What NBA Draft night meant for five teams

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We just finished a season. The confetti is still stuck to Laker fans’ shoes. But one of the best things about the NBA is that immediately the slate is wiped clean and the season begins anew with the draft. And more so than any other sport, draft night can define your franchise. Even if you elect not to participate, it likely means something about who and what your team is. And Thursday night was no different for 2010-2011.

Here’s a look at five teams and what their draft night actions meant for their franchise. Their mantras, so to speak.

1. Sacramento Kings: “If you’re going to swing, swing for the fences.” The Kings had every reason to play it cool. They’ve got their franchise player, they’ve got a good core of young players. They didn’t have to take the risk that other teams weren’t willing to take. But they did. And they were rewarded with a player that many say could be the second best prospect in the draft. A willingness to go big or go home landed them not only DeMarcus Cousins, who will pair with Evans to create a frontal assault not unlike a barrage from catapults, and they then landed Hassan Whiteside who plummeted to the second. The Kings capitalized on their opportunities tonight and it paid off for them.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves: “Irrational movement is still progress.” The Wolves turned 5 beautiful, untouched picks into a marginally good small forward with a considerable, if not large, contract, and several tweener players that would have been available later in the draft than where they were selected. Wes Johnson is fine, but is he better than Cousins? Than Udoh? Than Monroe? Lazar Hayward… what? And they sent Babbitt to Portland for Martell Webster…and gave them Ryan Gomes! The Wolves’ GM got worked by a guy who was fired.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: “Let the good times roll.” Oklahoma City could have used their cap space to aggressively pursue veterans for the young Thunder squad. And they would have overpaid. Considerably. That’s what happens to small market teams with young cores. Veterans who would be marginal elsewhere have their agents smell blood when those types of teams come calling,and the prospect of getting an impact guy turns the money into quicksand. But Sam Presti, as usual, is one step ahead. He takes on Daequan Cook, who can shoot and is cheap, nabs the 18th, and then turns around and uses the 21st and 26th to grab Cole Aldrich at 11. Aldrich could only work on specific teams that needed his size and rebounding, where he wouldn’t be pressured to produce on versatile terms. Like,oh, say, Oklahoma City.  Stunning how good some people are and aren’t at this game.

4. Memphis Grizzlies: “We are going to be screwing with our backcourt.” That’s what I take away, anyway, as someone who does happen to pull for the bumbling bears. Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez. The good way this would turn out is if this means they’re moving O.J. Mayo to point, slotting in X at two-guard, re-signing Rudy and all of a sudden you have long athletic scorers all over the floor. The bad way this may turn out is that they keep Conley, slot Vasquez behind him, and then deal O.J. Mayo in order to clear space enough to re-sign Gay. Effectively running in place. This is something watch as the summer gets started.

5. New Jersey: “We (heart) athletes!’ We’re going to find out very quickly if Derrick Favors is going to be good. Because really, it comes down to whether he can shoot or not. He’s athletic, whee! He’s compared to Dwight Howard because he can jump and is muscular! Whee! But he’s not Howard’s size, so it’s going to come down to whether he can do anything on the offensive end. If he can, the Nets have something special there. If not… well,  hey, at least they also got Damion James who’s also athletic. This is, after all, professional athletics. I suppose you can’t have too many athletes.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo returns from 11-game absence

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When the Pacers ruled Victor Oladipo out indefinitely a couple weeks ago, it seemed gloomy.

But Indiana weathered the storm, going 7-4 without its best player.

Now, Oladipo is back. He started against the Bucks tonight.

I still think the Raptors, Celtics, 76ers and Bucks will comprise the Eastern Conference’s top tier by the end of the season. But the Pacers (17-10, fourth in East) have a chance to crash the party. They acquitted themselves well without Oladipo, and it should get only easier with their offensive focal point/top perimeter defender.

NBA promotes Bulls’ Mexico game with video of their bus bottoming out

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The Bulls will play the Magic in Mexico City tomorrow.

Even amid all Chicago’s problems, that’s still a marquee game for the NBA as it expands its reach globally. So, the league is showcasing Chicago’s trip.

With unintentional hilarity.

