With solid plans in Seattle and Sacramento, NBA owners face hard decision

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Seattle’s ownership group has plenty of money with the Microsoft CEO as the No. 2 guy (and a $30 million deposit to buy the Kings), an arena with approvals and on to the environmental stage, an energetic fan base, and most importantly an agreement with the current owners to buy the Sacramento Kings to move them north.

Sacramento has put together a counter-offer that appears to have everything the league would want — an owner who almost bought the Golden State Warriors a couple years ago, a billionaire behind him driving an effort for a new arena, and a proactive mayor in Kevin Johnson putting it all together. Those are the kind of things the NBA looks for in a market.

Which means come April 18-19 in New York — when the owners get together and vote on the proposed sale and relocation — there will be a hard choice.

On one hand, the league does not want to set a precedent of leaving a market that has shown a genuine commitment — especially from local politicians who have voted to put up money— because what Sacramento has done is exactly what the league wants from its cities.

On the other hand, pretty much every owner in that room is going to sell his team some day. If the Maloofs have struck a legitimate deal to sell the team, why should the league dictate who a team can be sold to? Those owners don’t want to tie their own hands. The owners are going to fear that prescedent and what it could mean for them.

Putting a team in Seattle does right an old wrong, but at the cost of creating a new problem.

There are no easy answers here for owners, no tidy solutions. Do they leave a market that has done everything right to keep its team? Do they ignore that the Seattle group has done everything right to get a team? Seattle is a slightly larger television market with a higher per capita income, does that play a role?

Owners have time to think about it. It likely comes down to money for the league (questions such as how much does that Seattle television market impact the next national TV deal?). But there are no easy answers and eventually they will have to make a vote that will make one market very angry.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.