With it time to write checks, Maloofs balk at Sacramento arena plan

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As has followed the long-standing pattern with the Maloof family — or at least half of the Maloof family — when it comes time to talk money on a Sacramento Arena deal to keep the Kings in that city, the family wants to get and not give.

But this time it may not matter because it is the city and the league that will have the final say on the Maloof’s plan.

The latest flare up in the plans to build a new arena for the Kings in Sacramento came to light on Thursday when it was reported by the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee that the Maloof family would not pay its share of the predevelopment costs that have come due.

David Stern and the league have had to step in and help a little, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The NBA today came to the rescue of Sacramento’s arena deal, agreeing to advance about $200,000 in pre-development costs after the Kings’ owners balked at paying the money….

NBA Commissioner David Stern, in a statement to The Bee, said those pre-development expenses must be paid quickly. “Those discussions have stalled, but I have advised Mayor Johnson that the NBA will advance pre-development expenses on behalf of the Kings pending our report to the NBA Board of Governors at its meeting on April 12-13.”

A Maloof family spokesman in Los Angeles told the Bee today the team does not feel that it should share in predevelopment costs because the team is only a tenant in the building, which would be owned by the city.

This from a family that is ultimately expected to kick in $73 million for the arena deal in the agreement that was celebrated just a few weeks back. The Maloofs have a new crisis PR person helping them out, which has to make Kings fans uneasy. The Los Angeles Times says this puts Anaheim back in play.

This is the Sacramento soap opera — or more accurately cheesy reality show — that has been the arena drama (in various forms) for a decade. It is a mistake to think of the Maloof family as a unified front — they have been internally divided on the Sacramento arena plans, a move to Anaheim and probably over whether Reese’s are chocolate with peanut butter or peanut butter with chocolate. Reportedly on one side are Joe and Gavin, on the other it is George Jr. and Adrienne. It was pro-move George who was doing the speaking Thursday.

But right now, the Maloofs do not have all the power. They are not in control.

The league pushed aside the Maloofs and negotiated directly with the city to get the arena agreement that was reached in place (the Maloofs were part of that discussion but not at the heart of it). The league then stepped in and basically fronted the predevelopment costs for the family.

This is all going to land in the laps of the NBA Board of Governors next month. That group made up of the other NBA owners, who voted last year to force the Maloofs to give Sacramento another year to come up with an arena plan. That group is going to hear from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, from the league and from the Maloofs. It is that same board that would have to approve moving the team.

If the league and the city can make the deal works for the other owners, it will get approved and move forward. As they were during negotiations, the Maloofs will not be the side with all the power.

So while the latest move by the Maloof family to save a few bucks and assert some control is a bump in the road, it does not kill the project. The Maloofs do not have that power anymore. If the league and city can make the deal that the other owners approve, the deal will get done.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.

Bulls Fred Hoiberg complains Isaiah Thomas gets away with palming. Thomas shrugs.

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The Boston Celtics have evened their series with Chicago Bulls, and more than that seem to have been able to take the Bulls best punch and now are responding.

At the heart of that is Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who had 33 points on Sunday. He was attacking and getting into the heart of the Bulls defense all night, telling Michael Carter-Williams “you can’t guard me” so many times Thomas got a technical. Thing is, Thomas was right. No Bull has been able to guard Thomas the past two games.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the reason for that is the officials let him get away with a palming the ball when dribbling. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (video above).

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he’s going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight,” Hoiberg said. “When you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he’s impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

I liked the follow-up comment from the reporter (not on the video), which was essentially “the league doesn’t call that on anyone, so that’s your complaint?” Thomas doesn’t get away with palming any more than any other ball handler in the league. If you want to define the rule by a 1950s standard then yes, he does carry, but so does pretty much every Bulls’ ball handler. So does 3/4 of the league by that measure.

Fortunately, Hoiberg never had to coach against Allen Iverson or he might have completely lost it watching him dribble.

This came off as a desperation ploy by Hoiberg. Or it was the worst attempt ever at a “take that for data” rant ever.

Thomas, for his part, basically shrugged when told about it.

When told about Hoiberg’s comments, Thomas said, “That’s not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life, I don’t know what to say to that.”

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.