The self-defeating prophecy in Sacramento

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In a pair of articles this week, Tom Ziller of SBNation.com elucidated the conditions of fandom in Sacramento as the Kings’ season approaches. What could be the last Kings season in Sacramento. To catch you up….(big breath):

The Maloofs were great owners and then the economy tanked and they became bad owners and then they started making noise about wanting a new arena and then threatened to leave and then they actually started having talks with Anaheim and thought they were home free but the NBA was like “Woah” and then Mayor Kevin Johnson presented to the NBA and knocked their socks off while the Maloofs basically presented a slide of “But we want to!” and the NBA was like “No way” and then they figured out a solution and it was awesome and a new arena would be built and then the Maloofs bailed on the agreement because of stuff people think is really piddly that should in no way hold up a deal and the league is in an impossible position and the Maloofs held an aggressive, spikey press conference and the city’s holding firm and it looks like the Kings are going to file for relocation in the spring.

(Gasp.)

So Ziller presents the case for why this season is an absolute no-win for Sacramento and its fans.

And now, we’re supposed to buy tickets, get our gear and root for the Kings. It’s a bizarre situation.

No one knows if fans will show up this season. The team claims that 80 percent of season ticket holders have renewed, but that doesn’t mean much: the season ticket levels seem to be fairly low, and as all keen NBA observers know, a substantial portion of season tickets go unused, especially for bad teams. Some fans have instituted one-man boycotts. Others are vowing to go as cheaply as possible. (SB Nation’s Kings blog is holding FTM Night, a sarcastic rendition of Maloof Appreciation Night. Our decision to ask fans to attend as cheaply as possible has gotten our credentials revoked, probably fairly.) We all saw what happened to Seattle, and how the shell-shocked fans largely avoided KeyArena when it was clear that the Sonics were gone. We don’t want to follow that same path … but who wants to line the pockets of traitors? Who wants to toss cash at the moving van driver?

via Sacramento Kings preview: Where the games are only subplots – SBNation.com.

A developer who lost all but 2 percent of the family’s ownership in The Palms. A developer whose mistakes forced the family to sell their patriarch’s cornerstone business, the New Mexico beer and spirits distributorship. “Trust me, I’m a developer.” When I look at George Maloof’s face, trust is the last thing I want to offer. (By a country mile.) He preceded to tell Sacramento that the Maloofs are committed to staying here. To renovating ARCO. (They have not moved an inch on that idea, according to reports.) Committed to Sacramento. So committed that it’s ridiculous to ask them to actually commit on paper. So committed that you might as well stop asking if they’re committed, because dammit they have said they are committed. Trust them.

I don’t trust that because I remember what the Maloofs didn’t do on April 13, 2011, and I don’t trust that because I remember what the Maloofs did do on April 13, 2012. I don’t believe a word George said about the Sacramento market — we know what he said about Sacramento is wrong. Not a word he said about the arena plan, because if he felt how he did about the arena’s viability all along, he never would have shook hands on the blueprint. The trust I had in the Maloof family and its intentions cracked for good when they forgot about their customers on April 13, 2011, and it shattered forever when they tore down their customers on April 13, 2012.

via When I trusted the Maloofs* – Sactown Royalty.

If you were a Sacramento fan, being treated this way, why would you want to put a single dollar in the Maloofs’ pockets? Why would you want a single opportunity to give them financial relief? Fans are always more attached to teams than owners, owners come and go, something they never talk about when they talk about their rights as owners. And generally, that relationship should remain as such. It’s nasty business to try linking your favorite team to the guy who pays the bills. Or even the athletes who wear the jerseys, a lot of the time. But this has become personal.

Sacramento has a personal relationship with the Maloofs. More than Heisley and Memphis, Bennett and OKC, even Holt and San Antonio. There’s a personal relationship between the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento, and it not a good one. It is bitter and personal and filled with resentment and anger. The Maloofs have openly pushed stories about how they’re being treated by Sacramento, as if they randomly were being bombarded. This is not to justify the abuse they’ve suffered, which is going to be extreme in some cases, because, let’s be honest, some people are terrible. And there’s no excuse for that. None. It doesn’t change the fact that this relationship was poisoned from both sides.

