Report: Maloofs want NHL or MLB team, so they will sell to Sacramento if Seattle deal dies

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The Maloof family — the owners of the Sacramento Kings still — were in the room with the Seattle group trying to buy the team when they made their pitch to a committee of owners last week. How much that really helped the Seattle group is up for debate — the one thing everybody on both sides of this debate agree on is they are sick of the Maloofs.

Next Thursday and Friday in New York the NBA owners (officially as a group called the Board of Governors) will meet in New York and among the topics to be discussed is whether to approve a sale of the Kings to a group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer — wealthy guys with a plan to move the team to Seattle starting next season and build a new arena.

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson put together a counter offer with billionaire money (Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov, and Paul Jacobs) and a stadium plan of its own to get built near downtown Sacramento. It’s the kind of offer the NBA and other professional sports leagues want to see from cities with teams — a lot of public money and community support rallied around the franchise.

Anybody who tells you they know for sure what the owners will do next week is a fool — nobody is certain on this. But read the tea leaves and it seems Sacramento may have the eight votes they need to block the sale to the Seattle group.

And if that happens, as we have said before would likely happen, the Maloofs will sell to the Sacramento group.

This is confirmed by a new report in the Sacramento Bee — but it is the reasoning that is new. And kind of funny.

They want their money and they want to pursue another professional sports franchise in Major League Baseball or the NHL, hence their 5 p.m. deadline today for the Sacramento-based investors to submit a written matching offer for the Kings….

On Thursday, sources close to the Maloofs said that if the Sacramento group submits a matching offer that satisfies the league’s other owners, they will embrace an outcome that keeps the Kings in Sacramento.

To be up front, PBT never reported on the Friday deadline before now because it’s meaningless. It’s just the Maloofs trying to assert some control over a situation where they have no control. If Seattle is rejected the Maloofs only options are to sell to the Sacramento group or hold on to the team. So they will deal with Sacramento. And a deal will get done. The deadline is moot.

But let’s get to the key point — the Maloofs don’t want to hold on to a team because the guys too poor to field a quality NBA team want into the NHL business? Or the MLB business?

The Maloofs have met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and have for months looked into buying a hockey franchise, with Las Vegas among the possible destinations. Their interests also have expanded and included opportunities in Major League Baseball.

I know how popular Bettman is among hockey fans, what they think of his intelligence, but even then he is too smart to get into bed with the Maloofs. Right? Same with Bud Selig. Right?

The NBA owners do not have an easy choice next week — these are two good offers before them. Seattle is a bigger, wealthier market and its owners define the words “deep pockets.” But for a league that will go to more than a dozen cities in the next 12 years and say “you need to help us out with arena upgrades/a new arena” to walk away from a city that did everything a league could ask sets a bad precedent. The owners will ultimately vote what they think is best for their own pocketbooks long term. But nobody knows for sure what that choice will be.

One way or another, a week from now we should know the fate of the Kings. And then maybe this franchise and its fans can move on to the next step.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.