Report: Maloofs pitching against Sacramento at NBA Board of Governors meeting

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Here we go all over again.

It was around this time last year that the Maloofs stormed angrily out of the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meetings, rejected and dejected after they were told they couldn’t go to Disneyland. Today, they returned to New York to pitch the idea that they were somehow wronged during the past month’s negotiations with the city of Sacramento over a new arena.

Specifically, they’re expected to ask their fellow NBA owners to support the nebulous concept that they’re unhappy with the deal.  They’re also expected to ask owners to support their decision to move to Anaheim if they don’t get what they want out of Sacramento.

The only problem is that the NBA, and specifically David Stern, ran point on a negotiation conducted during All Star weekend that brought the Maloofs, the NBA, AEG, and the city of Sacramento into an agreement in principle on a $391 million Entertainment and Sports Complex similar to L.A. Live.

Hanging in the balance is a fan base that is roundly cited as one of the best in sports.  Also hanging in the balance is a city beset by 12 percent unemployment — that is banking on leading economists’ predictions that a downtown arena can raise property values by hundreds of millions of dollars and kick-start a broken economy.

The Maloofs themselves called the non-binding deal fair when it was struck over All Star weekend, and since that weekend nothing about the deal has changed. The only thing that has changed has been the Maloofs’ public position regarding the deal, which has been duplicitous in its approach.

On one hand, the family has said that they remain committed to Sacramento, and on the other they have unleashed a full-court legal press designed to disrupt the arena funding process.

The family’s newly hired ‘crisis consultant’ Eric Rose started feeding the family’s narrative to the press a few weeks ago, saying they don’t believe the city can deliver on a new arena in time for the 2015-16 season, and that Anaheim was still an option on the table.

Of course, if the city of Sacramento has any holes in its plans to build an arena by 2015-16, we now know that they will be cited by the Maloofs in today’s meetings as a reason the league should allow them to move to Anaheim, where they could make more money whether they keep the team or not.

The Maloofs’ attorney, Scott Zolke, followed Rose’s statements by issuing a letter to Sacramento assistant city manager John Dangberg, providing specific legal notice to the city about issues the family had with anything and everything. In fact, if you wanted to derail an arena project you would want to start a checklist using the items on that list. From the timing of environmental reviews to the ability of arena opposition groups to delay the process or stop it in its tracks – items that could have been discussed behind closed doors were now floating around in an increasingly hostile public domain.

The city responded to this first initial red flag, explaining to the lawyer that he had compiled information for his complaint from six-month old estimates from the city manager’s office that had since been publicly updated.  The 88-page letter went on to address the numerous issues raised by the Maloofs, but made one key point: “It is critical that all parties are pulling in the same direction.”

If it wasn’t clear after Rose’s newspaper run, it became abundantly clear where the Maloofs stood following their April 2 response to the 88-page letter, when they admonished the city for not responding to its concerns over an arena opposition group.

“An important new issue (casts) a giant shadow over the feasibility of the project,” wrote Zolke about a group called STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork).  The letter went on to set legal markers designed to threaten liability upon the city:

“All of your assumptions and projections are based on a premise that the Kings will be playing in a new arena for the 2015-16 NBA season. However, the issues we have identified likely will prevent the City from meeting its timeline, and thus pose imminent obstacles to the new arena being ready for the 2015-16 season. Such a failure will result in irreparable harm to the Kings, not to mention the losses the City will suffer.”

This is where things get wacky and border on bad faith.

While one would think that in a near $400 million transaction that the Maloofs’ attorney would have vetted this STOP group, it appears that no such vetting has taken place.

The group did indeed file a petition with the city to try to get the 30,000 signatures needed by May 22 in order to bring the Kings arena issue to a public vote.  If the group were to somehow get the signatures, a vote would occur in November and the project’s delay would almost certainly give the Maloofs a green light to move out of town.

The problem? The petition the group filed to authorize its signature drive might have been written on a napkin and handed to the city clerk with ketchup stains on it. It was recently removed from consideration at the request of the group, and amended to include basic, proper punctuation and simple legal terminology required of such requests.

