Kings to Seattle: It’s not done. But don’t be shocked if it is soon.

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Things can change. There was already what was supposed to be a final game in Sacramento that turned out to not be so final. And anyone who doesn’t think the Maloofs can change their mind at the last minute didn’t watch the arena negotiations in Sacramento a year ago.

But the Maloof family selling the Kings franchise to Seattle’s Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer group for around $500 million is moving fast down the road to reality.

And it’s what David Stern wants, which makes it all the more likely. And he wants it to happen before March 1 so the new owners can file to move the team to Seattle next season (a lame-duck year in Sacramento would be ugly).

When the news broke Wednesday that a deal was close, it seemed to come out of nowhere. But these talks didn’t. They have been going on months or longer and I was told have been serious for a little while. More serious than Virginia Beach ever was because the money is there in Seattle. Hansen’s company is pitching in for the arena and to buy the team and it is a $2.7 billion firm. Ballmer is worth more than $15 billion by himself.

They can overpay for the franchise, pay relocation fees, and whatever else. While the City of Seattle is going to pitch in a bond for the stadium construction, this is not like the deal in Virginia or even the old deal in Seattle before the Sonics moved where the state governments were asked to pitch in some cash. Most of the money in the project is private financing and there is no state money. Those kind of projects get done.

David Stern looks back at what happened before in Seattle, a great basketball market, as a black eye, and he wants to see a team return there. It’s one of his last priorities and something he wants as a legacy, according to reports. And what Stern wants…

But that is different than saying this is a lock.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says there is hope and there is, because this is a massive deal. A very complex deal. Remember that in all of this the Kings and Maloofs have a debt to the city of Sacramento worth more than $75 million, plus other obligations. Those have to be cleared up. The Kings owners would remain a minority owner in the new team and arena. This is an arena some in Seattle — including baseball’s Mariners — have opposed. Large deals with a lot of moving parts can crumble.

But it’s hard to see some cavalry come charging over the hill to save the Kings, because the NBA isn’t fond of the cavalry.

David Stern and the plethora of other attorneys at the NBA league offices are big on process. They want someone to be around, to work through the system, not to just swoop in last minute. Hansen has been talking to the league and working on his arena deal for years. Getting the team is just the last, big part of that.

If Hansen does buy the team, there will not be opposition from the other owners. Because Stern wants this and because stable ownership in a large Seattle market is a good thing. It will fly through the league process. However, team officials around the league have been warned not to comment on these talks, reports Sam Amick at the USA Today.

In the end, I wouldn’t bet the rent money on the Maloofs selling the team because they are unpredictable. To put it kindly. I mean a key owner of the Kings is on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” And the deal has not reached the point the minority owners of the Kings have been informed, reports the USA Today.

But the Seattle deal didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s been worked on for a while. The Maloofs were not telling Kevin Johnson about it but the talks have been happening and it’s not going to be easy for Johnson to wedge himself into them at this point. Now it’s time to see if the deal can be finalized. Something David Stern wants. And what he wants he usually gets.

Sixers’ Robert Covington to miss at least one game after crashing into stands

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NBA fans love hustle from their players, but sometimes things go awry.

That’s what happened on Saturday night after Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington dove into the stands to try to save a loose ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The play came in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left and the Sixers down by just one point. Covington leapt into the far sideline just near the Cavaliers bench. He appeared to turn his ankle and land awkwardly on his back. The Cleveland floor has a small lip after the first row of seats that may have played a part in the injury.

Cleveland would go on to score on the play, and Covington had to be helped off the floor. The Cavaliers went on to win, 105-98.

Meanwhile, the 76ers will play Sunday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Covington will miss the game with a lower back contusion.

Via NBCSN Philadelphia:

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is with the team in New Orleans and is doubtful for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.

Covington tumbled out of bounds and over courtside seats while he tried to save a possession during a Sixers comeback attempt. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop between the court and the area where Covington landed. Many of his teammates were unaware of Covington’s injury at first because it was out of their vision.

