Comcast-Spectacor hasn’t spoken with Kings at all, arena project barely off the ground

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Unless there is more to come in the next few days, the Virginia Beach arena press conference didn’t do much to sway the overwhelming opinion that the Sacramento Kings are nowhere near moving there.

There were no Maloof appearances, but president of Comcast-Spectacor Peter Luukko spoke to the Virginia Beach city council in support of bringing a pro sports franchise into town.

When posing the question of why Comcast-Spectacor would get involved in the Virginia Beach market, Luukko offered two reasons, including the numerous business relationships the company has in the area and that the area “is one of the largest underserved markets (for sports) in North America.”

Luukko and Virginia Beach director of economic development Warren Harris jointly said that they would negotiate with pro sports franchises over the next two months, and that a 25-year lease would be fulfilled by the sports and entertainment giant, assuming a deal can be worked out of course. And in the unlikely event that Virginia Beach wants to stick to that timetable, it’s difficult to see the NBA racing to cooperate with that deadline unless they somehow believe that this is the endgame for the Kings.

Given what we have seen so far, that’s not likely the case, with just one reason being that David Stern loves the No. 20 Sacramento TV market that shares no space with other pro sports teams.

Virginia Beach, on the other hand, is the No. 43 TV market and that fact was not lost upon councilman Bill DeSteph, who quickly and methodically picked apart the presentation made by the city. Pointing out inconsistencies in the criteria used for market size, he called the city’s presentation “misleading” and repeatedly asked for “apples to apples” comparisons of the data used to similarly compare Virginia Beach with Sacramento.

“If we’re talking about Sacramento, let’s go out 100 miles and let’s include the San Francisco Bay Area and let’s include Fresno,” said DeSteph.

If similar radiuses had been used in the presentation then the three million people boasted by Virginia Beach would compare to 10 million on the Sacramento side.

Cost was another issue for DeSteph, who asked and was told that the $350 million price tag for the arena was an estimate and that no cost analysis had been done. He would later ask for a public vote if public funds were going to be used to pay for the arena, which is usually a death-knell for projects of this type.

For his part, mayor William Sessions followed up the emphatic opposition by some council members by pounded his hands on the table in front of him, exclaiming “me and the vice mayor will keep you updated on a weekly basis!”

Regardless of the support from notable local figures that was highlighted in Tuesday’s PowerPoint presentation, it’s clear the city council is at square one with the project. And of the three councilmen that spoke on Tuesday, two of them appeared dead set against the use of public funds and both of them openly questioned the validity of the city’s initial proposal.

On the other hand, Comcast-Spectacor is a big player in the sports and entertainment marketplace and is a serious investor here. They clearly see an opportunity in Virginia Beach, but the city is now at the starting line of a long, arduous race that includes a laundry list of municipalities that want pro basketball.

As for the purple elephant in the room, the Kings, who had not issued any specific denial of the past week’s reports and were instead tweeting out photos of their newly shined concourse floor — Luukko said that Comcast-Spectacor has not talked with them at all.

“We have not had any formal talks with the Kings. We have not had any talks,” said Luukko, which is about as specific of a denial as can be expected.

This would line up with what sources close to negotiations have said is a project being driven by the Virginia Beach side, that just happens to fit the Maloof’s current strategy of waiting and hoping that another city can provide a viable offer to move.

This sentiment was echoed by Carmichael Dave, a well-connected arena proponent and local radio personality whose dismissal from the team-sponsored radio station drew raised eyebrows in Sacramento. On his new show on the CD Networks, sources of his close to the team said that the Maloofs had rejected an offer from Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen which was upward of $400 million.

Dave also added that those sources said the Maloofs were “looking more to relocate than to sell.”

Of course, everything from the Maloof camp is part conjecture and part conundrum these days. Sources close to the situation say that the family is split internally and that George Maloof, in particular, is holding a grudge and wants to leave Sacramento. The family name has been removed from the Palms Hotel and Casino, which doesn’t exactly scream $6 million burger, and sources say that ticket sales and sponsorships continue to suffer as the team remains in limbo.

