Breaking: Deal between Maloof family, Seattle’s Chris Hansen for Kings struck, to be announced

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While Sacramento will get a final shot to convince NBA owners that this is not something they want to approve, sources have told ProBasketballTalk that Seattle’s Chris Hansen is ready to announce a tentative agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings in the coming days.

Following this come reports other teams have been notified of a sale, something PBT can confirm. The sale price is $525 million of which the new owners will get 65 percent.

Adrian Wojnarowski reported a week ago a deal between the Maloof family and Hansen was “at first and goal from the one,” and furthermore that the Kings moving to Seattle was a done deal. That report had been echoed by CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz and David Aldridge of NBA.com, though each reporter left a little wiggle room in case the Maloofs changed their minds.

According to our sources, any deal sending the Kings to Seattle would not be a done deal because any deal would be subject to an approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors.  In addition, sources tell PBT that Sacramento has been approached by at least three groups of “heavy hitters.”  Sacramento could be getting close to announcing a group that meets NBA criteria that has the “vision to transform one of the NBA’s most proven markets into a top NBA franchise.”  This, they believe, will help win the NBA’s support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.

As we’ve followed this story for the last two years, the city of Sacramento has bent over backwards to accommodate the Maloofs according to sources from all sides of the situation. One league source called their offer of public funds to build an arena for the Maloofs a “model offer of public funds,” and the NBA itself supported the failed deal from last year that the embattled Maloof family backed out of.

Since reports of the Kings’ move to Seattle have hit the net from very reputable sources, Sacramento has been firing on all cylinders in what has been a long-term initiative to respond in the event the Maloof family was willing to sell the team. Indeed, sources close to the situation in the California capitol have told PBT that preparing for this contingency has been a prime focus of the city, and that when it comes time to present Sacramento’s offer to the Board of Governors that they believe it will be a compelling and competitive offer.

It will be up to the Board of Governors — made up of the 29 other NBA owners — to make that determination.

We reported in September that Seattle’s Chris Hansen would need to put up more money to beat Sacramento’s offer, and that is one of the main sources of the city’s confidence according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity.

We calculated that an offer from Sacramento of $425-450 million for the overall price of the Kings franchise would put more money in the Maloofs’ pockets than the reported $525 million offer from Hansen, because a Sacramento owner would not need to worry about the Maloofs’ outstanding loan to Sacramento (~$75 million).  The city also doesn’t have to worry about the league’s relocation fee, which was $30 million when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, although the Board of Governors can set that fee at whatever level they wish. USA Today’s Sam Amick confirmed Sacramento’s target offer in his exclusive interview with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson last week.

The biggest point in Sacramento’s favor according to sources is the “model offer” of public funds itself, an offer that was in excess of $200 million in a California climate that normally doesn’t support public funds for sports facilities.

Sources close to the situation tell PBT that this, along with the league’s fear of another Sonicsgate, will be the deciding factors should Sacramento be able to provide an actionable offer that is competitive with Seattle.

The Maloofs themselves have reached the point where they have to sell the team, something that doesn’t really help their leverage. Their financial struggles are well documented and in May they asked their minority owners for a $10 million cash call. Along with the threat of having a lame duck year in Sacramento, nobody with knowledge of the situation has said that there is a realistic chance that the family decides not to sell.

This means that this story is coming to a head, and if the Board of Governors pushes the Maloofs toward the Sacramento offer they will have to listen. Because a Sacramento offer can put the same type of dollars in the family’s pockets, sources in Sacramento like the city’s chances to pull this out.

Favoring Seattle is the fact they have a larger television market than Sacramento (Seattle is 14th, Sacramento is 20th), and that a relocation fee assessed to Seattle could put money in each owners’ pockets, but Sacramento isn’t without ammunition here.  They have no competition from other sports teams and have a long and storied history of supporting their franchise.  They are also arguably further along in their arena building process, as Seattle is still facing two relatively toothless lawsuits and an environmental review while Sacramento’s arena deal was ready for approval last year.  In addition, as SB Nation’s Tom Ziller points out, there are several reasons that expansion could benefit the league and owners would also benefit from an expansion fee in that case as well, which would theoretically give the Hansen group a better price point to join the club.

Sacramento has been working for a long time and has not been caught off guard by the Maloofs’ intentions to sell. As long as Mayor Kevin Johnson can deliver the package he has been foreshadowing, it will be up to the league to decide whether or not they want to turn their back on Sacramento.

As usual, it comes down to showing the league the money. Fortunately for Sacramento, this is something that Mayor Johnson has a great track record with.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will reportedly get that chance, but he’s going to have to convince the owners to reject a deal put before them. While those same owners did that in the case of a proposed Kings move to Anaheim, this may be a tougher pitch for Sacramento.

Chris Paul scores 33, Rockets topple Warriors 116-108

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden felt closer to normal after struggling in his first game back from a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets got a big game from Chris Paul to down the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

Paul scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, Harden bested Stephen Curry twice in the final seconds and the Rockets held off the Warriors 116-108 to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series advantage over Golden State after the reigning NBA champions had won the series the previous three seasons.

“Obviously they’re a championship caliber team for the past four years … and that’s what we’re trying to build our way up to,” Harden said.

Harden stepped back from Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left, then blocked Curry’s 3-point attempt after a timeout.

Harden finished with 22 points. Paul added two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

“It’s been a good streak, disappointing end to it,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We played pretty poorly, did a lot of things to hurt ourselves and we’re playing a great team. Can’t get away with it.”

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about the performance of the 32-year-old Paul .

“The guy is a winner, he’s been a winner, he’s going to win,” D’Antoni said.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts and 6 of 20 overall. It was just the sixth time in his career that he’d attempted 20 or more shots while making six or fewer.

“It was just one of those nights where I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor,” he said. “So I’ve got to take that responsibility for that one. It was pretty bad.”

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half.

It was Harden’s second game back after missing seven with a strained hamstring. He was in a much better rhythm than in his return Thursday night, when he scored a season-low 10 points. He had eight assists, two steals and two blocks Saturday.

The Rockets got the victory despite missing Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green, who were both serving the second game of a two-game suspension for an altercation with the Clippers. Clint Capela added 18 points for Houston on a night when top reserve Eric Gordon went 0 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with just six points.

Golden State led by four before Houston went on a 9-2 run, with the first five points from Paul, to take a 109-106 lead with about three minutes left.

 

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safety

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?