Sac City Council members tip their hands on arena vote

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Sometimes you need to see the look in somebody’s eyes when they’re forced to make a decision before you truly know how they feel.

We got to see that on Tuesday night when the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve $550,000 to secure consultants, lawyers, and parking experts to start formalizing a funding proposal for the $387 million Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC). Once the funding proposal is finalized, the council will eventually vote on it. The NBA and the Maloofs have given Sacramento until March 1, 2012 to get a funding plan in place.

Each council member was given ample time to wax poetic about the nature of this small request, and most of them gave some clues about how they view the larger $387 million question that will be coming.

Here, I am going to handicap their votes, based on what they said and how they said it. A total of five out of nine votes on the city council will yield a new Entertainment and Sports Complex for Kings fans.

And for the sake of brevity, I’m going to call mayor Kevin Johnson and known proponent, councilman Rob Fong both yes votes, and I’m going to call both Sally Sheedy and Darrell Fong no votes, though I have a slight suspicion that Darrell Fong could be turned to the purple side.

Onto the science of word-parsing:

Angelique Ashby:

We have a real opportunity here. AEG is at the table. That’s great news. That’s terrific news.

This, for me, is not about a decision for what we do this week. It’s long term. A lot of the things we decide at this council…is how to fix things right now. We have a public safety problem, right now. We have three browned out fire stations, right now. But this…is a half-million dollar investment in long-term solutions, so we don’t have the urgent ‘right now’ discussion every year. If we play our cards right and we invest wisely, and we make smart decisions, we can come out of this with multiple economic engines.

Me: Real opportunity, long-term solutions, we can come out of this with multiple economic engines. She’s a yes.

Steve Cohn:

Let me be real clear, this work has to be done. If we’re even going to consider an arena, this has to be done. If one has the point of view that we shouldn’t be doing an arena, obviously it’s a waste of money, and we should stop right here. But I think if we’re open to the idea that we might find the public-private partnership that works, then this work has to be done and it has to be objective information.

Me: He voted yes to authorize the spending, which presumably he wouldn’t do if he opposed the arena given his comments. And he hung out with Slamson and KJ at a district meeting in May, so if he’s not a ‘yes’ he’s on the fence and leaning hard that way.

Bonnie Pannell:

What I heard this week….is we need jobs. Seniors are talking about ‘we need jobs,’ and our young people are talking about ‘we need jobs.’ There are no jobs in Sacramento. So what do we do? Do we take a chance and invest $500,000 that could lead to billions of dollars, or many jobs?

We need jobs, many more jobs, so I have to take a chance. We can’t depend on the federal dollar…state dollars…our destiny is in our hands. So I have to support this next step.

Me: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs. Billions of dollars? Many jobs? Almost like she was reading from the Think Big brochure. Yeah, she’s in.

Jay Schenirer:

I talked (in my campaign) about my opposition to the city giving away land. This is something very different here, which is a city owned property (an arena), and an asset we will have for a very long time. We saw Sacramento build the Crocker Art Museum, and put millions of dollars into it, and I think that it has become a jewel of the city. And I would look forward to this facility, this complex, being something similar. And what it can bring to the city will be incredibly important.

Me: Incredibly important, jewel of the city, that’s a yes.

Kevin McCarty:

I don’t want to be a naysayer, but this project is still a long-shot. It’s a shot, more than we had before, but it’s still a long road to hoe. With that, I’m thinking, if we can find some tools that we can invest in our downtown, whether it’s an arena or a California academy type thing in the railyards or anything else, we may not have an economic development tool anymore, such as redevelopment or the really limited opportunities to make sense of the investments.

Me: I don’t know what that means, either. That he thinks the project is a long-shot puts him on the fence for me, and probably leaning no.

First things first, none of these folks are going to sign off on something that they don’t agree with, so the Think Big Sacramento coalition still has to provide a viable proposal to them. But this issue didn’t just pop up overnight. These officials, for the most part, have a strong grasp of arena politics after 10-plus years of talking about this topic to no avail.

Looking at my ridiculously unscientific analysis I’d say that four of the five are either a yes or leaning that way. They only need three of the five to vote yes after counting K.J.’s and Rob Fong’s vote.

As always, the devil is in the details, but if you’re a Kings fan or a fan of teams staying put – then tonight’s meeting was an unqualified victory.

Doc Rivers says Paul George will be out for the first 10 games

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We are expecting not to see Paul George on the court with Kawhi Leonard in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform until November. But until this week, we didn’t have a good idea about when George could return over the course of the next month.

Speaking to reporters this week, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers let it slip that George could miss up to the first 10 games of the regular season. That would put George at a tentative return date of Nov. 13 against the Houston Rockets.

Via Twitter:

The Clippers are still expected to be one of the best teams in the NBA, and the real question heading into the first several weeks of the season will be how much they allow Leonard to sit out due to load management if George is not on the floor.

The real question in Los Angeles — on both sides of the hall at Staples Center — will be about health, and the Clippers know that it’s not how you start the season but how you finish. It seems likely they will wait until George is fully ready to return to action rather than rushing him back from dual shoulder surgery.

