David Stern says Sacramento group needs to up offer for Kings

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Of late there has been growing momentum for Sacramento in its fight to keep the Kings. Mayor Kevin Johnson has helped bring together a bid led by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov (who was second in the bidding for the Warriors a couple years ago) and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. The plan calls for the construction of a new arena in downtown Sacramento.

But it’s still a negotiation. And NBA commissioner David Stern is good at the negotiations part.

Friday night Stern spoke and there was good news for Sacramento fans: Stern said that a comparable offer from Sacramento might well sway the owners to vote to keep the team in Sacramento.

The bad news is Stern said the offer currently on the table from Sacramento is not good enough.

“I think it’s fair to say without telling any secrets that the offers are not comparable,” Stern said Friday night. (Thanks to our man Aaron Bruski, who has written on this story a lot at PBT and sent me the audio file of Stern’s remarks.)

Stern was in Oakland to watch the Warriors get in a track meet with the Rockets. He spoke to the media before the game and a contingent of Sacramento media made the drive to the coast to pepper him with questions. Stern used the opportunity to put a little pressure on Sacramento.

Stern went on to say that if the Sacramento offer doesn’t improve it will not go before the owners.

“I have an expectation, a hope, that the variance will be eliminated by the time the owners give it consideration…” Stern said.

“(The Sacramento offer has) strong people behind it but not quite there compared to Seattle bid.”

It’s a negotiation folks and David Stern is going to get the most money he can for his franchise, wherever it comes from. Don’t take these comments as a sign that Seattle is far ahead of Sacramento, take this as a sign David Stern wants to jack up the sale price.

It will probably work. Look what Mastrov told the AP.

The offer from Sacramento was never going to be as high as from Seattle because it would not have to repay the $77 million loan (with penalties) from the city the Maloofs were given. But the number the league was given did not win over Stern. Yet.

The Maloof family that owns the team has a deal in place to sell the franchise to a well-funded Seattle group led by hedge fund guy Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In the end it is not David Stern or the Maloofs that make the final call — the NBA Board of Governors (made up of the other 29 owners) will vote on this. Stern all but outright said if the BOG votes for the Sacramento offer that he expects the Maloof family will fall in line and sell.

That vote will come April 18-19 in New York City. Up until then it is an ongoing negotiation.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”