Maloof press conference a how-to-guide for burning bridges in Sacramento

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That press conference was so George Maloof.

The nearly 90-minute presser was everything a good old fashion PR nightmare should be. It started as a PowerPoint presentation delivered in monotone prose by Maloof attorney Barry McNeil, and ended in a classic George Maloof back-and-forth with media members that bordered somewhere between ‘desperate’ and ‘tirade.’

The purpose of the press conference was masked as a battle for the hearts and minds of the viewer, as the attorney McNeil took the audience through a chronology that was most likely presented at the Board of Governors meeting the day before. This chronology, of course, presented the Maloofs as victims in the arena ordeal.

But in reality, the presentation was littered with legal markers that both attacked the city of Sacramento and the NBA for its handling of the arena situation. They attacked the NBA and city of Sacramento for being complicit in its refusal to address the Maloofs’ problems with the now-infamous term sheet, and said that it wasn’t Gavin Maloofs’ responsibility to raise concerns when he spoke at the Sacramento City Council meeting in support of the term sheet that was approved 7-2 by the council on March 6.

Aside from several burn-every-bridge-in-sight-with-kerosene moments, George and his team of economists and attorneys brought the case against a Sacramento arena into focus. They specifically discussed the risks to the city and cited a disastrous, but 100 percent different city-funded arena in neighboring Stockton.

They rattled off every reason not to do the arena deal, and expressed a mixture of frustration, anger, and exasperation toward Kevin Johnson, the NBA, and the media covering the events. Though they said that relocation is off the table, the money quote was “if the mayor says he’s not negotiating, then he killed the deal and it’s over. It’s over.”

So translated, yes, relocation is on the table.

Johnson, of course, went on the offensive late Thursday night with a letter to the Maloofs telling them specifically that no negotiation would occur in today’s meeting between the sides.

At the core of the issue is, shocker, money. As simple tenants, the Maloofs aren’t getting the revenue they would like to within their agreement with AEG, the company that will operate the proposed $391 million Entertainment and Sports Complex. The other issue is up-front money, as the Maloofs’ immediate beef with the current proposal is the $3.26 million pre-development costs that could eventually become sunk costs if the arena deal goes south.

But that is chump change, and the real issue is that the Maloofs will not have to pay up-front money in Anaheim, and in the Maloofs’ newest stroke of genius – in their recommendation that a renovation of Power Balance Pavilion is a superior option compared to a new downtown arena – that too would require less up-front money by the Maloofs. Under the current downtown arena proposal, the Maloofs would need to come up with $73 million in an up-front payment for the type of shiny new world-class arena that AEG likes to build.

In other words, they don’t want the outlay and they want the inlay, you dig?

The new wrinkle introduced by George, the renovating of the current Power Balance Pavilion, was particularly shocking after that option has been widely derided by all sides of the arena equation, including the Maloofs, for years.

But what this has all come down to is the Maloofs challenging the NBA to tell them that they cannot move. It appears that they feel they cannot make money in Sacramento with a new arena, and for years they have said that they cannot make money in Sacramento at the old arena.

The Maloofs pulled this same act when they did not like the terms and conditions of the 2006 measure Q & R, so after they accidentally destroyed the measure by flaunting their money in a Carl’s Jr. ad, they actually pulled their support – leading to the 80/20 public vote against the measure.

Now they’re going to try to destroy the current downtown arena deal because they don’t like the economic split with AEG. Perhaps the new idea of staying at Power Balance is their fallback position, a position that they believe they can negotiate a better revenue share out of, but make no mistake this is a scorched-earth policy. They are going to kick and scream until they get what they want, which is usually what people who get what they want do when they don’t get what they want.

In this desperate moment they showed emails from NBA representative Benjamin Harvey, who told the Maloofs that their requests to revise the term sheet that was agreed upon in Orlando was not going to be introduced to the Sacramento City Council for “political reasons.” They torched the 25 business leaders that asked for their ouster, torched mayor Kevin Johnson, and torched the principals of the deal that will provide $255 million in public money toward their enterprise. Their delivery was not polished, and at times it was reckless. Their economist cited measurement mechanisms that would make his colleagues cringe. The interplay between George Maloof and his attorneys was often scattered and unprepared. Gavin and Joe Maloof, were shoved into the corner and barely given the chance to speak.