So the organization the Maloofs’ attorneys are citing as a “giant shadow” doesn’t have an attorney, and it submitted a legal document without putting periods and commas where they legally need to be.

I followed up with the group to determine for myself what kind of organization it was and how seriously it should be taken. They had a public meeting on April 7 at a local park in Sacramento. At this meeting was a group of 10 people, with leader Julian Camacho flipping some hamburgers. Their Facebook page is up to 43 ‘likes,’ and they’re still waiting on the Sacramento City Clerk to review their most recent ballot initiative language, assuming they spelled everything correctly.

Since the April 2 letter to the city the Maloofs have also made a massive public records request – 53 separate requests total. They have requested all communications between the city and the NBA, AEG, and politicians of all levels, and nothing says trust and partnership like a public records request.

So in summary, the project is on a tight deadline, needs all the public support it can muster, and the Maloofs are refusing to pay $3.26 million in pre-development costs, or one year of Travis Outlaw’s salary. They’re saying that the handshake agreement David Stern helped to cultivate didn’t go down how every other stakeholder said it did. They’re delaying the project by not paying those minimal costs, but saying that they’re also not sure the project can be done on time. They’ve rang the bell for an opposition group of 10 people that apparently can’t punctuate nor afford an attorney — that can’t start collecting the 30,000 signatures they need because they botched the original paperwork request. Meanwhile, the Maloofs’ attorneys are deposing the city like defendants and a crisis consultant has been brought on board to manage the media.

Elsewhere, 25 prominent Sacramento business leaders sent a letter to David Stern today asking that the Maloofs be removed as owners of the Kings. The Maloofs’ crisis consultant responded by criticizing the business leaders, pointing out that they didn’t want to get behind a deal like the failed arena project from a few cities over in Stockton.  Never mind the fact that the two deals are like pineapples and oranges — simply mentioning the two deals in the same breath is akin to doing an ad about how rich you are before asking the public for money.  You just don’t do it, and you certainly don’t go on the offensive against the same businesses that you’ll be partnering with for the next 30 years.

So at 2 p.m. ET representatives for the Maloof family, presumably led by brother George, started to make the case that Sacramento has screwed them yet again.  They’ll be pandering to owners that want to maintain their leverage in their future dealings with municipalities. But if the NBA wants to get another publicly subsidized arena without every city citing Sacramento as a cautionary tale, they’ll send the Maloofs out the side door once again, angry and dejected.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo fractures thumb, out 6-8 weeks

Rajon Rondo injury
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The Lakers guard depth is getting hit hard. First, Avery Bradley chose to stay home from the NBA restart in Orlando for family reasons. Now this:

Rajon Rondo fractured his thumb during practice on Saturday and will need surgery that will sideline him 6-8 weeks, the team announced.

On the optimistic side, that timeline should have Rondo back for most or all of the conference finals and NBA Finals. That’s about the only positive here.

Rondo came off the bench for the Lakers this season, averaging 7.1 points and five assists a game. More importantly, he was the guy running the offense when LeBron James was off the court, something that will be difficult to replace. He is not the defender and player he once was, but he fit with the Lakers.

Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook will get some extra run, plus it opens up room for veterans Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith.

The Rondo injury is not going to put the Lakers in danger in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but if he is not back and 100% in the conference finals (very possibly against a deep Clippers team) and the Finals, this will be a blow to L.A.

Stephen Curry, Charles Barkley join “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” on NBC family

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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and the protests that followed, citizens of the United States have started to have a long-overdue and challenging discussion of race and systemic racism in America. Black celebrities — guys such as Stephen Curry and Charles Barkley, plus other NBA stars — have stepped into the middle of that conversation and are using their voices.

That discussion, along with Barkley and Curry, comes to the NBC Sports family of networks Monday in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations.” The roundtable discussion show airs at 8 p.m. ET simultaneously on NBCSN, the Golf Channel, the Olympic Channel, and every member of the NBC Sports regional broadcast network.

