team maloof with stern

Report: Maloofs pitching against Sacramento at NBA Board of Governors meeting

13 Comments

Here we go all over again.

It was around this time last year that the Maloofs stormed angrily out of the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meetings, rejected and dejected after they were told they couldn’t go to Disneyland. Today, they returned to New York to pitch the idea that they were somehow wronged during the past month’s negotiations with the city of Sacramento over a new arena.

Specifically, they’re expected to ask their fellow NBA owners to support the nebulous concept that they’re unhappy with the deal.  They’re also expected to ask owners to support their decision to move to Anaheim if they don’t get what they want out of Sacramento.

The only problem is that the NBA, and specifically David Stern, ran point on a negotiation conducted during All Star weekend that brought the Maloofs, the NBA, AEG, and the city of Sacramento into an agreement in principle on a $391 million Entertainment and Sports Complex similar to L.A. Live.

Hanging in the balance is a fan base that is roundly cited as one of the best in sports.  Also hanging in the balance is a city beset by 12 percent unemployment — that is banking on leading economists’ predictions that a downtown arena can raise property values by hundreds of millions of dollars and kick-start a broken economy.

The Maloofs themselves called the non-binding deal fair when it was struck over All Star weekend, and since that weekend nothing about the deal has changed. The only thing that has changed has been the Maloofs’ public position regarding the deal, which has been duplicitous in its approach.

On one hand, the family has said that they remain committed to Sacramento, and on the other they have unleashed a full-court legal press designed to disrupt the arena funding process.

The family’s newly hired ‘crisis consultant’ Eric Rose started feeding the family’s narrative to the press a few weeks ago, saying they don’t believe the city can deliver on a new arena in time for the 2015-16 season, and that Anaheim was still an option on the table.

Of course, if the city of Sacramento has any holes in its plans to build an arena by 2015-16, we now know that they will be cited by the Maloofs in today’s meetings as a reason the league should allow them to move to Anaheim, where they could make more money whether they keep the team or not.

The Maloofs’ attorney, Scott Zolke, followed Rose’s statements by issuing a letter to Sacramento assistant city manager John Dangberg, providing specific legal notice to the city about issues the family had with anything and everything. In fact, if you wanted to derail an arena project you would want to start a checklist using the items on that list. From the timing of environmental reviews to the ability of arena opposition groups to delay the process or stop it in its tracks – items that could have been discussed behind closed doors were now floating around in an increasingly hostile public domain.

The city responded to this first initial red flag, explaining to the lawyer that he had compiled information for his complaint from six-month old estimates from the city manager’s office that had since been publicly updated.  The 88-page letter went on to address the numerous issues raised by the Maloofs, but made one key point: “It is critical that all parties are pulling in the same direction.”

If it wasn’t clear after Rose’s newspaper run, it became abundantly clear where the Maloofs stood following their April 2 response to the 88-page letter, when they admonished the city for not responding to its concerns over an arena opposition group.

“An important new issue (casts) a giant shadow over the feasibility of the project,” wrote Zolke about a group called STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork).  The letter went on to set legal markers designed to threaten liability upon the city:

“All of your assumptions and projections are based on a premise that the Kings will be playing in a new arena for the 2015-16 NBA season. However, the issues we have identified likely will prevent the City from meeting its timeline, and thus pose imminent obstacles to the new arena being ready for the 2015-16 season. Such a failure will result in irreparable harm to the Kings, not to mention the losses the City will suffer.”

This is where things get wacky and border on bad faith.

While one would think that in a near $400 million transaction that the Maloofs’ attorney would have vetted this STOP group, it appears that no such vetting has taken place.

The group did indeed file a petition with the city to try to get the 30,000 signatures needed by May 22 in order to bring the Kings arena issue to a public vote.  If the group were to somehow get the signatures, a vote would occur in November and the project’s delay would almost certainly give the Maloofs a green light to move out of town.

The problem? The petition the group filed to authorize its signature drive might have been written on a napkin and handed to the city clerk with ketchup stains on it. It was recently removed from consideration at the request of the group, and amended to include basic, proper punctuation and simple legal terminology required of such requests.

So the organization the Maloofs’ attorneys are citing as a “giant shadow” doesn’t have an attorney, and it submitted a legal document without putting periods and commas where they legally need to be.

I followed up with the group to determine for myself what kind of organization it was and how seriously it should be taken. They had a public meeting on April 7 at a local park in Sacramento. At this meeting was a group of 10 people, with leader Julian Camacho flipping some hamburgers. Their Facebook page is up to 43 ‘likes,’ and they’re still waiting on the Sacramento City Clerk to review their most recent ballot initiative language, assuming they spelled everything correctly.

Since the April 2 letter to the city the Maloofs have also made a massive public records request – 53 separate requests total. They have requested all communications between the city and the NBA, AEG, and politicians of all levels, and nothing says trust and partnership like a public records request.

So in summary, the project is on a tight deadline, needs all the public support it can muster, and the Maloofs are refusing to pay $3.26 million in pre-development costs, or one year of Travis Outlaw’s salary. They’re saying that the handshake agreement David Stern helped to cultivate didn’t go down how every other stakeholder said it did. They’re delaying the project by not paying those minimal costs, but saying that they’re also not sure the project can be done on time. They’ve rang the bell for an opposition group of 10 people that apparently can’t punctuate nor afford an attorney — that can’t start collecting the 30,000 signatures they need because they botched the original paperwork request. Meanwhile, the Maloofs’ attorneys are deposing the city like defendants and a crisis consultant has been brought on board to manage the media.

