What’s next in sale of Kings? Do all roads point north?

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The Maloofs have made their decision — they have reached a deal to sell the Sacramento Kings to Chris Hansen and his Seattle based group. As we reported, that sale will be formally announced in the coming days, and by Feb. 1 the Maloof family will get a $30 million deposit.

But that is not the end of the saga. So what’s next? Does Sacramento have any chance of keeping their team?

Here’s what happens from here on out.

• The new ownership group will make their application to the league for team relocation to Seattle for next season, something they must do by March 1. This is key, what nobody wants is a lame duck season where the Seattle group owns the team with plans to move but they play in an empty Sacramento arena.

The relocation committee is expected to easily approve the move, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network. The Kings would play two seasons in Key Arena while their new stadium is built (not far from Safeco Field where the Mariners play). That stadium is going through an environmental review process now but has its financing and most governmental approvals in place already.

• The NBA’s Board of Governors — made up of the owners (or their appointed representative) — has to approve the sale, likely a vote will come when they meet in New York in April (giving the league time to do background checks on the new owners).

This is where Sacramento will makes its last stand — Mayor Kevin Johnson is scheduled to address the BOG and makes his pitch for the owners to reject the sale to Hansen and instead push the Maloofs to sell to a local ownership group. We have detailed how he is putting all of this together and it should be a good offer with legitimate big money. This group will include parties looking to build a new arena in Sacramento.

Johnson will have to show how keeping the team in Sacramento is better for the owners’ bottom line. Sacramento fans can preach image issues if they want, but money is what matters. If the lockout taught us one thing it is that. Which makes things a challenge for Sacramento because Seattle is a larger television market and the owners would get cash in their pockets from a from a relocation fee (which was $30 million for the Sonics to become the Thunder). But as we have detailed Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson believes he can make a compelling case because his group would not have to repay a loan to the city of Sacramento, nor would he have to pay relocate.

There are reports the owners just want to approve the sale and get this all behind them, but like always they will vote what is best for their pocketbooks.

• Negotiations with the Thunder over the name Sonics. Clay Bennett’s group, when it moved the team, kept the rights to the name Sonics but would be open to a transfer if a team moved to Seattle. It’s hard to see him standing in the way of this if the sale is approved, or David Stern letting him.

What is interesting is how you treat the history of the franchises. Do the old Seattle records move back to Seattle with the new franchise? What about the history and records of the Kings, a franchise with a long history going back through Kansas City to the early days of the NBA?

• Whatever happens with the sale of the team, look for a radical reorganization of the front office. Kings GM Geoff Petrie is in the last year of his deal and is reportedly going to retire at the end of the season.

Spurs head man R.C. Buford and former Pacers president Larry Bird are targets of the organization, reports Wojnarowski. Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey says Phil Jackson is in the mix for a front office spot. But even if the team stays it is expected that how the Kings are run as an organization will get an overhaul.

Nike “very concerned” after LeBron James’ jersey rips on opening night

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In the team’s first preseason game, the jersey of the Lakers’ Tyler Ennis was torn in the back with a tug from an opponent. Everyone made tearaway jersey jokes and moved on, thinking it was a one-off situation.

Then LeBron James‘ jersey ripped down the back on opening night, on national television.

Now Nike is looking into the issue, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

Nearly three days after one of its jerseys tore in the first regular-season game of its new deal with the NBA, Nike released a statement Friday expressing worry about the issue, without offering insight as to what happened or what will be done.

“The quality and performance of all our products are of utmost importance,” the company said in a statement. “We are obviously very concerned to see any game day jersey tear and are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”

This is the first year Nike has the NBA apparel contract, having just taken it over from Adidas. They made the jerseys similar to what had been done for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there were no issues, but these jerseys are lighter than the former Adidas ones. It’s unclear what, if any, changes could be coming.

Like many of the jerseys from opening night, LeBron’s ripped one is being auctioned by the NBA to raise money for hurricane relief.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson.

C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.