“It’s scary to see your teammate like that,” guard JJ Redick said. “They said he fell on his back. I wanted to make sure he’s walking and not in too much pain. But I just wish the best for him and hope he’s OK.”

Back injuries can be a complete hassle to recover from, especially when you’re deep in the middle of the season. Let’s hope the Sixers get Covington back soon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked all over Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks a lot. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is big, strong, and aggressive when it comes to attacking the rim.

But he doesn’t typically dunk this hard or this emphatically over perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates like Rudy Gobert.

That’s what made this one special.

As time was winding down in Milwaukee’s eventual 117-100 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo put the exclamation point at the end of the sentence for the Bucks.

Gobert took the brunt of it. Via Twitter:

Goodness.

Gordon Hayward on playing this season: “It’s definitely in the back of my mind”

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been going through some grueling physical therapy to aid his recovery from a horrible leg injury he suffered during his first game with the team back in October. Hayward wound up breaking his ankle, likely putting him out for the season.

Meanwhile, whether Hayward plays or not during the 2017-18 campaign is still up for debate. Hayward is making progress in his recovery — he recently was able to take his walking boot off and go for a smaller ankle brace.

For his part, Hayward has said that he is still thinking about the possibility of returning this season to the Celtics, who have earned themselves the top spot in the Eastern Conference in his absence.

Speaking to Adam Himmelsbach over at the Boston Globe, Hayward detailed not only his recovery routine but his thinking when it came to planning his return.

Via The Boston Globe:

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

That’s smart thinking on Hayward’s part. Too often it seems like guys are jonesing to come back, and when they do it’s cause for concern that they’re damaging their long-term playing health.

Hayward is making some real progress — the Globe story details him doing tasks like picking up marbles with his toes and shooting baskets from a chair as part of his PT — but whether he’ll be ready this season is doubtful.

It doesn’t sound like Hayward wants to rush things, but you never know. His agent did say that his return this year is unlikely, but another report has said that his earliest return would be March. Just in time to make a run for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?

We’ll have to wait and see.

EDIT: Shortly after this story and the Boston Globe one was published on Sunday morning, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team isn’t planning for Hayward to come back. The plot thickens!

Kobe Bryant’s advice to Lonzo Ball, young Lakers: “push, push, push, get better now”

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Kobe Bryant was never a patient man.

Veteran Lakers of that era tell stories of Kobe entering Lakers practices at age 18 and wanting to take on the older players in games of one-on-one after practice, and trying to dominate them. He wanted to establish his credentials early and never backed off. He pushed himself, his teammates, everyone around him, and that was part of his success.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that in an interview on the Lakers’ cable channel in Los Angeles, Spectrum SportsNet, Kobe’s advice to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the rest of the young Lakers was to push themselves. Hard. (Hat tip Bleacher Report.)

“We never thought, ‘OK, we’re gonna win four years from now.’ We really thought, ‘This is our year. We’re gonna get this done. We’re gonna push, push, push, push, push, get better now.’ And in the process of having that kind of impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s a kind of patient impatience.”

Kobe entered the league in a very different situation, an NBA team that had Shaquille O’Neal at his peak in the post, quality veteran role players around him, a team that was nearly ready to contend. Still, it took them four years — and a lot of pushing and maturing from Kobe — to win a title.

However, Kobe would never look at it that way. He would want to push hard and push through. And that’s what he’s telling the young Lakers now.

The Lakers are taking little steps forward — Brandon Ingram’s confidence and game are turning a corner and he is impressing of late, Lonzo Ball’s decision making is getting better (the game seems to be slowing down for him a little), and Kyle Kuzma has been one of the league’s best rookies this season. But there is a long way to go. Kobe knows that, and is telling them to not let up. Which is what you’d expect him to say and what fans want.

But those fans need to be patient, too. This is a process in Los Angeles, and a long one.