Sacramento, Seattle groups make formal pitch to owners Wednesday

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The decision on where the Kings tip off their games next season will partially be decided in a Manhattan hotel conference on Wednesday.

Groups representing both the Seattle group that has a deal to purchase the Kings with plans to move them north, and the Sacramento group looking to keep the Kings in town, are making pitches to as many as a dozen current NBA owners, the members of the combined sale and relocation committees of the Board of Governors.

The final decision on the Kings sale — if the Maloof family can sell to the Seattle group and if the team can move — will be voted on by the full Board of Governors (the NBA owners) when they meet April 18. However, the recommendations of this joint committee looking into the details will go a long way in influencing the owners on that vote.

The Seattle Group is led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. They have an agreement to purchase 65 percent of the team, which is valued at $525 million, and have applied for relocation. The team would play in the Key Arena in Seattle for a few seasons while a new arena is constructed (it is in environmental review). David Stern has called this a very strong offer — a lot of money behind it, arena plans underway, a basketball-hungry market (44,000 people already pledged to buy season tickets) with great demographics, a bigger (and wealthier) media market, and a great NBA history.

But Sacramento, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, has put together a strong counter offer. By bringing in billionaire Vivek Ranadive to go with 24-Hour Fitness owner to lead a group buying the team, and with Ron Burkle behind a deal to get a new arena done in downtown Sacramento, Johnson has put together a counter offer that they say matches the money and arena of Seattle. He also got the Sacramento City Council to agree to $258 million in investment in the arena plans (to be paid off through parking fees and other services).

Sacramento’s best card to play is simply this — other NBA owners of middle to small market teams will ask their cities for money and help getting a new arena built in the next decade, with the threat of losing the team as the leverage (something every pro sports league does). If Sacramento does everything right and still loses the team, what happens to that leverage?

Seattle’s group can say they have a sale agreement in place, that they are a strong ownership group and that the NBA brass has wanted to return to the Seattle market since the Sonics left to become the Thunder.

If you’re thinking expansion, David Stern has shot that down because a majority of owners are opposed. That idea is dead.

While we will get statements all around on Wednesday from both sides, what really matters is what leaks out of owners and that committee in the coming days and weeks leading up to the April 18 big votes. Look for this to be essentially decided before all the owners get in the same room together.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)