It’s just an educated theory, but at some point the Maloofs likely realized that the NBA isn’t in their corner anymore, and was negotiating a deal that was more concerned about rewarding Sacramento and AEG with a fair deal than it was about giving a handout to the Maloofs. Five years ago when the Maloofs’ payroll was busty and their finances were better, the NBA would have likely fought tooth and nail to get every last cent for ‘the boys.’

But this is what happens when you begin to bring public shame to the logo. The Maloofs don’t have enough money to run an NBA franchise the way it ought to be run. There was a point in time the Maloofs could have said that the city of Sacramento was dragging its feet and not paying the price of being an NBA town. But Kevin Johnson changed all of that when he made this a keystone issue of his political career, and now the shoe is on the other foot. It’s the Maloofs that stopped running their business with the aggressive intent to make things work in Sacramento. In this messy business of trying to move a franchise, they’ve brought the league embarrassment by dragging one of its best fan bases through the mud. This comes just a handful of years after Seattle’s civic leaders balked at David Stern’s threats, and the story of the abandoned Sonics fan is now a television moment. Now, documentaries show the ugly side of NBA economics and in this day and age of Twitter, every fan can be plugged into all the messy details that were once swept under the rug.

David Stern is going to speak in moments about the issue. The Maloof attorneys took a lot of liberties with how they presented the NBA involvement, and surely Stern is going to take umbrage with the tonalities used by the attorneys to explain the NBA’s positions. Now we’re going to see how far the NBA is willing to go to protect its small market with a big heart. The city of Sacramento clearly has its ducks in a row and can provide ownership with deeper pockets that will wear the logo without embarrassment. The only question is whether or not the NBA is willing to clip one of its own in order to do what’s best for the group.

PBT mid-season awards: Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and more

Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and Ja Morant
Brandon Dill/Getty Images
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The 2019-20 NBA season reached its midpoint by games played last night. So, we’re naming winners for mid-season awards. Yesterday, we picked Most Valuable Player and All-NBA. Now, we’re onto the other major honors.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kurt Helin: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

This is the hardest award for me to pick mid-season, but the Jazz put more on the plate of Gobert this season and he has responded amazingly (even if the Jazz’s defense is a little off from its usual highs this season). A lot of other players still in the mix here for me including Joel Embiid (if he plays enough games), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Marcus Smart.

Dan Feldman: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Even as reigning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, Gobert doesn’t have the final award sewn up. Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Kawhi Leonard are in the mix. But in a tight race, Gobert gets the benefit of the doubt. Utah’s strong defense is built entirely around Gobert’s rim protection.

Rookie of the Year

Kurt Helin: Ja Morant (Grizzlies)

This is a runaway award, but not for the guy we expected to run away with it. Zion Williamson makes his debut next week and maybe he could climb to third in this race, but he’s not winning the award. Morant and his fluid athleticism have turned Grizzlies into must-watch television, and he looks every bit the franchise player. Kendrick Nunn is a clear second in this race.

Dan Feldman: Ja Morant (Grizzlies)

Some rookie point guards put up big numbers. Some rookie point guards produce electric highlights. Some rookie point guards show promising flashes of winning basketball. Few rookie point guards are actually good. Morant is actually good. His athleticism, shooting and overall offensive control form an incredible package for his age. Sure, Morant is sometimes too reckless. He doesn’t completely break the mold of a young point guard. But Memphis has a gem.

Most Improved Player

Kurt Helin: Devonte' Graham (Hornets)

Last season, Graham was an end-of-the-bench guy in Charlotte. This season, he’s averaging 18.7 points a game, hitting 38.7 percent from three and is the team’s best player. Nobody saw that coming and it’s a radical improvement. Also in the mix for this award are Bam Adebayo and Luka Doncic — yes, the MVP candidate, he as made a massive leap this season.

Dan Feldman: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)

It’s a two-man race between Doncic and Devonte’ Graham. As the reigning Rookie of the Year, Doncic will get overlooked. He’s a second-year player. He was supposed to be this good. BS. The leap into superstardom is generally more difficult than the climb from non-rotation player to good starter, which Graham made. For Doncic to get this good this quickly is unprecedented.

