“Shaq-ramento” era begins in Sacramento. Strange as it sounds.

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It sounds strange to anybody that followed the Kings and Lakers rivalry over the last decade, but the “Shaqramento” era took off on Tuesday in Sacramento, where minority owner and team consultant Shaquille O’Neal introduced himself to the media.

As quotatious and loquacious as ever, Shaq sounded less like the sometimes tongue-tied analyst we see on TNT and more like a modern day business man and teacher.

Perhaps the biggest question from today’s presser was what he can do to help teach DeMarcus Cousins how to turn the page and lead the Kings back into the playoffs.

“When I look at DeMarcus Cousins I see a young Shaquille O’Neal, a guy that was very talented, very stubborn in his ways. I know sometimes he gets a bad rap, but what changed me — what made me become a winner and a champion — was a conversation,” O’Neal said. “When I had a conversation with a guy that won a championship, that changed my whole perspective. And that guy was Phil Jackson.”

Now Shaq hopes to be the Zen-master for Cousins, constantly referring to the “conversation” as the first step and downplaying the on-court teachings.

“My relationship with DeMarcus will be talking every day, but adding “I’m not going to be in his face every day,” Shaq said.

“(DeMarcus) knows that I know what I’m talking about. A lot of these guys, when I would have a conversation with people, they didn’t really understand what it takes so I was reluctant to listen to them. But once Phil came in, coming off six championships. I knew he knew what he was talking about and everything he told me I went and displayed it on the court — and everything he said that was going to happen it did happen. And we were able to get our three.”

Getting Cousins, who attended dinner with O’Neal, owners Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov and CA governor Jerry Brown last night, to buy in is just one aspect of O’Neal’s presence on the team.

Shaq is also being brought on board to send a message that the Kings are well past ready to turn the page on their recent history. The Kings were all but abandoned by their former owners, the Maloofs, and after years of relocation drama the organization is going to great lengths to show fans and media that they’re all about winning.

Vivek addressed that perception when he was asked about the recent ESPN the Magazine franchise rankings that called the Kings the worst franchise in sports. ESPN admittedly based it on old data from last year.

“(ESPN) should join the 21st century. Who want’s yesterday’s news?”

Vivek and Shaq both made bold proclamations that the new arena in Sacramento, which is on track to open in 2016 for all intents and purposes, will be among the top arenas in the world. They added that there will be an indoor/outdoor component to it, so for certain events “18,000 people could be inside and 10,000 people could be outside.”

As for Shaq’s history of chiding Sacramento fans and in particular his comments calling the Kings ‘the Sacramento Queens,” our friends at Cowbell Kingdom have the video:

In a day that more closely resembled media day than your typical ownership announcement, it is clear the Kings are going big by bringing on one of the game’s biggest personalities.

“The first game will be televised in India,” said Shaq. “There will be over 600 million people watching. We want Sacramento to be a world-wide brand.”

Joel Embiid calls out Karl Anthony-Towns’ defense during Instagram trash talk

AP Foto/Hannah Foslien
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Joel Embiid often gloats on Instagram after 76ers wins.

Of course he did after Philadelphia beat Minnesota on Tuesday, specifically calling attention to this move on Karl-Anthony Towns (and this 76ers fan custom):

Embiid:

Euro stepping our way through Minnesota and we ended up raising the cat last night #TheProcess

A post shared by Joel "The Process" Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Towns commented:

That caption was as trash as your picture quality

Embiid replied:

Better quality than your defense

Embiid insisted it’s all in good fun.

Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

https://twitter.com/JCameratoNBCS/status/941395953113804800

I’m not sure Towns is having as much fun as Towns. But I know this:

Embiid had a valid point.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

giphy (2)

That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.