If there can be any good news for Kings fans during this debacle, it’s that the Maloofs do not appear to have filed any Virginia-based trademark applications for the terms ‘Kings’ or ‘Royals,’ and their trademark attorney Scott Hervey has no new trademark applications on file with the US Trademark office. Their trademark application for the terms ‘Anaheim Royals, Los Angeles Royals, Orange County Royals’ and my favorite ‘Anaheim Royals of Southern California’ has, however, been held up by an opposition from the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball.

On the other hand, marketing consultants for the city of Virginia Beach have registered the websites vbkings.com and virginiabeachkings.com, and along with a legitimate partner in Comcast-Spectacor the Virginia Beach threat will continue to loom for Kings fans – no matter how overstated the threat may be at this time.

And until the NBA can effectively shove the Maloofs out the door with the franchise intact in Sacramento, who league sources say has done everything that was asked of them to keep the team, these stories are going to continue to pile up and be a black eye for the league.

Australian NBL pumps breaks on report LaMelo Ball has bought a team

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It was a stunning headline, especially considering LaMelo Ball is just 18:

He bought a team in the Australian National Basketball League, specifically the Illawarra Hawks, the team he played for some last season. It’s an insane story.

And it’s not quite true. At least not yet. The NBL released a statement that pumped the breaks on the idea of a sale to Ball and his manager, Jermaine Jackson. Part of the statement reads:

“The league can confirm LaMelo Ball and his management had discussions about being involved with the club while he was playing in the NBL last season. At this point we are continuing to work with current licence holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL.

The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date. The NBL has no further comment at this stage.

Did LaMelo and his manager jump the gun? Or, is this a negotiating ploy by the NBL and Stratford to get more money by jacking up the price on a sale?

Those two follow a host of other questions, including what percentage of the team would Ball and his manager own? What would their involvement be?

Ineligible for college stateside, Ball chose to play in Australia under the NBL’s Next Stars program. It worked, he’s projected to be a top-five, maybe top-three pick. He left the NBL after suffering a season-ending foot injury, although that came under a cloud of criticism from Hawks owner Stratford.

The ultimate revenge would be to buy the team, if that is actually happening.

Doc Rivers’ reaction when Clippers traded for Lou Williams, “I was not having Lou”

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Lou Williams is integral to the Clippers’ title dreams.

Since coming to the Clippers, he has averaged 20.6 points a game off the bench, twice winning Sixth Man of the Year, and his pick-and-roll with Montrezl Harrell is as smooth and dangerous a combo as there is in the league. Come the playoffs, while teams are trying to deal with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Lou Williams will be a change of pace scorer with a second unit that can quickly tilt the game towards Los Angeles.

But when Williams first got to the Clippers, Doc Rivers was not thrilled.

Rivers talked about Williams on The Bob Ryan and Jeff Goodman Podcast (hat tip SI).

“When we traded for Lou, I was not having Lou,” Rivers said. “I saw a guy that kept getting traded. And I appreciated his offense, but not nearly, never thought it was this good… When he finally showed up three days before training camp, I was not having him. I was like, ‘We’re not gonna work’, you know?..

“I brought him up in the office and I told him my feelings,” Rivers said. “I said, ‘Lou, you’re one of these guys that wanna do whatever you wanna do, and you don’t want to buy-in. We asked everybody to come in. Everyone did except for you… I don’t know how this is gonna work.’ And he said, ‘I’ve been traded five years in a row. Why would I buy-in to you?’, and I didn’t have an answer.”

Both Williams and Rivers have bought into each other now. Williams has control of the offense when he is in and Rivers said he just wants Williams to “be in the right place” on defense. That defense leads to issues playing Williams at the end of big games, but used as a scorer Williams is tough to deal with.

He can still get buckets with the best of them.

 

For NBA coaches, the new game is a waiting game

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MIAMI (AP) — Orlando’s Steve Clifford figures he’s like every other NBA coach right now: Wake up, go to whatever now serves as the office, study his own team, maybe think about possible opponents, and resume planning.

