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.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.