Sixth Man of the Year

Kurt Helin: Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)

Harrell was in the mix for this award last season and came back this season as a better defender and more efficient on offense. He’s a critical element for a contending Clippers team, and closes games for them at the five. However, this is not a decided race by any means, both Derrick Rose and George Hill deserve serious consideration. Also, Spencer Dinwiddie in Brooklyn could be in the mix, but likely starts too many games to qualify.

Dan Feldman: Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)

I nearly chose Harrell for this award last season. Since, he has improved his offensive skill and defensive effectiveness. His big role in L.A. gives Harrell the edge over another highly productive reserve, the Bucks’ George Hill. Derrick Rose and Harrell’s teammate, Lou Williams, also warrant consideration.

Coach of the Year

Kurt Helin: Erik Spoelstra (Heat)

This is a wide-open race and my spreadsheet goes eight deep with worthy candidates: Nick Nurse has done an impressive job in Toronto, same with Brad Stevens in Boston and Frank Vogel with the Lakers, and the list goes on. Spoelstra, however, leads for me because of a combination of player development — Kendrick Nunn, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, etc. — and smart utilization of the players’ he has. Plus, Spoelstra is getting it all to mesh around Jimmy Butler.

Dan Feldman: Nick Nurse (Raptors)

Nurse kept Toronto humming when Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green left. Nurse kept Toronto humming when key players, including breakout star Pascal Siakam, got hurt. Nurse kept Toronto humming when unproven young players had to join the rotation. Nurse’s defenses are particularly exemplary – both his creativity and ability to get everyone up to speed. The Heat’s Erik Spoelstra and the Pacers’ Nate McMillan aren’t far behind.

DeAndre Ayton got the start for Phoenix, put up 26 and 21 (VIDEO)

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Coach Monty Williams changed things up as Phoenix went into Madison Square Garden Thursday:

Deandre Ayton got the start at center and Aron Baynes came off the bench.

The result? Ayton had his first-ever 20/20 game — 26 points and 21 rebounds — as the Suns blew out the Knicks 121-98.

Phoenix also got a big night from Ricky Rubio, 25 points and 13 assists. He kept finding Ayton in places the second-year big man could do damage.

It’s one step in a long road for the Suns’ big man, but it was good to see.

Here’s video of Klay Thompson getting up shots in an empty Chase Center

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“I would love to get out there… But I’m trying to make sure this type of injury never happens to me again. So, I’ll be very patient because I want to play at a high level until I’m in my late-30s.”

That’s how Klay Thompson recently described his recovery, making sure there was no specific timeline mentioned. He’ll be back when the doctors clear him to be back — which could be next season. He will be re-evaluated next month. 

That said, Thompson is getting in work on the court and putting up shots. As you can see from the video above, he’s doing it headband on in the Chase Center pregame.

What does that mean? Nothing. It’s not like Thompson is moving at NBA speeds in this video, and ultimately it’s the people who spent years in medical school who get to make this call. Considering where the Warriors are in the standings, management may decide to give Thompson the entire season off. Even if he wants to return.

For now, just enjoy the video.

 

Three Things to Know: Brandon Ingram has earned an All-Star nod and max contract

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Brandon Ingram has earned an All-Star nod and max contract. There were legitimate reasons the Pelicans were hesitant to give Brandon Ingram a contract extension last summer.

He was coming off a blood clot issue that, if it returned, would threaten his career. He wasn’t a guy who took or made a lot of threes. He had most of his offensive success in isolation or as a pick-and-roll ball handler, how would he fit in coach Alvin Gentry’s offensive system that required ball movement and catch-and-shoot skills? How would he fit next to Zion Williamson?

Ingram made a leap this season and blew all those questions out of the water (except the Zion one, that starts to get answered next week).

Ingram is averaging 25.8 points per game and is shooting 40.6 percent from three on 6.2 attempts from deep per game. He has dramatically improved his jump shot, fit in brilliantly with Gentry’s system, and become the Pelicans’ best — and go-to — player. Exactly the guy the Lakers envisioned when they drafted him No. 2 out of Duke in 2016.