Of course, nobody knows what they’re planning for — or when these plans will get used.

A stoppage in play doesn’t mean vacation time has arrived for NBA coaches, especially those like Clifford in position to take their teams to the postseason — assuming this pandemic-interrupted season is able to resume. They’re all spending more time at home, not able to run practices, but none seem to be sitting idly either.

“Not knowing the restart date is the toughest challenge professionally,” Clifford said. “Obviously, we’re all limited in what we can do, and basketball takes a back seat right now to family and health. But I will say this: When I talk to our guys, the one common question that comes up is ‘When do you think we can start again?’”

And that’s a question with no answer. The waiting game is the only game in town right now.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was coaching the fourth quarter against Charlotte on March 11 when the NBA announced it was suspending the season, a move made once it became known that Utah center Rudy Gobert was the league’s first player to test positive for COVID-19. Spoelstra found out right after the final buzzer, as he walked to the Heat locker room.

He instantly realized that losing to the Hornets that night didn’t ultimately matter much. Spoelstra and his staff are holding Zoom meetings every other day, but he’s also enjoying the benefits of time away — getting more time with his two young sons, his wife and grilling for the family most nights — and is emphasizing to his coaches and players that this is a time to help those less fortunate.

He’s checking the news as well, on a limited basis.

“My routine is checking after dinner, and I usually get on my computer, watch a little bit of what’s going on,” said Spoelstra, who often wears a T-shirt emblazoned with “Stay Positive” and like many coaches he taped a video telling fans the importance of hand-washing and other precautions. “So, I’m staying abreast of the current status of things, but I definitely do not try to start my day that way and I do not obsess about it during the day.”

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle also went the video-message route, doing one for the going-stir-crazy crowd to demonstrate his “Balance, Balance, Shot Drill” that allows players to work on their shooting form even when they don’t have access to a court or a rim.

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan took advantage of downtime to appear on a virtual coaches clinic, and had a safety message for those who attended — online, of course — before spending about an hour breaking down his philosophy.

This is the first in-season stoppage of its kind in NBA history, but Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer is equating the unknown — in terms of when the next game will be — to what the league went through with lockout-shortened seasons in 1998-99 and 2011-12.

His message to his staff: Things may be slow now, but when the suspension ends the pace of everything will be frantic. So while some projects like things in the video room and breakdowns of his roster are being tackled, Budenholzer is also having staff get ready for potential playoff opponents with a first-round series against either Brooklyn or Orlando likely for the NBA-leading Bucks.

“Things happen really fast, whether it’s three games in three nights, or playoff series are shorter or the time between the end of the regular season to the first playoff game, everything can be shorter or can happen quicker,” Budenholzer said. “We can put a little bit of money in the bank now with preparation for first round but also if you go a little bit deeper, the East.”

For 30 teams, 30 coaches, there’s many ways to spend the down time.

And they all know that they’re in the same boat — waiting and wondering.

“It’s hard for all of us,” Clifford said. “It’s hard to set a plan for yourself that will have you ready. But that’s the parallel, not just for us, but for everyone around the world no matter what profession that you’re in.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci was a high school point guard

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You know Dr. Anthony Fauci as the guy trying to inject facts and reason-based decisions into the federal government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. You’ve seen him, the guy with the Sisyphean task of standing behind President Donald Trump at press conferences and not reacting with shock or disgust.

It turns out he was a high school baller.

In a profile of Fauci, the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen wrote about Fauci the high school point guard, who led his 1-16 team to a win against Fordham Prep, led by future Knicks executive Donnie Walsh.

Classic point guard, excellent ballhandler, pesky defender. Six of his classmates and teammates described him as a tenacious competitor in short shorts and striped socks whose feistiness on the court defied some parts of his personality and reflected others.

That sounds like a young version of the person he is now.

Dr. Fauci is one of the people the NBA is listening to as it tries to figure out if or when the league can re-start and what its next steps might be. Right now, all of that is beyond the NBA’s control and more in the hands of the rest of us and whether we as a society follow Dr. Fauci’s suggestions.