New potential owner for Kings takes lead in Sacramento group

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A few weeks back, David Stern was clear in saying that the Sacramento group had to sweeten its offer to buy the Kings if they wanted to stay in contention with the Seattle bid. It’s a negotiation, that statement didn’t catch the leaders in Sacramento off guard.

The question was what were they going to do about it?

How about bring in another billionaire to take the lead of the group? That is what has happened, reports the very connected Sam Amick at the USA Today.

Vivek Ranadive, founder of the $4 billion software company, Tibco, and a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, has agreed to take a lead role in the group that was previously led by 24-Hour Fitness founder, Mark Mastrov, according to a person with knowledge of the move. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.

Mastrov and supermarket mogul/part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins Ron Burkle are still major players in both the bid for the team and the downtown arena effort that was expected to be revealed by way of a term sheet on Thursday, but Ranadive agreed to take part recently after pushing for a more significant say in personnel matters.

This certainly adds deeper pockets to the Sacramento bid. What it will mean to the other NBA owners remains to be seen, but likely it only helps the Sacramento side. Ranadive is not an NBA outsider but a minority owner of the Warriors (he would have to sell that share if the sale is approved).

The Maloof family has agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle-based group that plans to move the Kings up to the city that lost the Sonics. That group is led by venture capitalist Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and they valued the franchise at $525 million and have an agreement to buy 65 percent of it. They also have plans for a new arena moving forward, currently in the environmental review phase.

Both the sale and relocation would need to be approved by the other owners and NBA Commissioner David Stern has put the two votes on a parallel track. It requires a three-quarters vote of the other 29 owners to approve the sale — meaning Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his group need to sway eight other owners to their side to block the sale. If that sale is blocked, the Maloof family would in turn sell to the Sacramento group and the team would stay put.

If the sale is approved it only requires a majority vote of the owners to approve the relocation. Meaning if the owners approve the sale to the Seattle group they will approve the relocation.

There is a whole lot more complexity to this sale — a city loan to the Kings to the Maloofs, a current Kings minority owner trying to make another bid, thoughts about precedent the sale could have on future owners’ sales, all the way to discussions of television market size and per capita income — that we have discussed in detail multiple times at PBT. Right now NBA ownership committees are doing their research on the sale and relocation, and how all that impacts the league. Those committees will meet April 3 — where Johnson and the Sacramento group will make a pitch to the committees for sure.

In the end, the owners will vote at meetings in New York April 18-19, but right now is when the lobbying behind-the-scenes is taking place. And the Sacramento bid likely just got better.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”