Kyle Kuzma reportedly cancelled plans to announce Chinese sponsorships

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Tensions are still high between the NBA and China, and both sides are hoping that things return to normal soon. Whether that’s possible is another thing altogether, particularly with how raw the response to the NBA has been by domestic fans concerned with the NBA sticking to its stated principles with regard to social justice.

This has affected not just the league, but players too. James Harden and Russell Westbrook were involved in an incident where an official shut down a legitimate question by a CNN reporter. Now it’s being reported that Los Angeles Lakers big man that Kyle Kuzma decided not to announce sponsorship deals with Chinese companies during his team’s visit to the continent this month.

Via Bill Oram:

Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.

The whole story of what it was like to cover the trip in China as an American is worth reading by Oram. It’s an interesting look at the collision of politics, business, and the perception of sports as separate from those spheres.

Meanwhile, players and their management teams will need to think more carefully about the social perception of business deals both at home and abroad.

Facilitator Kawhi Leonard in Clippers opener could be glimpse into season

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

LOS ANGELES — You could see the impact almost immediately.

In his first minutes in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform last Thursday against Denver, Kawhi Lenoard drained a 14-foot midrange shot, stole a Gary Harris pass and turned that into a step-back three-pointer. Five points and a steal, all in 21 seconds.

More importantly for the Clippers, you could hear the impact almost immediately, too.

Leonard was talking a lot on defense, directing players and making his presence heard. That has been the case in team practices as well, according to people with the Clippers.

“He’s more verbal than you would ever know,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s more demanding in a very positive way. You have to do it right. I love that for our team.”

Questions abound about how Leonard — and Paul George, when he returns at some point likely in November — will fit in with an established Clippers roster and culture this season. The Clippers on paper may be title favorites, but how all those pieces come together remains one of the potential turning points of this NBA season.

The cultural fit seems smooth.

Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell brought an intense, hard-working, tough-to-play-against ethos to Los Angeles — but Leonard and George are lunchpail guys at heart. The Clippers’ new editions may be top five (certainly top eight) NBA talents, but they came into the league seen as “3&D” guys with some potential. They worked their way to the top, and that works for the Clippers.

On the court — at least in the slightly more than 10 minutes he played against Denver — the roster fit also seemed smooth.

Leonard had seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, but what stood out were the six assists. Leonard played a facilitator role. The first bucket of the game was a Leonard drive-and-kick to JaMychal Green in the corner, who hit the three. Leonard’s other assists were mostly to bigs Ivica Zubac and Harrell cutting to the basket.

Doc Rivers’ plan is to let Leonard feel how other teams are going to guard him, them adapt.

“Some teams will try to guard him one-on-one and he’ll probably try to score,” Rivers said. “Some teams, like Denver today, was up doubling him a lot, and he’ll be a facilitator…

“That’s what Kawhi does, it’s not like we’re recreating anything here. He’s a smart player. We’re going to try and keep as much shooting out with him, so teams can’t help. We will try to keep one roller on the floor with him, so that guy’s going down the middle of the paint and he’s creating help. We don’t have to make it that difficult.”

“He found me every time I was open,” Zubac said. “I really like playing with him.”

This was not by direct design so much as Leonard taking what the defense gave him.

“It just happened naturally,” Leonard said. “For the most part I cause a lot of attention, and I’m going to pass it to the open man. They was knocking down the shots tonight.”

We will see more of “facilitator Leonard” this season, and facilitator George as well. That Rivers wants to keep shooters on the court around his stars speaks to what a vital role Green and second-year guard Landry Shamet will play in Los Angeles — they are going to get opportunities and have to make the defense pay. (Shamet had 11 points against Denver and was 2-of-5 from three.)

Then off the bench, Los Angeles rolls out the best pick-and-roll combo in the league right now, Lou Williams and Harrell. Those two drove the Clippers offense last season, which is why both finished in the top three in Sixth Man of the Year voting, but this season there will be less pressure on them. They may not even close games, even though Williams is one of the better end-game bucket getters in the league.

The Clippers are that deep with talent.

Leonard showed already how he just makes the game easier for that talent. Zubac setting picks for Leonard and rolling, with shooters on the floor, is not going to be easy to stop — and that’s without George in the mix yet.

It’s more than the Xs and Os, however, Leonard and his rings just bring a gravitas to the Clippers they needed.

“He has a presence about him when he is on the floor, just feels a little different, how he carries himself, how he plays,” Shamet said.

That presence could carry the Clippers franchise to places it has never been before. It’s the impact the Clippers are ultimately hoping to see.

Cavaliers visit owner Dan Gilbert, recovering from stroke

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers visited team owner Dan Gilbert, who is recovering at home after suffering a stroke in May.

After playing an exhibition game in Detroit on Friday night, the Cavs delayed their trip to Boston so they could spend time Saturday with the 57-year-old Gilbert.

He recently returned to his home in Franklin, Michigan, after staying at a rehabilitation facility in Illinois. Gilbert suffered a stroke on May 26 after being taken to a hospital by a family friend following stroke-like experiencing symptoms.

All of Cleveland’s players, along with first-year coach John Beilein and his staff, held a film session and short walk-through on a replica basketball court Gilbert has at his home before having lunch. Gilbert and his wife, Jennifer, spoke with many of the players.

The Cavs play their third preseason game Sunday against the Celtics.

Gilbert has owned Cleveland’s franchise since 2005.=