Mayor Kevin Johnson releases arena funding report, will the Maloofs and NBA bite?

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The plight of Kings fans, who came within an inch of losing their only major professional sports team, may be coming to a crossroads today, when the Think Big Sacramento coalition led by mayor Kevin Johnson releases their arena funding proposal to the public. All they have to do is come up with a plan to raise $387 million that keeps everyone happy. No biggie.

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton got the scoop on it, and released his report in the early morning hours on Thursday:

What is the guiding principle of Sacramento’s new plan?

That’s right: A virtual split – this time in thirds – among the private interests of an arena, the public and the arena’s patrons….

What you will see in today’s arena presentation are plans for three different funding pots to generate the $387 million or more needed to get an arena built. According to people familiar with the document, the Kings, the NBA and a private developer would contribute $91 million to $156 million in lease payments, upfront money, land and other revenue to pay for an arena.

The city of Sacramento would contribute the sale of public land, a tax on hotels and taxis, and money from items such as digital advertising and parking valued at $94 million to $123 million.

And, while residents in the six-county Sacramento region will not be asked to raise their taxes to subsidize a new arena, patrons of the venue will help pay for it. The third pot of money will be fueled by ticket surcharges, naming rights and other revenue sources that could generate $90 million to $121 million.

Kings fans and those tracking how and why the NBA operates the way it does will want to watch how the parties react to this report. Much of the Think Big Sacramento campaign has been orchestrated to a presidential degree, leaving no doubt to the positions of the heavy hitters involved – including companies such as AEG, the ICON-David Taylor group, and of course, the NBA and the Maloofs.

The Maloofs appear to be impotent in this discussion, as some league insiders have openly acknowledged that their future in the NBA will be determined by their ability to get an arena deal done.

The bottom line with this report is that the Kings and the NBA have been asked to foot a third of the cost. Whether that amount will be amicable to them given the whirlwind of interests controlling the matter is entirely debatable. On one hand, NBA owners do not want to see the league telling them what to do, and on the other hand, the Lakers, Knicks, and Bulls of the league don’t want to hear that (allegedly) broke owners can move into their backyard.

And, separately, while arena subsidy opponents scream blood murder, the reality is that top-flight cities have no leverage. They can clamor for leagues and owners to pay their own bills, but the folks in Sacramento would have to do that with an Anaheim Royals press release wiping their tears.

As for the Maloofs being able to contribute rental payments and/or in general, they recently liquidated their majority interest in the Palms Casino down to 2 percent with the option to buy back another 18 percent, in a financial transaction that could easily pave the way for another (Ron Burkle) speculator to come in and take over their team if they get elbowed out. They continue to assert their leverage, albeit with more discretion than they have used in the past, but in reality, David Stern knows where the bodies are buried. And as SB Nation’s Tom Ziller points out, the NBA has been working diligently to get an arena deal done – so they’re not going to stand for grandstanding when diplomacy is needed.

My take – we’re looking at a firm but fair offer from the City of Sacramento. They’re strapped just like most American cities, and this is their first offer. If this dance plays out like every other negotiation we’ve been witness to in our lives, expect the Maloofs and/or the NBA to say that the city’s request is ‘over the top,’ and they’ll waltz to equilibrium.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.