long as there is a soft cap there is no true parity because some markets make more and can spend more.

(I don’t think the NBA wants NFL-style parity anyway, it doesn’t work in basketball where one player like a Kobe or LeBron can control a game in a way no football player can. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

Spending to win becomes a challenge for small and middle-market teams — you can only fill the building and make the most money if you’re winning, but you can only win if you have the money to spend.

Sacramento has been caught in that cycle but seems to be breaking out of it. Co-owner Joe Maloof was on with KHTK in Sacramento and talked about the cycle.

“It almost gets to a point where you have to hit a homerun. It’s very difficult to compete when you’re not filling up that arena. That’s the problem. You have to be able to get the fans in and it’s a catch 22. We made the decision to build through the draft and that’s what we’ve done. We’re gonna try and take a page out of Oklahoma City’s book. They’ve done a fantastic job in their drafts and I think Geoff (Petrie) has done a wonderful job with the players he’s brought in. If you go up and down our roster and look at other team’s rosters you’re gonna see why we’re all so excited. It’s hard to find a big man I’d rather have than DeMarcus Cousins. Maybe (Pau) Gasol for a while, but outside of that I think Cousins is going to be the best center in the league some day.”

The Kings, with Tyreke Evans and Cousins do have a nice young core building. But now comes the part where they have to get the city to buy into it.

“We’ve gotta concentrate on getting fans back into Arco. That’s our number one goal and our number one objective. We’ve gotta get people back in there to watch these games. I think they got a little disenchanted with the team we’ve had. We haven’t had a good team, we’ve had a very bad team the last three years. As most people know these things go in cycles. You’re gonna have some good years and some not so good years. That’s why I feel very good that we’re on our way back this year. With the talent we have we can really make some noise in the West.”

Maloof added that yes, they have been approached a lot in the last decade about moving the team. But right now they are working hard to make it all work in Sacramento, a city that threw itself full force behind the Kings teams of a decade ago.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.