Billionaire makes last-minute run to keep Kings in Sacramento

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It’s a Hail Mary.

But if you’re going to call a Hail Mary, having a billionaire making the toss helps.

That’s what happened in the saga of the Kings potential move out of Sacramento on Thursday.

The Maloof brothers, the owners of the Kings, made their case for needing to pack up their franchise and move to Anaheim to the NBA Board of Governors — the other owners — at a meeting in New York. The vibe out of that meeting was basically cautious.

According to multiple reports, the Maloofs preached about how they swear they are not in as much debt as has been reported. Basically, they’re good, the market is the problem. Of course, that begs the question of why they needed a loan from Henry Samueli, the operator of the Honda Center? And why the terms of the lease are so bad? But okay.

The surprising news was that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson (yes, the former Suns player Kevin Johnson) told that same board he had billionaire Ron Burkle ready to buy the team and keep them in Sacramento. Burkle is a grocery-store magnate and a big-time catch — a billionaire buddy of Bill Clinton who did big time fundraising for his wife. He runs in powerful circles. In an NBA where owners need to be richer and better connected, he is a whale (to use the gambling parlance). David Stern likes whales.

Burkle confirmed in a press release he wants in.

Problem is, the Maloofs continue to tell everyone they are not going to sell. They were emphasizing that again yesterday. Remember that George Maloof Sr. – the father of the Maloof brothers — bought the Rockets in 1979 and they sold it after he died a couple years later. They have said before they regretted that move, and that likely plays into them holding on to their asset.

So now what? Good luck guessing. It’s hard to picture the rich capitalist owners telling the Maloof brothers they cannot move to make more money. But Lakers owner Jerry Buss is trying to make the Kings pay a heavy relocation fee to move into what he sees as part of his market. If he (and Clippers owner Donald Sterling) succeeds, then the cost of the move might be too great and the deal would fall apart.

Then there’s the Burkle Hail Mary.

Maybe what matters most is Burkle saying he would be willing to buy a team and move it to Sacramento. Well, if a new stadium is built. It’s always about the stadium. But with a team for sale down in New Orleans where efforts to find local ownership are going slowly, it is something to watch. Do they have hornets in Sacramento?

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.