This already had the makings of one of those low-attendance NBA games with plenty of empty seats filling your television screen — a mid-week game between two struggling team, the 13-28 Phoenix Suns hosted by the 16-26 Sacramento Kings.
What is that going to mean in the arena Wednesday? Nobody really knows.
Probably not much. At least not for this game. Combine the uncertainty around the franchise with the bad teams and a Wednesday night and you most likely get really low attendance. Like you would have anyway.
Some of those in attendance will no doubt carry signs urging the NBA to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Others will have posters slamming the Maloof family. Lots of those. The fans in the building will pull for the Kings in a game they certainly can and should win.
Johnson is going to take that pitch directly to the Board of Governors, a body of the owners that has to approve both the sale and the franchise relocation. Last time Johnson was before them, when the Maloofs wanted to move the franchise to Anaheim, Johnson won the day convincing the owners to wait and give Sacramento a chance to get an arena deal in place.
And they did. There was a handshake deal made with the city, AEG and Maloofs — a deal the Maloof family backed out of.
This time Johnson will have a harder sale, but to suggest he can’t do it and underestimate the man would be a mistake. There is a reason Hansen and his group are working to present and air of inevitability about the deal being approved.
How does all that translate inside the Sleep Train Arena starting Wednesday night? We will see. Just like what happens with the team.
DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline
The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?
If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.
While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….
“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.
The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.
Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers. DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.
But first he has to get past the trade deadline.
Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)
Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.
Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.
I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.
Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.
Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert still needs to undergo an MRI on injured left knee, but early evaluation suggests a Grade 1 MCL sprain, league source tells ESPN.
If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.
The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.
Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.
Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training
After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.
He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.
“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October). “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials. With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said. “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”
Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.