Fate of Kings in Sacramento to be decided in New York hotel

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The NBA owners are getting together in a mid-town Manhattan hotel this week, and not just to give us all lockout flashbacks. (Quick, get Larry Coon to order some pizza!). It’s time for the Board of Governor’s meeting (which is a fancy way of saying all the owners get together and vote on stuff).

It is in that hotel that the Kings’ Maloof brother will try to explain to the other owners why six weeks ago they stood in the middle of Power Balance Arena and basked in the applause for a handshake deal to build a new arena in Sacramento and keep the Kings in town, but now they renegotiate it. Which would kills the deal as the other parties are done talking. The family needs to explain why now that they have to do their share — when they have to write some checks — to keep their team in the city of a very loyal fan base they want out.

There is a reason Commissioner David Stern and the league pushed the Maloofs aside and negotiated a deal with Sacramento and eventual arena operator AEG. Those sides came to the deal where the Maloofs had to make some very reasonable contributions — starting with $3.2 million in pre-development fees — that the Maloofs now say are not reasonable.

It is the other NBA owners that will decide what is reasonable. They can veto any move of the team. They can’t force the Maloofs to sell (the wish of most Kings fans) but they can force the Kings to stay put in Sacramento. And there are buyers in the wings that want to keep the team in the city.

That said, the other owners are not going to want limit their flexibility going forward — they want the future ability to leverage their cities for truckloads of money to build (or upgrade) an arena and nothing does that like the threat of a move. The other owners could let the Kings go to Anaheim (over the objections of the Buss family that owns the Lakers and Donald Sterling of the Clippers).

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will not be in New York to make the city’s case, reports the Sacramento Bee. City and AEG officials said they have done all they can. David Stern will present the league’s case and the handshake agreement reached a few weeks ago. Here is how the Bee breaks down the deal.

The Maloofs have declined to say publicly what their concerns are, other than their refusal two weeks ago to pay a $3.26 million share of the $13 million in pre-development costs the city says it needs to keep an arena project on track. The Kings also have objected to a proposal that they reimburse the would-be arena operator AEG its $3.26 million pre-development share if the deal falls apart without any fault from AEG….

AEG has agreed to contribute $58.75 million to a downtown arena. The Kings agreed to put up $73.3 million. The city would shoulder the bulk of the cost: $255.5 million.

A source familiar with the issue said the Kings would like more decision-making authority at the arena. The team reportedly also has concerns about parking issues, wants more input on the design, and has issues with the proposed lease terms and revenue streams, among other sticking points. The current “term sheet” calls for the Kings to sign a 30-year lease.

To me, this all seems a fair deal. Sacramento Mayor Johnson has come up with a way to get a much-needed new arena done, but the Maloofs — at least George for sure — clearly wants to move.

Now it falls into the hands of the other owners in a mid-town hotel. If the lockout is any indication, we could be waiting a while for an answer.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).