The wide-ranging conversation (recorded in Lake Tahoe) included discussion both of the recent protests that swept the nation and the calls for police reform — Barkley said he wants to see that.

“The first thing we need, listen, we need police reform.  We need to, listen, I got in trouble for defending cops.  And I’m always going to defend cops.  I don’t want them out there killing unarmed Black men, but we need cops…” Barkley said. “But we need good cops.  We need to hold cops accountable.  If they do something wrong — the way the system is set up now, if cops do something wrong, other cops judge them.  That’s not fair in any aspect of life.  If you are a cop and you saw what happened to Mr. Floyd and you think that was all right, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

Curry spun the discussion of police reform into the need for people to vote for change — particularly at the local and state level.

“Same concept around reforming police, getting the bad ones out, is in every form of leadership in government in terms of how important voting is.  Not just at the national presidential level, but in our local, city, state elections…” Curry said.

“That’s where the real change happens.  So when it comes to voter suppression which we’ve seen since George Floyd’s passing in Georgia, we’ve seen long lines; people have been standing there for 12, 13 hours trying to vote.

“And that’s where a local election, as we look forward from a year from now and beyond, every single cycle, how do we continue to let our voices be heard, not just what we’re saying and crying for and asking for help, but how can we actually use our given right to go vote, to go put people in positions of power that they’re going to look out for us in a very meaningful way that’s going to make a true difference.”

Beyond the two NBA stars, Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins, James Blake, Jimmy Rollins, and Ozzie Smith take part in the discussion.

Tune in Monday night across the NBC Sports family of networks for a can’t miss discussion of race and sports in America.

Not one NBA equipment manager packed light for NBA restart

NBA equipment manager
Jacob Diamond via AP
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Rob Pimental spent a good amount of time thinking about everything the Miami Heat would need for what could be a three-month trip to Walt Disney World.

He is the Heat equipment manager. Every jersey, sock, sneaker, whatever the team needs, it’s his responsibility to have it ready. So, when it came time to figure out what was getting packed for Disney, Pimental came to a realization.

“Pretty much everything,” said Pimental, who confessed to having a few sleepless nights of worrying. “I’m the type of guy who wants everything on hand, so I literally packed up my entire equipment room and brought it with me.”

He’s not alone.

All 22 teams in the NBA restart had to pack more than ever, for a road trip like none other. Every team is assured of spending at least five weeks at Disney, and some could be there for three months. The challenges for players and coaches are obvious, but the challenge for equipment managers — among the unsung heroes of this restart plan — aren’t anywhere near as visible to those watching games from afar.

“This is what equipment managers were built for, honestly,” Orlando Magic equipment manager Jacob Diamond said. “We have some of the smartest guys around the league that do what I do and at the end of the day, for us, it’s really no job too big, no job too small. Our coaches are relying on us, our players, and this is history right here. So, it’s kind of cool to be a part of it — even though it’s extra work.”

For this trip, Diamond has a two-room suite in the hotel that the Magic are calling home.

It’s not a perk. He needed the space.

Luggage is lined up around all four walls, with more bags in the middle of the room, along with a clothes rack, a large trunk and a bunch of bright blue bags with the Magic logo stacked over by the sliding door that leads to the balcony. He knows the contents of each, where every item is, so if Nikola Vucevic needs a certain pair of socks or Aaron Gordon needs a certain type of compression gear, Diamond finds it in a flash.

“I made sure I overpacked for this rather than underpacked,” Diamond said. “It’s not so easy to have things sent here. I’d rather have things here, ready to go, so here we are.”

Toronto Raptors equipment manager Paul Elliott prides himself on typically taking only what he needs. He tends to take 45 bags on a standard road trip; by NBA standards, that is packing light.

Not this time. For this trip, Elliott’s count was 176 bags.

And while most teams only had to move their operation once — from their home facility to Disney — Elliott had to pack the Raptors up twice, first from Toronto to their pre-camp workouts at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, and then again to get the stuff up to Disney.