And the worst part is that the more they do to poison the relationship, the more it helps them. The league will not consider what the Maloofs have done to poison the well for ticket sales or revenue this season. They expect the fans to support them, no matter what. That’s their strength as a sports league. They can demand unreasonable things in exchange for the game they provide. And while David Stern in particular needs serious commendation for his protection of Sacramento in this instance, there’s only so far he can go.

So the more the Maloofs do to prove they should not own an NBA franchise, the more they will gain support of the league and its owners. Because very little in sports business makes sense.

That’s really the incredible part of this story. There’s nothing the fans, the citizens can do at this point. If the Maloofs decide to keep the team there, it will be of their own initiative. If they decide to file, nothing will change their mind. The fans can show up in droves and carry the team to the playoffs, and it likely won’t generate enough revenue to change the Maloofs mind, because the arena dictates so much of that. They can pressure the mayor’s office to cave and the city may simply not be able to afford it. They can not go and validate the Maloofs talk of the support.

The Maloofs have a right to protect their interests as businessmen. They’re not legally obligated to take care of Sacramento. Morally is another question, but as always that matters little in business.

If you were a Kings fan, would you want to go games? To buy jerseys, coozies, stickers? Would you want to support the team that’s yours?

Why is Robin Lopez holding this dog during his exit interview? (VIDEO)

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What did Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez have to say during his exit interviews? I can’t really tell, it’s all a bunch of white noise. All I see is him holding his giant, shaggy dog named Muppet while speaking to reporters.

I can’t get over it, really. Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?

Lopez is the perfect candidate to do this if you think about it, given his propensity to be a little off-kilter.

Via Twitter:

Lopez was mostly talking about taking away positives from a weird Bulls season in which they struggled all year until miraculously making the 8-seed before challenging top-ranked Boston in round 1.

Clippers, Jazz prepare for Game 7 in Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES  (AP) – Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was adamant the sun would not set on Paul Pierce‘s NBA run in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

“I looked over at ‘Truth’ during one of (those) timeouts and I said ‘You’re not ending your career in Utah,’ ” said Paul, referring to Pierce’s popular nickname. “We told him that. We just said we want to keep this thing going for him. Paul was big tonight. Like the 3 he hit over there on the wing, and stuff like that. Just his energy and his voice in those different timeouts I think was huge for us.”

With a crucial 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 6, the Clippers will attempt to extend the career of the 39-year-old Pierce, who is retiring at season’s end, and capture the series Sunday in Game 7 at Staples Center.

The winner advances to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven affair beginning Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Paul, whose two late free throws sealed the win against the Jazz, led the charge by scoring 29 points, dishing eight assists and allowing the Clippers to avoid elimination in the opening round for the second straight season. The Portland Trail Blazers bounced them last season in six games, aided by injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin.

And as Paul loathes to hear, the point guard has never guided a team past the second round.

“This is what we talked about before (Game 6),” said Paul, who has become the Clippers’ main force offensively with Griffin out of the playoffs again, this time with an injury to his big toe. “Doc (Rivers) said to go out there and give yourself a chance. We knew we couldn’t win both games (Friday), and we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”

Utah will have another opportunity to end Pierce’s career on Sunday despite missing a chance on its home court. After the Jazz won Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples, All-Star forward Gordon Hayward made it clear he didn’t want to return for a Game 7.

Hayward, though, is humming a different tune now.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were three years ago,” Hayward told the Salt Lake Tribune. “If you had told me at the beginning of the year you’d be in a Game 7 against the Clippers in L.A., I’d have been like, ‘Bring it on.’ ”

The Jazz will be forced to bring their best with center Rudy Gobert hobbling again. Gobert, who sustained a hyperextended left knee in Game 1 that kept him out of the lineup for two games, sprained his ankle in the second half of Game 6 and was forced to the bench because of it during critical stretches.

Gobert said the ankle wouldn’t hinder him Sunday.

“I sprained it on somebody’s foot,” said Gobert, who finished with 15 points, nine boards and three blocks, according to the Tribune. “I tried to run through it, but that didn’t work out. I’ve had a lot of sprained ankles before. I will be good.”

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.