NBA:

That sound eight seconds in is Chicago’s season.

Stephen Curry on moon-landing conspiracy: ‘Obviously, I was joking’

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Stephen Curry said he didn’t believe we went to the moon.

That caused an uproar to the point NASA offered him a tour of a lunar lab.

Curry, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“One thousand percent,” Curry told ESPN on Wednesday of accepting the invite. “One thousand percent. Obviously I was joking when I was talking on the podcast. I was silently protesting how stupid it was that people actually took that quote and made it law as, ‘Oh my God, he’s a fake moon landing truther,’ whatever you want to call it, yada, yada, yada. So I was silently protesting that part about it, how the story took a life of its own.

“But in terms of the reaction that I’ve gotten, I am definitely going to take [NASA] up on their offer. I am going to educate myself firsthand on everything that NASA has done and shine a light on their tremendous work over the years. And hopefully people understand that education is power, informing yourself is power. For kids out there that hang on every word that we say, which is important, understand that you should not believe something just because somebody says it. You should do your homework and understand what you actually believe. But I’m going to go to NASA and I’m going to enjoy the experience whole-heartedly.”

Curry said he believed we didn’t actually go to the moon. I don’t find it unreasonable people took him at face value. I don’t find it unreasonable people thought he was joking, either. His sincerity was unclear.

I’m glad he set the record straight now.

We obviously went to the moon. There’s no way everyone who would’ve had to help fake the moon landing would have stayed quiet. People don’t keep secrets that well.

As for Curry, he got the NASA invitation and a lot of publicity. But it’s time to move on. Whatever he actually believed a few days ago, Curry has clarified his current view.

That separates him from Kyrie Irving, who also initially delivered a conspiracy theory during a lighthearted podcast segment. But Irving doubled down on his flat-Earth claim in several subsequent interviews.

Curry put this to rest fairly quickly.

Suns owner threatens to move team if city does not spend $150 million on arena upgrades

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The great professional sports team extortion of cities tour has come to Phoenix.

The Suns are pushing a $230 million renovation of their home since 1992, now named the Talking Stick Arena. As part of the deal, the City of Phoenix would pay $150 million from its “Sports Facilities Funds” (the city says that is mainly tourism taxes) and the Suns $80 million plus any cost overruns, and they would build their own new practice facility to free up room in the arena for the changes.

However, spending city resources on a stadium rebuild to enrich Suns owner Robert Sarver has proven unpopular. Understandably. Wednesday, Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams asked to postpone the City Council’s vote on the issue rather than watch the plan go down in defeat, reports the Arizona Republic.

Sarver threatened to move the team if the deal is not ultimately get approved, according to the report:

Whether they get a continuance or not could mark the beginning of a showdown between the city and Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is telling some council members that he will take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas.

This is a favorite tactic of sports teams owners across the country, regardless of the sport — threaten to move the team, hopefully scaring the hardcore fans of the team to back whatever changes they want. Teams often are part of a city’s identity and a local institution, and the owners use that as leverage to get their business demands.

Public money for arena upgrades are in general a flawed used of city resources — there are far more pressing needs for public money than arena renovations. Studies have shown the economic benefits for a city from these arena renovations (or a new arena) are limited at best — it is more a redistribution of where money is spent, pulling it from other areas into a concentrated downtown, than it is generating new income.

That said, standing up to Sarver comes with risks, he could follow through on his threat and try to move the team. Seattle pushed back on spending on upgrades to Key Arena and that is part of — although certainly not all of — why the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City. (Then commissioner David Stern liked sending the message that cities should pay up.) Steve Ballmer wants to build a new arena in Southern California for the Clippers, but it would be privately funded (on land he purchased from the City of Inglewood).

The Suns’ lease for the arena currently runs through 2032, however, it could be broken in 2022 if the Suns could prove certain criteria saying the city did not live up to its end of the deal. If the upgrades are made the lease would run through 2037.

If the vote is postponed there will be public hearings to discuss what the money would be used for specifically, and the potential economic impact of the renovations. Postponed seems most likely because the other option is it gets shot down entirely. The council is expected to take the issue up again in January.