“I looked at it as what they were going to take for a two-week Western road trip, took what I would usually pack for that, and kind of quadrupled it,” Elliott said. “I just had to make sure I had enough options for these guys to accommodate them when they need. I just want to be prepared.”

More gear is on the way.

By the time games start, the 22 teams will have more than 4,000 jerseys between them. Every team brought three sets of uniforms — typically, two jerseys each for each player. Then the decision was made to give players at Disney the opportunity to wear jerseys with a message raising awareness about social injustice and racial inequality, and those huge shipments are expected to arrive in the next few days.

When Elliott started unloading the Raptors’ 176 bags, several staff members who aren’t usually tasked with helping with equipment ran to his aid. More bags will be going back to Toronto when the season ends; Elliott had his assistant send him empty ones to accommodate the new jerseys.

“We’ve got the greatest staff for that sort of thing,” Elliott said. “Nobody’s above anything. They just want to make sure it’s done properly.”

Washington coach Scott Brooks said the Wizards are using a similar everybody-must-help approach, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra insisted his team do the same.

“There’s an absolute understanding that this is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Spoelstra said. “And that means bags, laundry, cleanup, everything — not just for equipment managers, but everybody. … We’re all going to be involved in every aspect of it.”

Days will be long for equipment managers. Each team only sent one; it’s not unusual for two equipment personnel to travel, but that wasn’t possible on this trip because of the restrictions on the amount of people who can be in the NBA bubble.

Extra work will add up as well. After practices or games, equipment managers will have to load up the sweaty gear, take it back to the hotel, then call a shuttle to pick them up and take them to the laundry facility built for the restart — 66 washers and 66 dryers, all lined up inside what once was a batting cage at the Atlanta Braves’ former spring training complex.

There’s also a code among the equipment managers. While the 22 teams will be trying to beat each other, the equipment staffs are working together and helping one another where possible.

“We all understand each other’s daily battles,” Diamond said, “because we share the same ones.”

The real comforts of home are gone for the next several weeks. The trick, Pimental said, is making sure players don’t have to worry about getting what they need.

“It’s something we’ve never done before,” Pimental said. “But we’ll make it work.”

Joakim Noah says focus of Achilles recovery was to make Clippers roster

Joakim Noah Clippers
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Joakim Noahlike Kobe Bryant and so many athletes before them — didn’t want an injury to define how his career would end.

Noah said he injured his Achilles back in September and the focus of his rehab is the chance he has now with the Clippers.

“You know, in September, I had a freak accident and cut my Achilles, and you know, I told myself that that’s just not how I wanted to end my career,” Noah said on a conference call with reporters Saturday.

“So you know, the day after the surgery, I was in the gym working out with the hope of making this team. I knew that if I didn’t keep training and if I got a call from the Clippers and I wasn’t ready, I knew I would have regrets for the rest of my life. So I kept training, and to be in this position right now, I feel very fortunate to be in this position, being with God, great players, being in a position to win a championship, it’s not something that I take for granted.”

Joakim Noah added he was supposed to have a workout with the Clippers before the season, but the injury ended that.

“I was supposed to work out with them in September right before the season started. I was ready. I was really excited for the opportunity, and then, you know, just from up with one minute to the next, I cut my Achilles.

“So to be back in this position and to have the confidence from the organization… It’s just a class organization. I just feel like very, very blessed to be in this position right now.”

Noah provides depth and versatility behind an established Los Angeles frontcourt, something needed with the compacted schedule in the Orlando NBA restart. The Clippers start Ivica Zubac, a more traditional center, then bring potential Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell off the bench. Harrell brings his energy, 18.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a night, great pick-and-roll chemistry with Lou Williams, plus improved defense to the mix.

The Clippers are counting on the Noah from the second half of last season, where he was solid coming off the bench in Memphis playing quality defense plus scoring 7.1 points per game. Noah could even play himself into a Clipper contract for next season (depending on what happens with Harrell in free agency this offseason).

For now, Noah is just happy to be back on the court.