Sponsors fleeing Maloofs amidst uncertainty over Kings’ future

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How much would you pay for the right to advertise with a basketball team that refuses to guarantee where it will be a year from now?

If you’re mattress maker Sleep Train and hamburger purveyor Carl’s Jr., the answer is nothing.

Those are the reports coming out of Sacramento from the well-connected Carmichael Dave, who once hosted his own radio show for the Kings’ flagship radio station 1140 The Fan. Dave was mysteriously let go after becoming critical of the Maloof family, after George Maloof torched a viable arena deal in Sacramento last April. Dave has since started his own radio show.

Sleep Train was in talks with the Kings for naming rights of the arena formerly (and still to many) known as Arco Arena.

Carl’s Jr., perhaps the most prominent sponsor for the team, was at the center of controversy when the Maloofs released an advertisement for their $6,000 burger combo meal – flaunting their $1 billion net worth while asking the city of Sacramento to pick up much of the tab on an arena in 2006.

Sutter Health, a large Health Maintenance Organization in the Sacramento area, is also out.

Sources have told ProBasketballTalk that about half of the team’s sponsors have decided not to renew their packages, and Dave reports that several of the team’s larger sponsors are “on the rocks,” including Thunder Valley Casino and VSP Vision Care.

Dave also reports that beverage sponsors are concerned that the Maloofs’ new vodka drink might get preferential treatment at the arena.

Everything in this unfortunate saga centers on the Maloofs, who either have to cut a deal with Sacramento similar to the one that the NBA negotiated on their behalf last fall, or try their luck moving the franchise. Should they sell, there will be no shortage of suitors in Sacramento and around the nation.

Surely, the other 29 NBA owners have to be tired of cutting these guys a revenue sharing check.

Blake Griffin’s dunk attempt stuffed by Jarrett Allen. Again (video)

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Pistons star Blake Griffin learned his lesson after getting his dunk blocked by Nets center Jarrett Allen in the preseason. In the regular-season opener, Griffin went up even harder.

And Allen still stopped him!

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

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NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.