Maloofs send ex-FBI agent to snoop on local Sacramento businesses

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During last year’s playoffs, the Maloof family sent an attorney to an Orange County Register reporter’s home to collect evidence. The evidence in question was audio of Phil Jackson comparing the embattled family to unpopular former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

While the Maloofs may have wanted observers to believe they were merely protecting their image, or even trying to keep the Lakers’ mouthpiece from framing a potential move to Anaheim in a negative way — the reality is that evidence of possible complicity between Phil Jackson, the Lakers, and the NBA against the Maloofs was being collected for a potential antitrust lawsuit against the league.

An antitrust lawsuit (or the threat of one) would be used by the family if they wanted to move the team without the league’s consent.

The decision to send this attorney was widely derided as a bully tactic, though if we take the Maloofs at face value they were told by the NBA that the audio evidence of Jackson’s comments was not available as it normally would be (as pre-game pressers during the playoffs are usually recorded).

Apparently, the Maloofs’ only recourse would be to schedule an appointment with the reporter and ask for the tape. The reporter met with the attorney but declined to give up the tape.

Of course, nothing says ‘we love Sacramento’ and ‘get off my lawn’ like sending an attorney to a reporter’s house to recover antitrust evidence.

One year later with nothing but scorched earth behind them, the Maloofs are at it again – dispatching a former FBI agent to collect information from the 25 local business leaders that asked David Stern to consider changing team ownership.

According to the local CBS affiliate in Sacramento, the FBI agent turned private eye has been contacting those leaders trying to find evidence that one of them forged a signature on the letter they sent to Stern, which was largely ceremonial in nature.

“We got a call from somebody claiming to be a private investigator and trying to get in touch with myself to see if we signed a letter to the NBA commissioner; because they believe our names were forged,” said Stranley Lukowicz.

When asked if his name was forged, Lukowicz said, “No they were not.”

CBS13 asked George Maloof about the ex-FBI agent inquiry by phone and text, and received a statement from his spokesperson.

“It is the Kings’ and Maloof policy not to discuss internal business,” the statement read.

Barring something extremely unforeseen, it’s hard to see the relevance of a theoretically forged signature if the family’s goal is to stay in Sacramento (it’s not).

But if you want to make things uncomfortable for those that might be angling against you, or if you’re collecting more evidence for a future antitrust lawsuit – by all means — go hire a PI and disenfranchise your entire sponsor base.

Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart will be Team USA captains in World Cup

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Team USA is just about ready to get underway for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. The United States beat Australia on Wednesday night in a tune-up game, 102-86.

Several big-name NBA players have dropped out of participating with the Team USA roster this summer, but it appears that things have solidified as we enter late August. To that end, we now have confirmation about who Team USA’s captains will be moving forward.

According to Kemba Walker, he and fellow Boston Celtics teammate Marcus Smart will be the captains for the international squad in this year’s World Cup.

Via NBC Sports Boston:

“We have a bunch of guys who don’t mind being the underdogs,” Walker told reporters. “We are hungry, and we are going to go out there to try and win a gold medal…I take pride in being a leader and guys looking to me and I’m here to set the tempo and bring my experience and energy.”

This is a point of pride for Celtics fans, and Walker and Smart appear to be two excellent choices as captains of this young Team USA roster.

It’s not going to be easy for Team USA to win the World Cup. Leadership and camaraderie has often been the deciding factor in the USA’s performance in international play. The team rallied around a strong locker room after their poor performance in the 2004 Olympics, coming together to win the gold in the 2008 Beijing games.

Walker and Smart should provide leadership and calmness for a team that will have many challengers who view them as vulnerable.

Minnesota’s Gersson Rosas says Andrew Wiggins must be “main contributor” to T-wolves

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Last season in Minnesota — with Jimmy Butler torpedoing the team and ending the Tom Thibodeau era — was pretty much the figurative definition of a train wreck.

Out of that wreckage, the Timberwolves think they found some positives. Ryan Sunders was thrown into the fire as a young coach but bonded with Karl-Anthony Towns. Robert Covington sparked the defense before his injury. Josh Okogie emerged as a player. This summer the team drafted a player with a lot of potential in Jarrett Culver.

Minnesota also brought in the aggressive Gersson Rosas out of Houston to take over as team president and start reshaping the franchise into one that can live up to the promise of Towns’ potential. For that to start to happen, meaning a return to the playoffs, Rosas pointed to a couple of things needing to go right this season. First and foremost, they need more — and more consistency — out of Andrew Wiggins. Via Timberwolves writer/podcaster Dane Moore.

Most Timberwolves fans, and the rest of the league, have moved on from Wiggins, who has four years, $122 million left on his max contract. While he averaged 18.1 points per game last season, he doesn’t get those buckets efficiently nor consistently, and the result is an average/slightly below-average wing whose contract is an anchor on the franchise. We’ve learned no contract is untradable in the NBA, but this is as close to that line as it gets — the sweeteners Minnesota would have to throw in right now make a deal are prohibitive.

The only thing Minnesota can hope for is that in year six Wiggins takes some steps forward he did not take in the last five. Maybe continuity helps, but we’re all going to need to see it before we believe it.

The other thing Rosas said Minnesota needs: More consistent defense from Towns.

Saunders seemed to connect with Towns and got him to defend, and Covington played MIC linebacker calling out coverages and getting guys in position before his injury. Rosas said Covington would be good to go at the start of the season, if so that gives the Timberwolves real hope that the defense will improve.

Whether all of that will be enough to get them into the playoffs in a deep West is another question, but at least Minnesota seems to be moving in the right direction now.

President Donald Trump awarding Medal of Freedom to NBA star Bob Cousy

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is set to present basketball legend Bob Cousy (KOO’-zee) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is being handed out Thursday. It celebrates individuals with a wide range of achievements and is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The 91-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six league championships and the 1957 MVP title.

Cousy is also known for speaking out against racism. He was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.

Cousy will be the second person to receive the award this year from Trump. Golfer Tiger Woods received the honor in May.

Report: Shelly Sterling, members of Clippers organization heard Donald Sterling audio in advance and didn’t act

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In 2014, published audio of a racist rant by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling rocked the country.

It shouldn’t have. Sterling’s racism and sexism were well-established by then. But few cared. The audio poured gasoline on the fire and moved people to act. I wish it didn’t require that. But it did.

What if the audio didn’t become public through TMZ? Apparently, there might have been opportunity for another outcome.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The fact is Shelly and several people in the Clippers organization heard the recording and decided not to act on it or weren’t appalled enough to act on it. Maybe they didn’t understand how big a splash this tape could make.

It’s unclear when Shelly Sterling (Donald’s wife) and other members of the Clippers organization heard the audio. Maybe it was while TMZ was doing due diligence. If so, it was probably too late to change the course of history.

But perhaps it was when V. Stiviano – Donald’s girlfriend who made the original recording and was being sued by Shelly – was still the only one in possession of it. Stiviano was clearly upset with how things were going financially between her and the Sterlings. For the right price, maybe the audio would have gone away before becoming public.

I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. The world is better off knowing exactly who Donald Sterling is.

Yet, this leads to an incredible “what if?” What if the people who heard the audio in advance understood the magnitude, acted in Sterling’s best interest and paid to have the audio kept secret? Would Sterling still own the Clippers today?