NBA Commissioner David Stern listens at a news conference before the All Star slam dunk competition during the NBA basketball All-Star weekend in Houston

“I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy” Stern says of Seattle/Sacramento issue

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When this is all over and the Kings have new owners and plans for an arena, fans in Seattle or Sacramento will be heartborken.

“I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

That pretty much kills the expansion hopes, which some fans saw as a win-win scenario in the struggle for the Kings.

Otherwise Stern and Commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver largely stayed neutral on the issue at their annual All-Star press conference. That despite facing a barrage of questions about the efforts of a Seattle group to purchase the Kings and move the team to the Pacific Northwest — and the effort of Sacramento officials to put together a counter offer.

Stern’s basic lines were that the Seattle group has put together what appears to be a strong offer that is being reviewed by ownership committees. He said they would certainly look at and study an offer being put together by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson by March 1. But he was able to dodge the hard questions by saying he’s not an owner and he doesn’t have a vote on the ultimate decision.

“As I’ve said before, there’s a very strong ownership group (from Seattle) that has come together, and there’s a plan for a $600 million or so, maybe it’s only 590, building that I haven’t studied any plans of, but it seems to be in the normal course a standard application that’s quite strong,” Stern said….

“It’s going to wait upon Mayor Johnson making good on his statement that there will be an offer. And it’s going to, I think, be upon, in the Sacramento area, a number of the regional municipalities and the various people who have been saying they’ll give the mayor the support that he needs. And we’ll see.”

Stern said he has not met with Johnson but that the owners but said it is possible that offer could sway owners.

“Oh, certainly it’s plausible to me, but I don’t have a vote,” Stern said. “But I expect that the owners have a very open mind on this.”

So why no expansion? Money. Why do you think?

“There’s a large group of owners who believe that expansion is an economic matter, is a neutral thing,” Stern said. “At least the way we’ve done it to date, you get a lot of money in and in return for that you cut the new team in for a large and growing source of revenue from national TV, national licensing, and all things international and digital. And then it doesn’t really seem to make that much additional sense as the increased revenue that demands to the gross BRI and increased each player costs and the like.”

But Stern said he didn’t think in the end this would be a financial decision.

“And I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics because it’s not about, okay, ‘I say 525. All right. I say 526,’ Stern said. “To me that would be economics. I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide. But I don’t want to get to it because we don’t have the predicate for that tough decision yet….

“And then the owners are going to have to deal with it. This is a good time to be a commissioner and not an owner.”

But when a Seattle reporter tried to suggest that the way the Sonics left last time would impact this time, Stern shot him down fast.

“This is being done by the book,” Stern said. “But I seem to remember, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a $300 million plus subsidy for the Mariners, and a $300 million plus subsidy for the Seahawks, and there was a legislation which precluded that for the Sonics, and Speaker Chopp said that we should take the money from our players.”

What Sacramento has now that Seattle didn’t then was a mayor fully committed to getting a deal in place.

The question is will that be enough? Stern and Silver dodged that question like press conference veterans.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.