That peaked on Thursday night when Ingram dropped a career-high 49 on the Utah Jazz and led the Pelicans to a win that snapped Utah’s 10-game win streak.

This leap would not have happened if the Lakers had not traded Ingram, he was never going to be a comfortable fit next to LeBron James (even if Ingram has improved off-the-ball in Gentry’s system).

“[The Lakers] have such a rich history of winning, a lot of pressure goes on the shoulders of those young guys,” said the Clippers’ Lou Williams, who spent half a season as a teammate of then-rookie Ingram. “Different organizations have more of a patience to develop more guys. The Lakers want to win right away. So some of the pressure was deserved because [Ingram and Lonzo Ball] was high picks, and they should be good quality basketball players, but at the same time they’re young guys trying to figure it out.”

Ingram figured it out, but things might have been different, he might not have made this leap if Zion had stayed healthy. The Pelicans offense would have been different with the No. 1 pick (also out of Duke).

Forget the “what ifs” however — Brandon Ingram has made the leap and now the rewards should be flowing. NBA coaches should select him as a reserve for the All-Star Game in Chicago. He’s earned it.

Next summer, Ingram will get a max contract — almost certainly from the Pelicans. While New Orleans has not seen Ingram next to Williamson in a meaningful way (the preseason doesn’t count), it can’t afford to lose the restricted free agent and other teams will undoubtedly be lined up with max offers.

Ingram is about to get PAID. That comes with the respect he’s earned.

Ingram was also at the heart of the wild ending in New Orleans Thursday night. The Pelicans thought they had won the game in regulation on Ingram’s off-balance jumper with 0.2 seconds left.

Utah had just 0.2 left to make a play, which by NBA rule means it had to be a tip. The Pelicans packed the paint, but rookie Jaxson Hayes was called for holding Rudy Gobert as the Utah center attempted to free himself for the desperation tip-in (the Last Two Minute report in this game is going to be fascinating, but because there was a little hold — not enough to get called in this situation, but it was there — expect the report to back the refs).

The holding call was upheld after video review.

That gave Gobert a chance to win it by making two foul shots, but he split them, tied the game, and sent it to overtime. In the extra frame, Gobert fouled out on an Ingram drive (another very questionable call) and behind a final five points from Ingram — plus seven from Derrick Favors — the Pelicans got the home win.

2) We have a trade Hawks/Timberwolves trade… that sets up other trades. If one were to grade this trade as a stand-alone move, The Timberwolves would fail the test.

The first trade of the deadline season sees Minnesota sending Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham to Atlanta, and getting Allen Crabbe in return.

For Atlanta, they get a much needed backup point guard behind Trae Young (it’s a short-term fix, but they told a frustrated Young they would get him help). When Young is running the show and bombing deep threes, the Hawks have a respectable offense. However, when Young sits, the Atlanta offense scores far less than a point per possession (90.7 offensive rating) and those stretches end up costing the team games. Teague is a solid point guard who can organize the Hawks offense and keep things from dropping off a cliff while Young rests.

For Minnesota, this trade only makes sense if it’s seen as the precursor to a second trade (maybe involving Crabbe, who makes $18.5 million this season). It clears out a roster spot, something the Timberwolves needed to do to go big game hunting. They are still interested in Golden State’s D’Angelo Russell (to play with his good friend Karl-Anthony Towns) and but lose some flexibility in how to make that trade happen. Whether they should trade for Russell is another question — Wolves GM Gersson Rosas said he wants a playmaking point guard, not a scoring one, except that’s not Russell — but the Timberwolves are moving to try and make that a reality. It’s hard to judge this trade for the Timberwolves until we see what other shoes drop.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks remind everyone they are beasts of the East with a win against the Celtics. Boston has joined the long list of teams — pretty much 29 of them — that have no good answer to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Greek Freak scored 32 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, and that plus Khris Middleton’s 23 was enough for Milwaukee to knock off the Celtics 128-123 on Thursday night. The Bucks have now won five in a row and remain on pace for a 70-win season (even if their GM says they will not chase a record number of wins).

Kemba Walker scored 40 points to lead Boston. The bigger concern for the Celtics is Jaylen Brown, who suffered a sprained right thumb against Detroit and sat this game out, plus he could miss more time.