Elsewhere, 25 prominent Sacramento business leaders sent a letter to David Stern today asking that the Maloofs be removed as owners of the Kings. The Maloofs’ crisis consultant responded by criticizing the business leaders, pointing out that they didn’t want to get behind a deal like the failed arena project from a few cities over in Stockton.  Never mind the fact that the two deals are like pineapples and oranges — simply mentioning the two deals in the same breath is akin to doing an ad about how rich you are before asking the public for money.  You just don’t do it, and you certainly don’t go on the offensive against the same businesses that you’ll be partnering with for the next 30 years.

So at 2 p.m. ET representatives for the Maloof family, presumably led by brother George, started to make the case that Sacramento has screwed them yet again.  They’ll be pandering to owners that want to maintain their leverage in their future dealings with municipalities. But if the NBA wants to get another publicly subsidized arena without every city citing Sacramento as a cautionary tale, they’ll send the Maloofs out the side door once again, angry and dejected.

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
5 Comments

It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.

Damian Lillard gets tested by Warriors, looks for rebound

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
2 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) First it was a chest cold, then it was a fourth-quarter dry spell. The start of Damian Lillard‘s playoff series against the Golden State Warriors has been rough.

And as Lillard goes, often the rest of the Trail Blazers follow.

Portland is down 2-0 in its Western Conference semifinal series against the defending NBA champions. And it certainly won’t get much easier when the series shifts north Saturday – even though presumptive league MVP Stephen Curry is unlikely to return from a knee injury.

But Lillard and his team have a history of stepping up after getting knocked down. In fact, that’s been the theme of their whole season.

“I know the kind of guys I’m running with. Besides that, we’ve answered the call all season long. We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away. We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different,” he said.

Lillard, who averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists during the regular season, scored 25 points in the Blazers’ 110-99 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night, including 17 points in the third quarter. But the Warriors held him scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) in the crucial final period when they came from behind to win, outscoring Portland 34-12. Portland only scored six points over the last 5:21.

With a day off on Wednesday, Lillard let the loss digest.

“After the game I was pretty frustrated by not being able to finish that game. Yesterday I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t even gonna watch the playoff game until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of 3s. So I wanted to see for myself, but I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball after that game.”

In the series opener, Lillard started cold but eventually scored 30 points in a 118-106 loss. The Oakland native admitted later to battling a cold afterward. On Thursday, he said he was healthy.

Lillard made a playoff splash in 2014 when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Rockets sent the Blazers into the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But he was the lone starter left with the Blazers this season after the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Some expected the Blazers to only win about two dozen games.

Lillard tends to rise when he’s the underdog, however. Led by Lillard and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, a first-year starter, the Blazers overcame a 2-10 stretch in November to wind up the fifth seed in the West.

A two-time All-Star, Lillard was snubbed this year. How did he respond? By dropping 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over – wait for it – the Golden State Warriors. Lillard shot over Curry at will in that Feb. 19 victory, one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.

Knowing the Blazers are capable will be key Saturday night.

“We’ll have bounce. We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the opening round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Having energy, having bounce, at the Moda Center, with our crowd? That’s the least of our concerns.”

Lillard also struggled in the opening two games against the Clippers in the first round. Portland came back to win the next four to win the series, but the Clippers were hurt when their top two scorers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were knocked out with injuries.

The Warriors also get credit for Lillard’s struggles after making defensive adjustments on both Lillard and McCollum, particularly the play of Festus Ezeli.

“They are so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond (Green), those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Lillard said the Blazers would learn from it.

“It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth,” he said. “The entire season has been growth for us.”

Erik Spoelstra calls Frank Vogel’s firing “disturbing”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
9 Comments

One thing that’s a constant in the NBA: coaches always stick up for each other. That’s what happened on Thursday, when Pacers president Larry Bird announced that he was letting Frank Vogel go. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached against Vogel in three memorable playoff series during the big three era, was unhappy to hear the news of Vogel’s fate and lamented the state of coaching, which has very little job security.

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I think it’s really disturbing, actually. I’ve only been a head coach for eight years. So what am I, the second-longest-tenured?” Spoelstra asked, with Casey in his sixth season as Toronto coach and only Gregg Popovich, in his 20th season with the San Antonio Spurs, on the bench longer. “That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now and stability of organizations.”

Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle are the second longest-tenured coaches in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich. Already this offseason, there have been five coaching changes in addition to Vogel’s: Luke Walton replaced Byron Scott with the Lakers, Tom Thibodeau replaced Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves, Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman in Washington, and the Rockets and Kings jobs are still unfilled. The Knicks job could potentially turn over as well, if Phil Jackson opts not to bring back Kurt Rambis.

This is on top of five coaches who were fired during the season: Kevin McHale in Houston, Derek Fisher in New York, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Lionel Hollins in Brooklyn and David Blatt in Cleveland. That’s a third of the league since the 2015-16 season began. Spoelstra is right about the instability, but that’s part of the business.

Photos: Bucks unveil interior of new arena

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks runs down court during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Milwaukee Bucks are set to open their new arena in time for the start of the 2018-19 season, and now they’ve unveiled the first renderings of the inside of the building. They’re pretty nice.

Here’s the court:

There will also be several public bars out in the concourse:

It’s decidedly more modern than the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center, although that building is one of the most fun atmospheres in the league to watch a game in. Hopefully the new place can recapture that vibe.