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.

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

Watch every one of Jimmy Butler’s career-high 14 assists in win over Bucks (VIDEO)

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler seems to be thriving without backcourt teammate Dwyane Wade. On Sunday in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler dished out a career-high 14 assists to go along with 20 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Butler, 27, helped Chicago to a 109-94 win over the Bucks. He looked good doing it, dropping dimes off of both the pick-and-roll and while coming off screens.

The NBA put together a handy little video to be able to check out all of Butler’s assists.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.

Russell Westbrook throws incredible halfcourt bounce pass vs. Rockets (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star notched 13 assists in the loss to the Houston Rockets, 137-125, and one of them came on a nifty pass to teammate Victor Oladipo.

The play happened with the Thunder on the fastbreak early in the third quarter. Westbrook was moving from left-to-right across the middle of the floor with the ball while Oladipo streaked down the right wing.

With the Rockets defense collapsing, Westbrook reached halfcourt and fired a bounce pass that sliced through the opposition.

Oladipo finished with the clean dunk.

Still not sure it beats this one, but I think we’ll have to compare once the season comes to a close.