Stern says Sacramento arena deal comes down to paying up

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It’s all about the money.

It’s always been about money when it comes down to getting a new arena built in Sacramento and keeping the team in that city. But now it has come down to pulling out the checkbooks and committing to dollars and the negotiations are intense.

When David Stern talked about issue he sounded like the Stern during the summer lockout press conferences — guarded, talking about “if” and not “when” there would be a deal, even though they would be close.

The issue is who ponies up how much — the city wants the Maloofs to put up $80 million or more.

“We’d like (Sacramento), on behalf of the Maloofs, to make the largest possible contribution,” Stern said. “The city would like the Maloofs to make the largest — both have come up with very substantial contributions. It’s really getting there. It’s just not there yet. And we’re looking for other ways, imaginative ways, to bridge the gap.”

Stern said he met with Kevin Johnson, and the NBA and Sacramento city staffs have met and spoken in detail Saturday, with another key meeting coming Sunday.

“We have several remaining points that will not necessarily be guaranteed to be bridged, but we’re going to give it our best shot tomorrow at a meeting that’s going to be attended by me and my colleagues from the NBA, by the mayor and his colleagues, by the Maloof family representatives, and by members of the Relocation Committee,” Stern said. “And we all consider ourselves to have a March 1 deadline to either come up with a financing plan and a critical path to the construction of the arena or not.”

Stern walked the line between optimistic and cautious with his words.

“The Maloofs have stepped up, the City has stepped up. We’re having very intense conversations,” Stern said. “Sometimes the best intentioned and most fervent workers don’t quite get to the finish line because there are things that separate them. But I’m most impressed by both sides….

“So we’re going to see whether we can bridge that gap. I think both sides deserve it, particularly the City of Sacramento.”

We’ll know a lot more in the next week.

Seattle fans, before you get too optimistic, Stern was not exactly selling your proposed new arena plan (which needs a lot of money, too) as an option.

“All I can say is that Chris (Hansen, the billionaire behind the Seattle arena plan), who I had met about a year ago, called us two weeks ago to tell us what was going to be announced that Thursday, about a letter laying out a plan, and we thought it was a — it sounded okay to us. Go for it. That’s all.”

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.

Montrezl Harrell reportedly reaches deal to return to Clippers

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The Clippers liked Montrezl Harrell last season (he came from Houston in the Chris Paul trade), he averaged 11 points a game for the team with a very efficient PER of 24.7.

He was one restricted agent some around the league thought another team would try to poach, but in a tight market nobody was making an offer because the Clippers were just expected to match. So the Clippers and Harrell (and his agent) sat down and figured out something that worked for both sides, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The deal is fully guaranteed for both years, according to the report. That’s a fair price for his services, and Harrell gets back on the market in two years when the salary cap will have gone up by more than $15 million (at least by the NBA’s early predictions). He will have more options on 2020.

The Clippers are now just $500 below the luxury tax. They also have 16 contracts, which is bad news for C.J. Wilson and his non-guaranteed deal. (Technically Patrick Beverley has a non-guaranteed contract as well, but if healthy he will be back.)

For a couple of seasons, this is a good fit. Harrell will bring some athleticism and bounce to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are a pretty good team, the problem is in the West pretty good could be the 10 or 11 seed. The conference is that deep and brutal.

Would Dwyane Wade take a big payday in China? Would Jahlil Okafor?

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Dwayne Wade is making a tough decision: Does he want to go through the physical grind to get his body ready for one more season of NBA basketball in Miami? Or, is it time to retire?

For some of the greats — most recently Kobe Bryant talked openly about this — they still love the game and the camaraderie, but they get to a point they no longer have the same passion for putting in the increasing work on their bodies to get it in NBA-level condition to perform at the level they expect. Wade is struggling with that debate right now.

Or, he could just go to China.

From Sportando:

Dwyane Wade is still a free agent after his season with Cavaliers and Heat. Wade has not decided yet whether to play one more season or retire. But D-Wade is wanted in China. Xinjiang Flying Tigers are ready to offer him a monster deal, as reported by Zhang Duo.

It’s hard to imagine Wade jumping on that, but not impossible. The salary is not going to be the motivator — he has made just shy of $180 million in salary alone in his career, and much more with endorsements — but rather the move would be about building his brand and his new lifetime shoe deal with Li-Ning, a China-based shoe manufacturer. Business-wise, it could be good for Wade to spend a season in China.

Of course, family and other considerations have to be at the forefront of his mind, which is why this still feels unlikely. Just never say never.

One guy who could go there and rehab his reputation is free-agent Jahlil Okafor. Also from Sportando:

Okafor is practicing in Miami but the Heat are unlikely to sign him but in China there are several teams interested in signing the former Duke center, as reported by Zhang Duo.

Okafor has worked out for NBA teams but has no offers (or, at least none he’s taken) and it’s increasingly unlikely he would get a fully guaranteed contract for this season. He, understandably, is clearly still working toward that goal.

In China, Okafor could put up big numbers, show he is healthy and moving well, get a good payday, and be back in the USA in time to get picked up by a team for a playoff run (the Chinese season ends in February or March, depending on how deep a team goes in the playoffs). It’s a big cultural adjustment and not for everyone, but Okafor has to be considering all his options at this point.

Jazz ending sponsorship deal with Papa John’s

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz are ending their sponsorship agreement with Papa John’s Pizza after the company’s founder and spokesman used a racial slur.

A person with knowledge of the team’s decision confirmed the move Friday and said it was because of the controversy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the organization will not make a formal announcement.

A number of professional and college teams have cut ties to the company over Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s comment during a company conference call in May. Among them are the Orlando Magic, Seattle Seahawks, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, University of Louisville,  and numerous others.

Schnatter apologized and stepped down as chairman but remains on the company’s board. He’s since said his decision to step down was a “mistake.”

The company says it’s also investigating allegations reported in Forbes that Schnatter oversaw a work culture where women were subject to sexist behavior.